By Marshall Haim
Special to the News
Nichols has had a tendency to make it to a Manhattan Cup finals. The Vikings advanced to the Class B its fourth consecutive championship game appearance, with a 59-40 win over Cardinal O’Hara at Villa Maria College on Saturday.
The Vikings defense, after allowing 20 points in the opening quarter, limited Cardinal O’Hara to just 20 for the remainder of the game.
“We only gave up eight in the second quarter, it was the first quarter that really killed us,” said Nichols’ first-year head coach, Darren Fenn. “We weren’t active enough with our zones. We weren’t bumping down and communicating.
“In the first quarter, we allowed seven offensive rebounds. The second quarter we gave up one. That’s what turned it around for us, just being active and knowing where people are and not give them any fast breaks.”
In the third year of having classifications inside the Manhattan Cup, it’s the second consecutive year Nichols has reached the Class B final. The Vikings will now be a part of eight Manhattan Cup championships over the last 11 years.
“They kept telling me that Nichols is a playoff team,” Fenn laughed. “I wasn’t sure if I believed them, now I see it. They made me a believer.”
Senior forward Myles Hervey led the Vikings’ attack with 18 points and 16 rebounds. Six of the 16 rebounds by the second-year varsity player came on the offensive end.
“Our coaches just wanted me to play hard,” Hervey said. “It doesn’t matter if I score a lot. It’s about getting the team involved.”
Senior Will Johnson added 17 points in the victory for Nichols, while freshman Aidan Horan had 12 points and eight rebounds.
“Aidan has been outstanding,” Fenn said. “The first O’Hara game is when he first came out and shined. After that he has been progressing, step-by-step. All of our guys have been progressing.”
Nichols prevented Cardinal O’Hara from advancing to its first Manhattan Cup final since it defeated Turner/Carroll in 1994. Sophomore Torree Cheatham led Cardinal O’Hara with 10 points. Nasir Benton, Jermaine Haynes and Justin Hemphill all added seven points each.
The Vikings advanced to face the St. Mary’s Lancers in the championship game at Canisius College on Wednesday night. The game will be special for Fenn as he will be returning to his alma mater.
“As a former player, it’s a dream to coach on that court,” stated Fenn. “I haven’t been back in any sort of competitive atmosphere there since I graduated. It will probably bring back a lot of memories. It will be a little weird not having a uniform on.”
St. Mary’s defeated Archbishop Walsh, 62-46, in the first of the four semifinal games. It’s the second time in three years that the Lancers have made it to a Manhattan Cup final.
Junior forward Christian Szablewski led the Lancers’ with 17 points. Senior co-captain Daquan Hunt and junior Matt Ciezki added 14 points each.
“Getting Christian involved in the paint was one of our focuses,” Saint Mary’s coach Paul Rath said. “He’s a good shooter from three-point line, but sometimes you need to get some points in the paint. Daquan was attacking and led the charge. Those two guys really propelled us, but our interior offense was definitely a focus.”
The Lancers took advantage of Walsh’s limited bench by attacking the hoop and drawing fouls. The
Eagles had only eight players. St. Mary’s employed a 1-3-1 zone that had two defenders on Tavien Kemp, the leading scorer in Western New York this season. Kemp finished with a game-high 25 points for the Eagles, 17 of game-high points came in the second half.
St. Mary’s swept the regular season series against Nichols, by seven on the road and by nine at home.