Canisius showed a packed gym at City Honors how quickly it could score in the opening 98 seconds of the second half in its showdown with McKinley. It spent the rest of the half showing everyone how it could play defense.

The Crusaders’ 8-0 spurt to start the second half opened up a lead it would have little trouble holding on to as Canisius, ranked second in The News’ large school poll, went on to beat No. 3 McKinley, 76-60, before a standing-room-only crowd of about 800 in the marquee event of the four-game lineup of Saturday’s seventh Martin Luther King Jr. Classic.

After a crowd-pleasing, back-and-forth first half, Canisius (11-3) won the second half by a 37-22 score, limiting McKinley to fewer points than the Macks scored in a frenetic first quarter (23). McKinley, as it always aims to do, pushed the pace in a first half in which 12 Macks saw the floor.

“In the first half, we let them get to us,” said Canisius coach Kyle Husband. “Every time we had a seven- or eight-point lead, we’d take a quick shot. And we didn’t have a ton of turnovers, but they were really, really bad – they were layups every time for them. And we got outrebounded by 14 in the first half.

“Those were the two things we weren’t going to do and the guys went out and really had great focus. We gave up 22 in the second half. That’s the way we need to play. We’re going to score. We have enough guys who can put the ball in the bucket. We’ve just got to keep focusing on defense and we’ll be fine.”

The teams traded baskets for much of the first half, with Canisius taking leads of 26-23 and 41-38 after the first two quarters. To start the third, Canisius quickly turned three McKinley misses into points. Canisius College-bound senior Adam Weir (18 points) scored on a drive from the left side before hitting a three-pointer. That was followed by a three by senior Matt MacDonald (15 points) for a 49-38 Canisius lead and a McKinley timeout with 6:22 left in the third quarter.

The Crusaders’ lead remained at least six the rest of the way.

“We wanted to take care of the ball, and we didn’t think we did a good job of that [in the first half],” said Weir. “It’s fun to play [McKinley]. They run, they hit you, they trap you, they do everything they can.”

McKinley (9-2) was led by 18 points from senior forward Daequan Warren.

It was also a good Saturday for East High, which got 26 points from sophomore guard Percy Bryant and a strong fourth quarter by senior center Tyree Tyson as the No. 3 small school Panthers earned a hard-fought, 63-59 victory over East Aurora.

Tyson, a 6-9 center, sat much of the first half with foul trouble but then scored nine of his 15 in the fourth. He and EA 6-5 senior Ian Allen, who had 28 points and 15 rebounds, had a nice battle in the final minutes.

Allen hit one of his three three-pointers to put EA up, 53-50, before Tyson scored down low while being fouled, hitting the free throw to tie it up with 3:37 left. Tyson scored the next two baskets, one on a post move and another on a putback. Allen later added another three-pointer to cut the lead to three, but Bryant hit four straight free throws to help seal it for East (9-4).

“I sat him out in the first half, but I was very proud of the way he came on in the fourth quarter,” East coach Starling Bryant said of Tyson. “It was big for us.”

Senior James Ritchie had 17 points for EA (7-4).

Senior Keir Anderson had 18 points and junior Tarron Scott added 17 as Middle Early College, the No. 6 small school, beat ECIC II leader Sweet Home, 60-53.

The Kats led the entire game, flirting with double digits thanks to offensive production from the multi-tasking Anderson and Scott as well as junior guard Kevin Briggs (10 points). Junior 6-4 forward Bri’an Brown (nine points) and 6-6 junior Devon Singleton were forces in the lane with several blocked shots.

Lackawanna used its pressure defense to win the middle quarters, 45-17, as it ran away from City Honors, 78-45. Sophomore point guard Damone Sylvers scored 20 points, had three three-pointers and several break-starting steals for the Steelers (9-2), ranked eighth among small schools.

Senior Ahmad Abdo finished off many breaks himself during a 19-point game.