Nichols is returning to the Manhattan Cup final after a one-year absence.
Under the guidance of first-year coach Joe Mihalics, the Vikings advanced to the Class B title game by routing St. Mary’s of Lancaster, 67-52, in a semifinal contest at Canisius College’s Koessler Athletic Center.
This will be Nichols’ fifth title-game appearance (across two classes) in six years but first under Mihalics – the former Bishop Timon-St. Jude coach, who guided Timon to the 2014 Manhattan Cup final where it lost to Nichols.
“It feels great,” said senior and fourth-year Vikings player Jake Bair, a member of the 2016 Cup championship team. “I’ve been on the team a while. We’ve been fighting. I feel good about this year.”
With the game tied at 13-13, Nichols seized control for good – scoring the next 12 points with Jaylen Hearon nailing a three to give the Vikings the lead for good.
He finished with 15 points as Nichols had four scorers finish in double figures. Jake Bair led the winners with 18, while Chris Stineman and Hugh Parks each scored 17.
“We hit a few threes, it was nice that first half to get a nice lead and we maintained it,” Mihalics said.
The Vikings (14-1), ranked third among News small schools, will face top-seeded Cardinal O’Hara (23-1), the second-ranked small school, for the Manhattan Cup Class B championship Saturday at the Koessler Athletic Center. O’Hara won the regular-season meeting, 80-68.
“We’re going to have a tough game ... those guys are going to come at us with their athleticism,” Mihalics said. “We’ll have it cut out for us.”
Still, the Vikings – who ended their regular season with a win at Manhattan Cup Class A finalist Canisius – will show up to play.
“That wasn’t a fluke,” Mihalics said. “They’re a solid team but I feel we’re strong as well. The confidence is there on our side.”