Noah Thompson can simply flat out score.
He proved that on the pitch during a first team All-Western New York soccer campaign, and he showed off those skills Thursday night in a sport where he is allowed to use his hands.
Thompson poured in a game-high 25 points to help third-seeded East Aurora advance to its first Section VI boys basketball final since 2012 with a 55-46 win over No. 2 Medina in a Class B-1 semifinal at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.
Thompson scored 13 of his points during a second half in which the Mustangs had a lead only to see EA storm back and take it for good during the final round of semifinal action during Championship Week.
The Blue Devils will face unbeaten top seed Olean (22-0) for the championship at 1:45 p.m. Saturday. The Huskies enjoyed the “home court advantage” once again in beating fourth-seeded Dunkirk, 59-41.
An estimated 900 attended Thursday’s doubleheader, the lowest turnout for any session during the first four days of the tournament. That was expected, according to Section VI officials, though, with Bruce Springsteen in town at the First Niagara Center. Those at the Sports Arena saw East Aurora show Medina who’s the boss, with Thompson leading the charge.
With the Mustangs stretching a two-point halftime lead to 37-31, Thompson started EA’s rally with a three-pointer. He later set up Nick Montgomery for a basket that tied the game at 37-37. Montgomery then followed with a three to give the Blue Devils the lead for good. Thompson then capped that 12-1 run with a long three-pointer of his own as East Aurora (13-9) led by five entering the final quarter.
“Noah Thompson … I can’t say enough about him,” Blue Devils coach Chris Koselny said. “His aggressiveness and leadership is what’s pushing us right now.”
Cal McTigue scored seven of his nine points in the tough-sledding fourth quarter in which the teams combined for just 20 points, but EA had 12 of them.
“My kids really rose to the challenge when Medina showed things we hadn’t prepared for,” Koselny said. “They got it together and made some great plays down the stretch.”
Jalin Cooper had 18 points to lead Medina (15-7).
The name on the front of the jersey reads Olean, but longtime coach Jeff Anastasia considers the Buffalo State Sports Arena as the Huskies’ home court and with good reason.
Olean is a Championship Week regular at the facility that’s roughly 90 minutes away from its actual home gym. The Huskies have won four straight Section VI championships in two different classifications in the arena. They have captured eight titles the last nine seasons and nine over the last 13 at the home of the Bengals.
Olean didn’t play its best game but performed well enough to not only remain unbeaten but also earn another title shot. Ben Eckstrom led the winners with 19 points, while Jake Cavana added 16 for the Huskies, who received a stiff test facing an opponent for the third time this season.
“It wasn’t one of our better games but I give Dunkirk credit, they came out and played hard,” Anastasia said. “They hit the boards really well. They got some really good penetration.”
The Marauders played a disciplined offensive game to keep the Huskies from running away. Once again, Olean led at halftime, but the 30-22 score kept Dunkirk within striking distance – unlike the first two meetings in which were over at halftime.
The Huskies, though, pulled away with a 20-9 third quarter. Cavana’s three-pointer started the 14-2 blitz, but the run received its main jolt on the next possession. Derek Schmidt missed a trey but followed his own shot to grab the rebound, fed the ball underneath to Dylan Spencer drawing a shooting foul. After Spencer nailed both free throws, Eckstrom stole the inbounds, fed an on-coming Cavana for another trey forcing the discombobulated Marauders (12-9) to call timeout.
“I always tell the guys you have to be able to make a difference,” Anastasia said. “It might be you make a play in the first quarter, it might in the second quarter … but what can you do to make a difference on the floor and that (Schmidt following his shot) was big because what did that do it turned the momentum of the game.”