Barbara Anastasia is still the good luck charm of the Olean boys basketball team even though she's only with them in spirit.
The Huskies, who have dedicated their season to their coach's late wife, are once again Section VI boys basketball champions. They hope to win more games for Barbara.
Olean, the News' second-ranked small school, relied on its signature tough defense and had three players score in double figures to pull away from Newfane, 48-35, in the Class B-1 final Saturday afternoon at Buffalo State Sports Arena. Brian Ramarge led the winners with 16 points as the Huskies continued their mastery in Class B by winning their 10th sectional title since 2002 in this classification.
It is coach Jeff Anastasia's first, though, without his bride, who passed away from an illness back in January.
"My brother has been saying for 24 years that she was my good luck charm," Jeff said shortly after Olean's win. "This was our 13th sectional title and she was a part of every single one of them. I'm sure she was with us today."
The Huskies (22-1) will face top-ranked small school Health Sciences (19-4) for the overall Class B title at 6 p.m. Tuesday at Buffalo State.
Behind Davonte Gaines' triple-double that included a game-high 26 points, the Falcons advanced by defeating John F. Kennedy, 67-35, to win their second straight Class B-2 championship.
The season has been difficult personally for Anastasia and his players because Barbara was one of the team's biggest supporters. The two married shortly after Olean won its first sectional title under Jeff.
Jeff's first phone call after his team's games was to Barbara to let her know how things went. He also texted her before games, something he did prior to Saturday's contest against Newfane, which was trying to win its first sectional title since 1980.
"She always said good luck and win, win, win," Anastasia said. "It means a lot that the team dedicated the season to her. It meant the world to me, and this team took it upon themselves to fight through the adversity and play for her.
"I think the title means a lot to me because this is 2018, the year she passed away. It's always going to be in my heart like she is and I think for these guys to be so young and to come together as a team through adversity sometimes you find out where you're at when you go through adversity."
Olean bolted to a 10-2 lead. Though the offense hit a hiccup in the second quarter, defense enabled the Huskies to take control once the Panthers pulled within 15-14. After two Mike Schmidt free throws increase the lead to three, Matt Droney followed with a steal and layup as Olean used a 9-0 run to take a 24-14 lead into halftime. The Huskies' lead never dipped below three possessions after that. Droney finished with 14 points while Schmidt had 10 as six players scored for Olean.
Kyle DeVoogel led Newfane (17-6) with 11 points.
"Defense has been our constant all year and I thought our guys just did a fantastic job defensively," Anastasia said.
Defense and the all-around play of Gaines enabled Health Sciences to repeat as champion.
The 6-foot-7 Gaines, the Tennessee commit, shined on the Buffalo State stage as he also grabbed 16 rebounds to go with 11 assists, six steals and four blocks. Kameron Briggs added 12 points for Health Sciences, the Buffalo News' top-ranked small school.
Briggs scored the first five points of the game -- including a layup right off the opening tip won by Gaines -- as Health Sciences bolted to an 8-2 lead. Clinging to 8-6 lead after a Jordan Snyder layup, Gaines – known as Ticket – took charge, scoring on two putbacks and a three-pointer. He scored 13 of his team's final 14 points to end the first quarter.
He took a seat the final 4:37 of the first half after a steal and dunk made it 29-12. The Falcons led 36-21 at halftime.
"Going into sectionals I felt like Davonte wasn't playing his old aggressive style of basketball," Health Sciences coach Ty Parker said. "If you're one of the best basketball players in Western New York you have to show up. When the lights came on and the stage was set (Saturday) he showed up. ... I'm proud of him."
Jacob Braniecki had 16 points to lead JFK (17-6), which was trying to win its first sectional crown since 1995.
After yielding 12 points in the first quarter, the Falcons' defense got stingier -- which included yielding just 14 second-half points.
"Our guys work hard. … I'd just like to tip my hat to the guys and the coaching staff, back to back Division II championships," Parker said. "I'm just happy for our guys because they put the work in, and these are the results when you put the work in."