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Cheektowaga advances, Welch 25 away from breaking points mark

Dominick Welch's pursuit to break 2,355 is heading to Buffalo State as it will be one of the story lines of boys basketball's annual Championship Week extravaganza.

On a night in which Welch faced double and sometimes triple team tactics from Lewiston-Porter (6-14) in his pursuit of the Western New York career points record, his Cheektowaga teammates picked up the slack with Welch more than happy handling the role of offensive distributor.

The Warriors extended their season and the 6-foot-6 senior Welch's record chase by coasting to an 83-36 victory over last year's Section VI Class A-2 runner-up Lew-Port. A crowd of more than 500 at Cheektowaga watched this Section VI quarterfinal contest in which Welch, playing his final home game, finished with a game-high 25 points.

Welch came into the contest averaging 37.4 points in his past five games – including last week's school-record-51-point effort in a win over Depew.

He didn't go for 50 again but only needs 25 points to break the Western New York record set by 1990 Buffalo News Player of the Year Ritchie Campbell.

Welch will attempt to set it at 8:15 p.m. Wednesday when the second-seeded Warriors (14-7) face No. 3 South Park to cap a semifinal tripleheader that begins win two Class AA games.

"I'm just going for the win," said Welch, who added 16 rebounds, seven assists and three blocks. "If we win I know it's going to come. If I get it, I get it."

It seems fitting that the chase for 2,355, which has captured the attention of area scholastic basketball fans, moves to the venue that's considered the mecca of Section VI playoff basketball.

"I know everybody wants to see me break it and will be at the game hoping I break it," said Welch, who is averaging 29.62 points per game. "I'm just going out based on what the team's doing. I just want my team success to happen. I don't want to end my senior season on a loss because I'm playing selfish trying to get a record."

Make no mistake, though, he does want that mark. One doesn't only have to follow Welch on social media to figure that out.

"He wants it bad," said teammate Rudy Bragg, who drained three three-pointers during Cheektowaga's 21-point first quarter. "He's always talking about the record but he's just letting the game come to him."

With Lew-Port doing its best to attempt to frustrate Welch, he and his teammates did a good job of letting the game come to them Friday.

The team's defense fueled its offense, enabling the Warriors to seize control in emphatic fashion.

Leading 11-10, Cheektowaga outscored Lew-Port 35-6 during the final 11 minutes of the first half to take a 46-16 lead into the intermission. While Welch only had 11 points in the opening half he did have four assists during a second quarter in which Alex Bryant scored 10 of his 20 points. The team's rebounding prowess sparked Cheektowaga's transition game. Welch quickly found open teammates down the floor whenever he collected a missed Lancer shot.

The lead grew to 42-14 after Welch grabbed a board and found a wide-open Bryant down court with a long pass for an easy two points.

"He's got great vision, if he sees you're open he'll get you the ball," Warriors coach Patrick Cullinan said of Welch.

"It was a nice win and a nice way to finish out the season at home," Cullinan said. "Hopefully we have a few more weeks in us."

Bryant also had 10 rebounds, while Bragg's 14-point night included eight boards and two assists.

While the record is within reach, so too is a Section VI championship.

It won't be easy against a South Park crew that not only won its first Yale Cup I title in 30 years but has several players back from last season's team that lost in the sectional semifinals.

"We play unselfish," Welch said. "We're doing a good job playing together. That's what's going to win games and keep us going."

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