In a way, it was predictable. East Aurora was going to rely on senior Stan Wier to advance in the playoffs. But it was good ball movement from his supporting cast that allowed Wier to find his spots and pace the No. 3 Blue Devils to a 49-42 win over No. 2 Riverside at the Buffalo State Sports Arena on Tuesday.
With the win, East Aurora advanced to the Class A-2 final of the Section VI boys basketball tournament. The Blue Devils will face top-seeded Amherst at 3:30 p.m. Saturday after the Tigers dispensed of Cheektowaga, 63-54.
In the first game of the tripleheader, Darnell Carson created offense for Charter School of Applied Technology to a 59-43 win over Cleveland Hill in the B-2 semifinal.
Wier scored 27 points, including five three-pointers in the come-from-behind win.
East Aurora had taken a 14-7 lead in the second quarter but a 7-0 run staged by Riverside's Justice Feggans, including a three-pointer with 4:11 left, tied the game. Riverside maintained the lead and went up, 29-21, with 3:16 left in the third quarter.
That's when East Aurora went to work. A three-pointer from Ian Allen helped the Blue Devils stay in the game, and Wier hit a deep three at the buzzer to pull East Aurora within four, 31-27, at the end of the third quarter.
Wier hit a three-pointer with 5:40 left to tie the game, 33-33. Second-chance points from James Ritchie gave the Blue Devils the lead, and two free throws from Wier with 4:24 left kept East Aurora out front for good.
"We knew we had to put Stan in situations to make plays," East Aurora coach Chris Koselny said. "We got good ball movement. We weren't having success in our sets and some of that was Riverside. They were playing aggressive defense. We switched to a motion offense to see if we could get some looks for Stan."
Amherst led the entire game against Cheektowaga. The Tigers built a commanding 37-18 halftime lead and were up, 48-30, before the Warriors went on a fourth-quarter run to close the gap.
"We made it hard on ourselves in the second half. I think with the lead at halftime we relaxed a bit too much," Amherst coach Chris Kensey said. "And Cheektowaga is a very good team. They're not going to quit. I thought we had some kids step up, but thankfully we executed well in the first half."
Alex Turecki scored 16 points for Amherst while Johnathan Belton added 14.
Amherst was playing without senior starter Glenn Belton Jr., who was sidelined with an arm injury. Kensy said Belton will be evaluated later this week to see if he can play in Saturday's final.
CSAT got off to a slow start in its victory. Cleveland Hill jumped out to a 6-0 lead before CSAT settled in and evened the game, 12-12, after the first quarter then took a 24-21 lead at halftime.
"I think it was nerves," CSAT coach Michael Mills said of his team's start. "Once we settled in a bit, we were able to keep it going. Our defense has gotten better as the year's gone on. The last eight or nine games we've played solid defense. Before, we were trying to beat teams by outshooting them and that doesn't work well."
Carson finished with 18 points, including eight free throws in the fourth quarter while senior Justin Black had a game-high 22.
Miles Barker led Cleveland Hill with 14 points.
CSAT advanced to Saturday's noon championship at Buffalo State against second-seeded Wilson, which won its semifinal Monday.