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Anastasia, Welch chasing history during boys basketball season

The boys basketball season is already in full swing as every team has at least played one game to this point, with Health Sciences already a third of the way through its regular-season schedule even though Santa is still taking last-minute gift requests.

Any fan asking for at least one record to fall may have reason to smile when the season reaches its conclusion. That’s because there’s a good chance at least one, if not two, of Western New York’s most hallowed records in the sport will be broken this winter.

Longtime Olean pilot Jeff Anastasia, a New York State High School Basketball and Section VI Hall of Famer, enters Tuesday night's game at Chautauqua Lake just five victories away from becoming the all-time winningest coach in Western New York history. Retired Bishop Timon-St. Jude legend Mel Palano currently holds the record with 544.

There’s also a chance Cheektowaga’s Dominick Welch, a returning first team All-Western New York selection, could end the season as the 7-1-6’s all-time scoring leader.

Welch, who averaged 29 points per game last year, entered his senior season with 1,708 points, which is 647 shy of the 2,355 amassed by former Burgard great and All-Western New York first-team selection Ritchie Campbell. Welch would need to average 30.86 points over 21 games to break the record.

“It is pretty remarkable,” said Larry Jones, the Depew coach and Section VI chairman on the possibility of those two records being broken.

Team success would give Welch, who scored 40 points during a 67-61 loss at Canisius on Dec. 9, more games to pursue the mark. That’s Welch’s main motivation  – leaving a team legacy for future Warriors  to strive for  – according to coach Pat Cullinan. The only way to do that is to help the Warriors make a run at either a division or Section VI title.

Cheektowaga is doing its part to become battle-tested for the postseason, as its strong schedule has already included games against Rochester power Bishop Kearney along with Canisius and Park. The Warriors still play Williamsville South and St. Joe’s, and they also must face division rivals Maryvale and East Aurora – no strangers to Championship Week at Buffalo State – and current unbeaten Depew at least twice each.

“He’s going to have to go in there and earn it every time,” Cullinan said. “He wants it that way. He wants the challenge. He likes to put in the work.”

Regarding the pursuit of Palano’s record:

“I haven’t thought about it much, but people around me have,” said Anastasia, who guided the Huskies to their second state title last March. “It’s something that I just look at it and give the credit to my coaching staff and players I’ve had in the past.”

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