In a matchup of last year’s Buffalo News poll champions, each took a turn showing why it was No. 1.
Small school champion Olean did it with an overwhelmingly dominant first half, and then it held on to the very end to beat large school winner Canisius, 76-73, in an early-season boys basketball classic Tuesday at the Monsignor Martin-ECIC Challenge.
Junior Wil Bathurst had 25 points while classmate Sam Eckstrom had 21 as Olean built leads of 22-5 after one quarter and 47-21 at halftime before a packed -- and stunned -- crowd of about 500 at St. Mary’s.
Canisius fought back in the second, drawing to within 60-47 after three quarters. In the final minutes it had several chances to tie the game but could not. Its last chance came with 2.1 seconds left. Senior Adam Weir, who scored 34 points, hit his first free throw but missed the second to leave Olean with a 74-73 lead. Junior Nick Schmidt would add two free throws for Olean with 0.8 seconds to go.
“Story of two halves, I guess,” said an exasperated Jeff Anastasia, Olean’s coach. “We played a great first half. I thought we did a lot of very, very good things. I knew they were going to make a run. They’re too good a team not to make a run.”
Olean returned nearly its entire rotation from last year’s team, which advanced to the Class B state final four and finished atop The News small school poll. It debuted as this season’s No. 1 on Tuesday.
Canisius, which won the Manhattan Cup as champions of the Monsignor Martin Association last year and also returns several starters, was No. 1 in last year’s final large school poll. It debuted as the No. 2 large school behind Niagara Falls.
“A lot of people said we were the underdogs in this game,” said the multitalented 6-foot-3 Bathurst. “We didn’t feel that way.”
Canisius, playing its first game of the season, was outplayed in the first half by the much crisper Huskies (3-0), who had won their own tipoff tournament last weekend with dominant wins over Bradford (Pa.) and Maple Grove.
Schmidt added 16 points, including two three-pointers. Canisius senior guard Aaron White had 14 points for Canisius, all of which came in the second half as his aggressive, quick drives to the basket helped the Crusaders come back.
Canisius senior Matt MacDonald hit a three-pointer to cut Olean’s lead to 68-67 with just under two minutes left. Olean responded as Bathurst hit a tough turnaround in the lane, with the 6-7 Eckstrom following with a smooth finish in the post for a 72-67 lead with 50 seconds left.
Later, Canisius freshman Howard Washington hit an open three-pointer off a Weir pass to make it 74-72 with 18.9 seconds to go. Olean missed four free throws after that; after the last miss, Schmidt fouled Weir in the backcourt to send him to the line with 2.1 to play.
The Southern Tier posted another impressive win during Tuesday’s tripleheader as Jamestown beat St. Joe’s, 64-54, behind 31 points and five three-pointers from senior Tommy Campion.
“When all else fails, get it in Tommy’s hands,” said Jamestown coach Ben Drake.
Campion had five three-pointers and most of them were big ones in the second half. He had two threes, including a banked-in runner at the buzzer, in an 18-11 third quarter that gave Jamestown a 46-38 lead.
Backcourt mate sophomore Zach Panebianco added 13 for the No. 3 large school Red Raiders (2-0) while senior Louis Oliveri led No. 6 St. Joe’s (3-1) with 15.
In the first game of the evening, St. Francis (3-2) earned an early solid win under first-year coach Brian Ferris when Cory Cullen scored with 4.6 left to beat Depew (1-2), 47-45.