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Prep Talk's 16th annual Championship Week Awards: Hoops playoffs produce plenty of shining moments

The only downer in the recently completed boys and girls basketball postseason tournaments was the fact it was the first time since 2002 that an area team failed to win a state championship in either the public or Catholic schools' tournaments.

Failing to win a state title, however, doesn't mean teams and individuals failed to deliver the memorable moments that make the Section VI and Monsignor Martin tournaments must-see events.

It's time to remember some of those highlights as we present our version of One Shining Moment, the 16th annual Championship Week Awards. With assists from members of our coverage team (including Budd Bailey, Corey Desiderio, Nick Wojton and Michael Petro), this column showcases some of the best from Championship Week and the state tournaments.

That includes, of course, the best moment.

A record-breaking one proved to be an easy call. It came courtesy of Dominick Welch. The Cheektowaga senior's pursuit of one of the most hallowed records in Western New York boys' basketball history reached the Buffalo State Sports Arena on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

Needing just 25 points to pass the career-points record held by Ritchie Campbell since 1990, a standing-room-only crowd of more than 3,000 fans watched Welch put on a show during the Section VI Class A-2 semifinal against South Park that was definitely worth more than the standard-admission price. He scored 18 of his game-high 45 points during the first half.

With Campbell watching from the concourse, Welch moved into first place on the list early in the third quarter – scoring the first eight points of the period, as he passed the total of 2,355 points via a layup.

After a stoppage to honor the feat, with Welch's family joining him on the court for a brief ceremony, he continued adding to the record. The Sparks played the role of spoiler, ending Cheektowaga's quest of winning a second sectional title during Welch's time with the program. He finished with 2,376 points.

Jordan Barr is mobbed by his Amherst teammates after his buzzer-beating putback enabled the Tigers to win the Section VI Class A-2 championship over South Park. (Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)

The rest of the winners:

Best game

Boys: How about some buzzer-beating drama?

The Class A-2 final between Amherst and South Park delivered as the clash between the ECIC II co-champion and Yale Cup I champion came down to the wire. The Tigers won it, 55-53, on senior Jordan Barr's putback. The basket capped a wild final minute in which South Park erased a four-point deficit to take a one-point lead after a three-pointer by Shakur Harris and a steal and layup by Jakari Woods in a span of 2 seconds. After two free throws from Marcellus Cooper gave the Tigers the lead, Harris tied it one last time by hitting a free throw with 10.3 seconds left. That set the stage for Barr's game-winner – which came off a DeSean Ashley miss.

Runner-up: St. Mary's defeats Nichols, 64-61, in Class B to secure the program's first-ever Manhattan Cup. Matt Ciezki's sixth three-pointer broke a 59-59 tie, giving the Lancers the lead for good with 30 seconds left against the defending champion Vikings, who were trying to win their third Manhattan Cup in four seasons.

Girls: Frewsburg takes the overall Section VI Class C title with 53-50 win over Chautauqua Lake as Gabby Iuculano hits the go-ahead three with 1.1 seconds left to send the Bears to Far West Regionals.

Gabby Iuculano shoots the game-winning three-pointer with 1.1 seconds left that enabled Frewsburg to defeat Chautauqua Lake for the overall Class C Section VI title. (James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

Runner-up: Class A-2 semifinal in which Niagara-bound Claire Wanzer took control down the stretch to cap a 20-point effort to lead Amherst past defending Class A champion Lake Shore, 56-53.

Best shot

Boys: Wize Threat's fourth and final three-pointer of the game gave Health Sciences the lead for good, 46-44, late in the fourth quarter during the Falcons' Far West Regional triumph over Mynderse at Genesee Community College.

Girls: Bailey saw a highlight-reel shot when Sara Pfeiffer grabbed a rebound in the paint and with her back to the basket threw up a shot that found nothing but net in Olean's A-2 semifinal win over Kenmore East.

Best drive

Boys: We’re going with Welch's record-breaking basket. He took the inbounds, dribbled up the right side, speeding past one defender with ease. He then cut toward the basket, converting a layup while being fouled. It was vintage Dom.

Girls: Pfeiffer gets the nod, again. As described by Bailey, she took the opening tip in the A-2 semifinal and wasted little time driving right up the middle of the lane for a basket – sending a message that last year's B-1 champion Olean would be more than a handful against the top-seeded Bulldogs.

All-Championship Week teams (minimum two games required)

Boys first team: Colby Moultrie (Canisius), Trevor Book (North Tonawanda), Devin Pope (Chautauqua Lake), Davonte Gaines (Health Sciences), Nick Montgomery (East Aurora).

Boys second team:  Tazaun Rose (Niagara Falls), Isaac Kopp (Franklinville), Matt Ciezki (St. Mary's), Aaron Swan (Ch. Lake), Shakur Harris (South Park).

Girls first team: Claire Wanzer (Amherst), Natalie Angeletti (Panama), Hannah Cybart (Fredonia), Carly Reynolds (Clarence), Anndea Zeigler (Cardinal O'Hara).

