It's been more than 30 years since a boys basketball team at Lake Shore, South Park or Newfane have added some Section VI championship hardware.
A drought will end for either Lake Shore or South Park, as the two teams will meet in the Class A-2 championship. The Panthers will wait and see who they match up against in their second straight appearance in the Class B-1 final.
Fourth-seeded Lake Shore (15-7) clinched its spot in the title game with a 64-49 win over No. 8 Iroquois (9-14) in the A-2 semifinals Tuesday night at Buffalo State. The Eagles won their first-ever sectional title in 1977.
"I say it to everybody. This year, I have a group of guys who play basketball," Lake Shore coach Brett Lyford said. "Last year I had a couple guys who played basketball. This year I have basketball players. These guys are all in and focused."
Lake Shore's core four of seniors Jon Park and Jay Brueckl and juniors Josh Buchanan and Ajay Cybulski advanced to Saturday's Class A-2 final at 7 p.m. back at Buffalo State against the third-seeded Sparks (13-9), which eliminated No. 2 Cheektowaga (12-10) in the semifinals for the second straight year, 69-46.
South Park last won three sectional titles in a row from 1982-84. It lost to Amherst in the A-2 final last season at the buzzer.
The Sparks' dynamic backcourt duo of sophomore Anthony Mack (24 points, four threes) and senior Raymond Mushat (21 points, one three) combined for 45 points, 32 of which came after halftime. Mushat surpassed the 1,000-point mark on the first bucket of the second half.
— Corey Desiderio (@cpdesi1) February 28, 2018
"I think Anthony had the best game that he's had all year," Sparks coach Pete Hudecki said. "Ray played phenomenal. We were cheering it up for him because it was the first time he hit the floor in his four years of varsity for a loose ball.
"That's the kind of effort that these guys are putting in. They're doing things that's outside the box that they normally don't do. They're putting that extra effort in, and I think that's why we got the result we got today."
The Sparks faced a lot of zone defenses in Yale Cup play this season. That wasn't the case Tuesday, as the Warriors elected to match up man-to-man. That allowed South Park to take advantage of its athleticism and keep leads of 18-7 after the first quarter, 32-24 at half and 49-33 by the end of the third quarter.
Cheektowaga's leading scorers were Alekzander Bryant with 16 and Rudy Bragg with 12.
Brueckl had an impressive shooting display to lead Lake Shore. He scored 20 of his game-high 24 points in the middle quarters, going 5-for-6 from beyond the arc and 5-for-7 from the free-throw line. He also added eight assists.
"He scored four points against Lew-Port in our quarterfinal game, but Jay's capable of scoring those points when his shot's there and he's aggressive taking the ball to the hole," Lyford said. "He loves to make assists, but if they're going to deny Jon inside, that's where Jay comes in."
Park finished with 13 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks, while Ryan Utley and Buchanan each added 11 points. Iroquois hit three three-pointers to go up, 18-11, 3:33 into the second quarter, which prompted a Lake Shore timeout and an adjustment from a zone defense to an aggressive man-to-man.
The Chiefs scored the next bucket, and then Lake Shore closed the half on a 17-0 run that was capped off with a Brueckl three at the buzzer from just inside half court to make the score 28-20. Brueckl made three more shots from beyond the arc and scored the Eagles' last 11 points of the third quarter to extend the lead to 45-33. Iroquois never got to within 10 points the rest of the way.
Tyler Tait (12 points) and Charlie Ottomano (11) led the Chiefs in scoring.
No. 4 Newfane (17-5) got just enough stops to hold off top-seeded Lackawanna (17-5) in the nightcap, 54-53, and move on to Saturday's B-1 final at 1:45 p.m. against the winner of 2-Olean and 3-Medina, which play Wednesday at 8:15 p.m. at Buffalo State. The last sectional title for Newfane came in 1980.
B-1: FINAL: @NewfaneSports 54, Lackawanna 53.
— Corey Desiderio (@cpdesi1) February 28, 2018
The Panthers took a 51-41 lead into the fourth quarter and scored only one time over the final eight minutes, a three from Max Weber (14 points) with 4:25 on the clock to make it 54-46.
Lackawanna ended the game with a 7-0 run but missed a go-ahead three with about a minute left and missed a free throw that would've tied it at 54-54 with 1:13 remaining. Newfane held the lead ever since the score was tied at 9-9 a few minutes in.
"We were throwing the first couple punches, and they kept that game within 10 or 12 and they would come back and hit some big shots," Panthers coach Eric Klumpp said. "Late in the game, they were the ones making the big shots, so they were slowing us down a little bit and making us execute."
Newfane's Kyle DeVoogel scored 18 of his game-high 20 points in the first half. London (12 points) and Noble Smith (10 points) were the only scorers in double figures for Lackawanna.