With Sunday’s windstorm wreaking havoc across Western New York, it’s only natural that the Section VI boys basketball schedule felt its impact Monday.
While folks at SUNY Buffalo State hoping to see a doubleheader in Class AA will have to wait until Tuesday night for the semifinal between top-seeded Williamsville North and No. 5 Lockport, the section found a perfect substitute to serve as the opener to Championship Week in the Class C-1 semifinal between Tapestry and East.
In a clash between reigning champions, Tapestry kept alive hope of securing the repeat.
A fine performance by sophomore point guard Tariq Eubanks and the Thunder Hawks’ defense overwhelmed last year’s Class D state champion as Tapestry advanced to Friday’s title game with a 61-48 win over the Panthers.
With East’s defense focused on neutralizing Hawks leading scorer Dorian Plummer, Eubanks made them pay the price by recording 21 points, eight assists, seven rebounds and five steals.
“I’ve played against a lot of tough competition,” said Eubanks, a returning starter. “You have to step (up in these situations) and show you deserve to be here.”
“They had to box-and-one on Dorian and that opened the court for Tariq,” Tapestry coach Mike Ester said. “He made great decisions and made everyone around him better.”
Tapestry, the defending Section VI Class C champion, will face either top-seeded Middle Early College or No. 5 Chautauqua Lake for the C-1 title at 8:45 p.m. on Friday at Jamestown Community College. MEC and Chautauqua Lake meet in the other C-1 semifinal at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday at SUNY Fredonia.
Tapestry (16-6) threatened to run away from the Panthers with a 9-2 start in which it took advantage of ball-handing gaffes by East (14-8). The Panthers calmed down and led 19-13 after eight minutes. Danny Carter, a holdover from last year’s state-title winner, scored nine of his team-high 13 points in the quarter.
Tapestry rallied in the second quarter with Eubanks scoring eight of his team’s 19 points. The Thunder Hawks led 32-30 at halftime.
Tapestry, ranked seventh among small schools in the News’ poll, switched to a 1-2-2 defense and seized control for good with a 15-6 closing run in the third quarter after East’s David Hughes hit two free throws to tie the game at 32. Shane Cerone’s two free throws with 6:10 left in the period broke the tie for good for Tapestry. Then Plummer (11 points) followed with back-to-back 3-pointers to get the News’ eighth-ranked small school reeling.
Cerone and Carl Johnson each finished with seven points for Tapestry, which received scoring contributions from eight players.
This is the second time these teams met this season as Tapestry won a December meeting, 79-60, in the Pastor-Cooper Tournament at Daemen College.
“It’s kind of tough beating a team twice,” Ester said. “The main thing is we wore them down because our bench is strong.
“It means a lot for the school (to reach the final). Like I told the kids in the locker room, we’re the champions until we get beaten. I think that’s what happened today. We played with a lot of heart.”