Buffalo schools flexed their muscles Wednesday night at Buffalo State, setting up an all-Yale Cup matchup in Saturday’s Section VI Class A-1 final.
Fifth-seeded Hutch-Tech dominated top-seed Sweet Home in the first semifinal, opening an early 17-2 lead on the way to a 67-47 win.
Yale Cup champion McKinley, the No. 2 seed, had even less trouble with another ECIC foe, third-seeded Williamsville South, seizing control with a 27-point second quarter and cruising to a 77-46 victory.
McKinley (17-3) swept the season series with Hutch-Tech (9-9), winning the first game by 34 and the second by 38. They will meet for a third time at 6:30 p.m. Saturday for the sectional title.
In their fourth straight trip to Buff State, the Engineers finally broke through with a win.
“We got the monkey off our back,” senior center Aymanuel Radford said.
Hutch-Tech was patient in attacking the Sweet Home zone early and determined to keep the Panthers from getting out in transition. Its first 20 points came on layups or free throws earned on the inside.
“We said, ‘Don’t settle for the three here at Buff State. Let’s grind it out,’” Hutch-Tech coach Dave Rappl said. “We’ve got guys that can shoot the three. But here it’s tough. It we were in our own gym, there’d be more threes going up.”
When the Engineers finally let it fly from long range, Dante Williams and Jovohn Owens sank two in a row, making it 26-9 midway through the second quarter.
“We wanted to come out and play hard and set the tone right from the jump,” Williams said.
“It was either come out hard or go home,” Radford said. “And we didn’t want to go home.”
Radford controlled the paint throughout the game, tallying 16 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks, while breaking down the Panthers’ zone defense with his passing out of the high post.
“He played real hard,” Williams said. “Probably his best game of the season.”
“Aymanuel has been playing out of this world for us,” Rappl said. “He was a big difference. But this was a whole team effort.”
Owens netted 20 points and five assists. Roman West also had a double-double with 14 points and 12 rebounds. Tim Whitehead had 10 points, 10 rebounds and six assists.
Kole Gilchrist and Michael Torrillo each scored 10 points to lead Sweet Home (15-5). Gilchrist had all of his points in the fourth quarter. After trailing by as many as 25 points in the first half, Sweet Home cut the lead to 13 late but couldn’t get closer.
DaeQuan Warren scored 25 points and Lovell Smith had 23 for McKinley in the rout. Marcus Morris added 12 points.
The Macks (17-3) forced the Billies (15-5) into 20 first-half turnovers, most of which led to easy baskets for Smith and Warren.
“All year, we press,” McKinley coach Zaire Dorsey said. “We don’t press the same way every game. We change it up according to whoever we play. But that’s what we do.”
“We had to put the pressure on them so we could take the lead,” Smith said.
The Billies held a brief lead early and stayed within a basket for the rest of the first quarter but found themselves down 23-12 after Smith made a steal and glided in for a one-handed slam midway through the second quarter. Warren scored on the next two possessions, and the rout was on. The Macks led by more than 30 for much of the second half.
“Lovell was great in that second quarter, going to the basket, getting rebounds, deflecting balls,” Dorsey said.
Sophomore Sam Castronova led the Billies with 10 points. Chaq Nettles and David Isselbaecher each had eight points.
“Our focus was to not let Nettles or Castronova beat us,” Dorsey said. “We wanted to make sure it was someone else.”
Having handled Hutch-Tech so easily during the season – and having beaten them in the sectional semifinals last spring – the Macks will have to guard against overconfidence Saturday.
“We can’t play down to our competition,” Smith said. “Nobody is going to lay down to us, so we have to play the same game.”
“If we think the game is going to be easy going in, we already lost,” Dorsey said. “We get to play a rival, somebody in our league, for the third time and the kids will be up for it.”