The No. 1 large school in Western New York sure looks ready for the Manhattan Cup championship – but its biggest rival will not be there waiting.
Bishop Timon-St. Jude, which lost twice in the regular season to St. Joe’s, broke through with a victory its program has been starving for as it beat the Marauders, 60-58, in the Manhattan Cup semifinals Sunday night at Canisius College’s Koessler Athletic Center
In the first game of the evening, No. 1 Canisius put on a dominating display as it throttled St. Mary’s, 90-25.
The Crusaders (21-4), winners of the last two Monsignor Martin Association championships, will face the Tigers (13-13) for the title at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Koessler. Timon has not played for the Manhattan Cup since 2004.
A crowd estimated at 1,250 saw Timon – which hadn’t beaten St. Joe’s or Canisius in so long that even the coaching staff didn’t remember (it was the 2009-10 season) – build a big lead on St. Joe’s before holding on in a tense fourth quarter.
“We haven’t been here in a long time – it feels great to win,” said first-year coach Joe Mihalics, who took over after Jim Palano’s retirement. “I really felt all year, if we could just put it together as far as running good sets, controlling the game, we’d be there.”
Six-foot-3 junior Donte Williams had 20 points while Damone Harris, a 6-5 senior, was a force inside with 15 points for Timon, which was ranked No. 9 in The News large school poll while St. Joe’s was No. 4.
Timon got a great lift, psychologically as well as on the score sheet, from 6-5 senior Ryan Dougherty. Dougherty, who had a knee ligament tear shorten his football season as Timon’s quarterback, missed the entire basketball year until seeing about 10 minutes in Timon’s quarterfinal victory. On Sunday, he had nine points, seeing a lot of action after an early injury to senior Sean Murphy knocked the starter out of the game.
“I’ve never beaten Joe’s before, and I’ve never been to the championship game, so this is huge for me,” Dougherty said. “I didn’t know if I was going to play, but I definitely wanted to play this much.”
Timon was up, 28-14, at halftime and its lead was 40-30 entering the fourth. When the Tigers started the fourth with a three-pointer from Dougherty, a layup by senior Manny Welch (nine points) and a Harris fast-break finish from Williams, it was 47-30 and St. Joe’s needed a timeout with 6:28 left.
St. Joe’s furiously rallied back, making it a one-possession game on a three-pointer by senior Jordan Glover with 47.2 seconds left, but Timon hit enough free throws down the stretch – including a 2-for-2 trip by Dougherty with 19.7 to play – to hold on. A Morris three at the buzzer accounted for the final two-point margin.
Seniors Louis Oliveri and Mark Cerza had 12 points apiece for St. Joe’s (20-6).
Canisius had 14 scorers in what quickly became a blowout against St. Mary’s. The Crusaders were up, 22-6, after one quarter and 34-8 at halftime. It was 62-21 after three and the lead hit 50 midway through the fourth.
“Start to finish, we came out with focus and energy and really have put together our best games of the year,” said Canisius coach Kyle Husband.
Matt MacDonald had 20 points, including three three-pointers, for Canisius while fellow senior Adam Weir had 12.
St. Mary’s (19-7), which will play in the Catholic state playoffs as the Monsignor Martin’s representative in Class B, was led by senior Paul Rath’s nine points.
Despite Canisius’ margin of victory in the semifinal, Husband is very cognizant that, as St. Joe’s found out, it is very difficult to beat a league rival three times in a season.
“If we let a bad practice, or a little less focus, and not play together, and not guard the way we did tonight,” Husband said, “people can get beat. I think if we play like tonight, it will be tough.”