Girls second team: Rachel Senek (Wilson), Amari DeBerry (Williamsville South), Ella Rose Eckert (Clarence), Sara Pfeiffer (Olean), Gabby Iuculano (Frewsburg).

A'aron Mungro All-Hustle Teams

Boys: Jakari Woods (South Park), Haris Bekric (Lackawanna), Josiah Haygood (Health Sciences), Sam Erickson (Franklinville), Joe Jamison (Canisius).

Girls: Kaitlyn Blanchard (Frewsburg), Katie Villarini (Hamburg), Katie Price (Fredonia), Emma Klein (Amherst), Nicole Johnson (Panama).

Miggy's favorites

From crowd-pleasing dunks to momentum-turning blocks, here are other contributions that did not go unnoticed.

Unsung team: Sean Taggert (St. Francis), Da'Shawn Hines (Amherst), Josh Denz (East Aurora), Aidan Horan (Nichols), Brock Blecha (Franklinville), Nick Martonis (Randolph), TayVion Nelson (Health Sciences), Leugim Castillo (Lancaster), Charles Lamar (Niagara Falls), Rory Farkas (North Tonawanda).

Best dunks: The two that caught my eye came from Gaines and Cal McTigue of East Aurora.

Gaines delivered a nice putback jam during the Falcons' sectional final win over Lackawanna in B-2. It was a two-handed, no-doubt-about-it follow to finish off a transition break during Health Sciences' game-breaking second-quarter run.

In the overall Class B final between Health Sciences and EA, McTigue beat the only defender between him and the basket off a nice dribble drive and threw down a one-handed slam that prompted many to go 'Whoa!'

That's teamwork: Franklinville relied on that to not only win its first Section VI title since 1992 but reach the state final four for the first time since 1978. The Panthers recorded 15 assists on their 24 field goals during their state quarterfinal win over Section V private-school C.G. Finney.

Canisius also received contributions from many to go from play-in game participant to Manhattan Cup Class A champion. The Crusaders beat both regular-season champions to win their third straight title.

Have a block party: Randolph's Kaleb Frink had half of his six blocks in final four minutes to help Cardinals win the Class C-2 final over East, 51-42.

That leads us to …

The all-block team: Kaleb, Jarrett Lecceadone (Randolph), Gaines, Cooper, Leugim Castillo (Lancaster).

Playmakers: North Tonawanda's Vincent Tripi, Lancaster's Vito Fulciniti and Williamsville South's Greg Dolan all share this honor as they flaunted their vision and deft passing skills much to the delight of the Championship Week crowds.

Future watch: Keep an eye on Randolph guard Tyler Hind. He's only a freshman but played with the savvy and poise of a varsity veteran. Same goes for Amherst's Desean Ashley, another freshman who was a key contributor on a championship-winning team.

Budd's favorites

Here are other items that caught Bailey's eye.

Loudest slap: From the B-1 boys semifinal, Newfane's Max Weber hit a big three-pointer at the end of the third quarter during a victory over MST Seneca. As described by Bailey: He was off-balance when he shot the ball and wound up on the floor – there may have been contact on the play. Even so, Weber saw the ball go through and slapped the floor loud enough for everyone in the Buffalo State Sports Arena to hear him.

Best timeout: A Chautauqua Lake player was injured as Frewsburg brought the ball upcourt. She was laying on the court at the far end, crying loudly enough to be heard throughout the arena. Jeff Collver, coach of Frewsburg, called timeout just as his team got the ball past halfcourt. Some things, like sportsmanship, are bigger than a basket, even in the playoffs.

Quotable: Panama coach Jeff Angeletti when asked if losing in the state final four for the third year in row stirred memories of the Bills' four straight Super Bowl losses: "At least it wasn't wide right today, but our second quarter was something of a wide right."

Gleeful addition: Frewsburg sent a small singing group to its games and it did a fine job with the National Anthem. The live performances were greatly appreciated after a recording was used for other games. Also, the Panama band was in good form throughout the tournament.

Teaching moments: It was fun to watch players come through for their teams in crucial situations when it mattered the most. Players like that always will know now that they can do their best when the pressure is greatest. They should remember that when they take a test, make a speech or have a job interview for the rest of the lives.

Video killed the radio star: Gabby Iuculano's dramatic three-point shot with a second left gave Frewsburg a Section VI title over Chautauqua Lake. In case anyone missed it, there were plenty of chances to see it again and again. Coach Collver said later in the week he had seen seven different videos of the play, each from different angles that revealed new reactions.

Best chant: Seton Catholic's (from Section IV in the Binghamton area) fans came well-prepared to cheer, following some well-timed cues during the final four at Hudson Valley Community College.

One such exchange between leader and fans: "Do you see the scoreboard?" "Yes, we see the scoreboard." "Do you see the 79?" "Yes, we see the 79." "Do you see the 54?" "Yes, we see the 54." "Do you think that we have won?" "Yes, we think that we have won."

Postscript: Not everyone in the Albany area was caught up in championship fever. A reporter was walking in the lobby of the HVCC athletic complex on Sunday afternoon. The final game of the weekend was taking place inside, and the lobby was almost empty. A woman in her 70s or so came up to him and asked: "Where is the flower show?"

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