During a timeout early in the third quarter, the West Seneca West student section began chanting: "It's too easy."
The unbeaten Indians made it look as such because of pressing defense that made a North Tonawanda crew that plays reigning Class AA champion Niagara Falls twice a year uncomfortable – leading to lots of turnovers, easy baskets and a shot at the title.
There will be a new Section VI champion in Class A, as West Seneca West took down reigning champ NT, 82-62, Wednesday night in a Class A-1 semifinal at Buffalo State. Three different players scored at least 21 points for West before an estimated 2,000, as the Indians stepped on the gas midway through the second quarter and never let off it in reaching their first final since 2003.
"It means everything first and foremost for our seniors, the kids who have given everything they've got since they were in middle school, since they played modified (to get to the final)," West coach Des Randall said. "They only won five games last year. North Tonawanda was the team that knocked them out of the playoffs last year. That made the win that much more special. Just a big turnaround like this means everything to the school and the community."
The Indians will try to win their first title since 2000 when they face a Championship Week regular at Buffalo State in Williamsville South for the title on Saturday night.
The Billies advanced to the final with a 50-46 win over old friend McKinley. Greg Dolan scored a game-high 19 points, while Robert Richards scored timely baskets in the fourth quarter as South repelled a comeback bid by the Macks.
In the Class B-1 semifinal, Olean rode a fast start to a 59-45 triumph over Medina and will face Newfane on Saturday for the championship.
What a year it's been for West Seneca West in its two marquee sports. After the football team posted an unbeaten mark en route to winning the state title last fall, boys basketball team now has earned a championship opportunity of its own.
Senior Alex Wayland recorded 24 points and four steals, junior Juston Johnson finished with 23 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, and classmate Adrian Baugh added 21 points, 12 boards and three steals for West (22-0).
NT (15-7) bolted to an early 6-1 lead and led 14-12 after one quarter. The Indians' pressure defense coupled with misses by the Lumberjacks provided the opening West needed to seize control for good. The Indians used a 17-3 run to close the second quarter and followed that up with a 27-13 third quarter to turn a close game into a rout.
Baugh started the blitz by hitting a runner and followed that with a layup with 3:58 left in the second. Jesse Broad drained a three and Johnson followed with a layup, as a 19-17 deficit turned into a 26-19 lead. West's advantage grew from there as Wayland nailed a three and later a layup in transition. The Indians led 34-20 at halftime. Wayland hit three threes during the first 2:31 of the third quarter. The defense also forced turnovers that led to easy baskets and swelling of the lead.
"Third quarter was all them, they didn't miss," NT coach Ryan Mountain said. "All the credit goes to West Seneca West. They played very good basketball."
Williamsville South and McKinley met for the 11th time in the past 12 seasons at Buffalo State during Championship Week. While they have played some memorable classic games over the years filled with highlight-reel plays, Wednesday's was one that won't go into the vault. Both teams came out with the same plan to negate the other's transition. It led to lots of turnovers.
Still, South (19-3) scored the first 10 points and led 12-4 after one quarter. The lead grew to 21-11 at halftime with Dolan only scoring four of those points. Devin Degree hit three three-pointers during the opening half for the Billies.
McKinley (17-6) kept chipping away, as South struggled to score against the Macks' zone. Emir Evans recorded eight of his 11 second-half points during the third quarter to help McKinley pull within 33-29.
From potential blowout to anyone's game in the fourth quarter.
Twice the Macks pulled within two, but each time Richards responded with a layup for South. He scored nine of his 15 points during the final eight minutes. Dolan had six points in the period.
"Credit to McKinley," Billies coach Gabe Michael said. "They played harder than we did. They wanted it more than we did. … Quite frankly, we won't win a championship playing that way. … It's great to advance and that's what we're trying to do but we're playing to a standard and we didn't meet that standard today."
Olean (21-1) has its own standards, having won a sectional title nine times the past 11 years. It returns to the big game after missing the final last year in A-2.
The Huskies scored the first 18 points and came within a whisker of pitching a first-quarter shutout.
Junior Mike Schmidt, a holdover from Olean's 2016 state-title winner, scored 11 of his game-high 26 points in the first quarter. Five-foot-9 classmate Josh Bihler grabbed 19 rebounds.
"It's always great playing for a title," Olean coach Jeff Anastasia said. "We start five juniors but I think the kids coming in the first tryout in November, they bought into the system and they've carried it from there. Defense has been our constant."
Jalin Cooper had 18 points to lead Medina (11-11).