Winning at the Buffalo State Sports Arena is old hat for East, so it’s not surprising the Panthers took down a team that embarrassed them just before the start of the postseason.
Albion, on the other hand, is a newcomer to the mecca of Section VI boys’ basketball, but like East, the Purple Eagles didn’t look out of place while making some championship history.
Percy Bryant delivered for fifth-seeded East (14-9) once again on the big stage, pouring in a game-high 25 points, in leading the Panthers to a 54-51 triumph over No. 3 Fredonia in the Class B-2 final. It’s their third title in a row and sixth in eight seasons.
Bryant had 13 points during a first half in which East proved to be resilient enough to prevent Fredonia from stringing together a run to open the door for a pull away. He then had two late baskets that prevented the momentum from flowing with the Hillbillies (19-3).
“It feels good,” said Bryant. “When we played them in Fredonia, they hit like six threes back to back and they took our heart. … We never lost our head today. We kept our heads the whole game.”
No. 4 Albion (13-9) used some nice ball movement and team hustle along with huge efforts from Desmond Blackmon and Clayton Stanton to win its first Section VI title since 1972 in beating No. 10 Maryvale, 65-57.
“It’s just crazy winning this,” said Stanton, who finished with 16 points and was a force in the paint throughout the game. “We’ve had a lot of support from our town and the school.”
The overall Class B final/state qualifier is at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.
An estimated 2,000 saw the real East Panthers get to work against Fredonia on Saturday.
This one included Bryant, Damone Brown and Jovell Littlejohn. Littlejohn missed the 74-47 loss a few weeks ago at Fredonia while Bryant and Brown pretty much sat out the second half.
The Panthers also didn’t wilt when Hillbillies stars John Piper and Cam Voss tried burning them with the outside-inside game. Piper was sensational in draining seven three-pointers during a 23-point effort. Voss added 19.
The key proved to be East’s defense against point guard Jarod Burmaster.
“We wanted to keep as much pressure on No. 5 as we could,” Panthers coach Starling Bryant said. “He’s their quarterback. He runs their team. … We know how to bring the pressure when it counts.”
While Percy Bryant did his thing for East, classmate Dequan Williams starred in the role of unsung hero as he scored the last five points of the second quarter, including a trey just before the buzzer to give East a 30-27 halftime lead.
Williams, who finished with 10 points, also grabbed a key offensive rebound, which led to a free throw that increased the Panthers’ lead to 47-43 with 2:47 left.
Bryant still hit the biggest shots in this one. His long two to end the third quarter kept East ahead by seven. He then canned a long three early in the fourth quarter to push the Panthers’ lead to eight.
“He’s a total competitor,” Sterling Bryant said of Percy, who is not related to him. “He’s a true winner. He gives it all he has. He does it in practice, and he does it in games.”
The third quarter proved to be the turning point for Fredonia. It did what it wanted in slowing down East’s offense. The Hillbillies failed to score as more than four minutes elapsed from the third quarter before either team made a basket.
“That was the turning point,” Fredonia coach Greg Lauer said. “We were getting stop after stop, but we were getting nothing. You have to be able to convert.”
No. 10 Maryvale was looking to do the unthinkable in running the table from play-in game winner to Section VI champion. The Flyers came into Saturday winners of seven in a row, including four straight during the postseason with wins over No. 2 seed Depew and No. 3 Medina.
They had no answers for a determined, well-prepared Albion crew, which used an 11-0 blitz in the first quarter to seize control for good. Blackmon scored off a pair of nice passes and then returned the favor assisting on senior classmate Clayton Stanton’s basket. Blackmon finished with 20 points.
The Purple Eagles (13-9) led, 21-13, after one and by 36-25 at halftime. They crafted a tough nonleague schedule that included tests against Burgard, St. Francis and Section V stalwarts Batavia and Batavia Notre Dame to prepare for a long playoff run.
Maryvale pulled within five with 2:41 left on a Ray Blackwell three-pointer, Blackmon countered with a trey of his own for Albion and the lead never got below six again. Ted York-Brown led the Flyers (13-11) with 16 points.
“I told them we didn’t get here by accident,” said Albion coach Brennan Meakin before the game. “I knew we would have to play our best game to win it. I feel minus a couple bad decisions we played a pretty complete game.”