Avius Outlaw didn’t know what to expect from his first Buffalo State experience.
The McKinley senior, in his first season with the Macks’ boys basketball team after moving here from Florida, had no idea what the atmosphere would be like.
Even in his wildest dreams, he likely couldn’t have imagined a better ending Wednesday night. His late basket got McKinley to overtime in a Section VI Class A-1 semifinal game against South Park. Then, he hit a pair of crucial three-pointers in the extra session to help the Macks to an 84-74 win in a drama-filled game that left fans of both teams on their feet and should immediately be etched into Buff State lore.
“We played rough in the first half,” Outlaw said. “We had to come back in the second half, then did a little rough again. Overtime, we had to get it.”
They did so thanks in large part to his back-to-back threes early in overtime that gave McKinley a 73-68 lead.
“Coach told me to take a good shot,” he said. “That was all confidence.”
Outlaw finished with 16 points, while junior Shaquan Jones had a team-high 24 for the Macks, who went a perfect 14-0 in Yale Cup play during the regular season, but were given all they could handle from South Park.
“South Park took it to us,” Macks coach Zaire Dorsey said. “They played hard. … We had to fight and dig deep.”
An absolutely unconscious stretch from junior guard Shakur Harris in the fourth quarter pushed the Sparks to the brink of the upset. Harris had 15 of his game-high 29 points in the fourth quarter, including three cold-blooded three-pointers that left fans in hysterics. That helped South Park overcome a 47-40 deficit to start the third quarter.
The Sparks took a 66-64 lead with less than 30 seconds left on a breakaway layup by senior Tyree Brown, the hero of the Sparks’ state championship in football, who finished with 15 points Wednesday. After Outlaw’s basket tied the score, however, neither team was able to get a shot off in the final 20 seconds of regulation.
Outlaw’s tying layup was set up after junior Keyon Johnson penetrated into the lane and made a perfect pass. Johnson, who spent much of the second half locked in a battle with Harris, finished with 13 points, while Kesean Fisher added 16 for McKinley, which advances to face Williamsville South in the A-1 final at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Once overtime started, the Macks’ depth took over. South Park was shorthanded after freshman big man Elijah Lewis fouled out during regulation.
“We really wanted to put the nail in the coffin in that fourth quarter,” South Park coach Peter Hudecki said. “When we got into overtime, you see just see it turn a little bit.”