Coach Gabe Michael noted that the first game at Buffalo State during Championship Week is always tough to win.
Good thing he had two steadying influences in Greg Dolan and Dakota Wiley on his side. The two Williamsville South guards took turns shouldering the scoring load as the defending Section VI Class A champions advanced to another A-1 title game by defeating old friend McKinley, 63-51, to open a semifinal tripleheader at the Buffalo State Sports Arena on Tuesday night.
Dolan scored a game-high 26 points, all after the first quarter and took charge during the third quarter to help thwart a Macks team that was looking to win its first sectional title since 2014.
"We see McKinley every year," Dolan said. "To get another win against them is great. They're a well-coached team. I have the utmost respect for them. They're a team we have to give 100 percent against in order to win."
Dakota: With the Billies struggling early, including Dolan, Wiley took charge of the offense. He drained a pair of threes and scored 12 of his 20 points during the first half. South led at halftime, 27-23.
Some cushion: McKinley pulled within two early in the third quarter, but the Billies responded with a 7-0 run to highlight an 18-10 period. South took a 45-33 lead into the final quarter.
Dolan did what he tends to do, rise to the moment. He scored 10 points during the third and also had a nice dribble, drive and dish to Mark Worthy for a layup to cap the Billies' offensive burst.
Getting off the mat: McKinley may have been down but not out to start the fourth quarter.
The Macks pulled within 45-41 on a basket by Deon Spencer. Emir Evans had four points during the comeback bid.
But a drive and dish outside by Dolan resulted in a three by Mark Worthy that blunted the comeback try.
Final stats: Emir Evans had 13 points to lead McKinley. Kavon Rogers added 12 for the Macks while Nakye Booze had 11.
Familiar foes: Will South and McKinley once again met in a high-stakes playoff game at Buffalo State Sports Arena, and of course both teams played at a fast pace.
Tuesday's contest at the Sports Arena marked the eighth time in nine years the teams have played in either a semifinal or final at the home of Buffalo State Bengals basketball.
Over that span, the teams have won nine Section VI titles between them with McKinley capturing five. Will South came into this one as the two-time defending Class A champions.
Quotable: Dolan on playing at Buffalo State: "You always look forward to this all year. Different group of guys but it's always fun."
Rankings: Williamsville South is ranked No. 1 in the Buffalo News Large School poll. McKinley is unranked.
Records: Williamsville South is 19-3. McKinley is 15-7.
Next: Section VI Class A-1 championship game at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Buffalo State Sports Arena against either North Tonawanda or Grand Island.