Matt Ciezki has hit some big three-pointers in his career but none were bigger than the two he hit to end the last two quarters of Wednesday night's Manhattan Cup Class B final.
Especially that last one.
The shot enabled St. Mary's to do something it's never done in its long history as a boys basketball program – win a Manhattan Cup.
Ciezki's sixth three-pointer Wednesday night broke a tie with 30 seconds left as the Lancers ended Nichols' championship reign with a 64-61 triumph in the Class B final.
An estimated 1,000 at Canisius College's Koessler Athletic Center watched St. Mary's complete comebacks from deficits of 10 early in the second quarter and nine points in the third quarter by speeding up the game, doing a better job defending the interior and with Ciezki sinking timely threes.
All of that enabled St. Mary's to add its name – finally – to the long list of triumphant teams in the Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association who have won a Manhattan Cup since 1948.
"It's definitely overwhelming," said Ciezki, who finished with a game-high 22 points in earning MVP honors. "Our team has been working toward this all season. … That last shot was for my teammates and my teammates only. All my hard work this season was for that shot."
The Lancers, who won a state Catholic title in 2011 back when the small school that went furthest in the Manhattan Cup playoffs automatically earned the league's Class B bid to the tournament, returns to action the weekend of March 10-11 at Fordham. There they will play a New York City-area team for the state championship and right to advance to the New York State Federation Tournament of Champions in Glens Falls in late March.
Ciezki's hot shooting hand played a big role in St. Mary's earning that road trip. He drained four of his three-pointers after halftime, but his layup with 2:35 left in the third gave the Lancers their first lead of the game, 40-38.
His second three-pointer of the second half provided his team with a pick-me up heading into the final quarter. That's because he drained a buzzer-beating one in transition to give the Lancers a 46-43 lead and set up a thrilling finish at the home of the Canisius Golden Griffins.
Nichols rode strong inside play to a 31-25 halftime lead with 18 of those points coming off layups. Senior Myles Hervey had nine of his 13 during the opening 16 minutes. The Vikings got their outside game going in the final quarter as it buried three treys with Will Johnson tying the game for the final time at 59-59 with 1:33 left. Johnson finished with 15 points and caps his career with 1,006 points.
Ciezki, whose cousin Zak helped Cheektowaga win Section VI titles in basketball and football in 2014, proved that clutch performances run in the family. All of his three-pointers Wednesday were big, but the last can simply be described as HUGE.
— Miguel Rodriguez (@miggyrod33) March 2, 2017
"I feel bad for the Nichols guys," Lancers coach Paul Rath said. "They played their hearts out but on the other hand it's the first time we've won a Manhattan Cup. It's unbelievable. To set a team goal and achieve it feels great."