Canisius and McKinley put on such a thrilling show last season during the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Classic that it was a shame somebody had to lose that close one that felt like a mid-season playoff contest.
The only thing epic about the rematch Saturday afternoon at City Honors before a crowd of more than 1,300 was the beating the defending state Federation Class A champion Crusaders put on a McKinley team accustomed to delivering one-sided beatdowns, not receiving them.
Canisius, the top-ranked large school in Western New York, received scoring from 10 different players, while the dominating inside presence of seniors Stafford Trueheart, Charles Hart and Madut Ayiy - each one 6-foot-7 - made life quite difficult for the Macks during a 72-46 triumph. Hart finished with five blocks, Trueheart four and Ayiy three as the Crusaders finished with 14 for the afternoon. When they weren't blocking shots, the threat of someone tall and athletic coming out of nowhere to swat yet another shot away clearly got into McKinley's heads in this one.
Sign of things to come: Canisius blocked four shots during a first quarter in which the Macks tried to keep things close by trying to draw fouls. However, the Crusaders led 16-9 after one and the fact they controlled the boards on offense and defense, it prevented McKinley from attempting to turn the contest into a run-and-gun affair.
Turning point: How about the opening 4 minutes, 22 seconds? At that point, Ayiy recorded his second blocked shot and Canisius' third.
Turning point II: Leading 10-9, Andrew Schake's long two-pointer with 1:56 left in the first quarter sparked an 8-0 run that ended with a vicious one-handed breakaway dunk by Trueheart after a block on defense by 6-4 sophomore Jayce Johnson.
Stat leaders: Canisius spread the wealth with Trueheart and Ayiy each recording 13 points and 10 rebounds. Trueheart also had four steals and three assists. Justin Jones had 11 points and five steals.
Shaquan Jones had 16 points to lead McKinley.
Records: Canisius 11-1. McKinley 12-1.
Next: No. 1 Canisius returns to action at 3 p.m. Saturday at Park in a clash between reigning state Federation champions and Western New York's top two teams. McKinley hosts Hutch-Tech at 6 p.m. Wednesday.