The Western New York boys basketball season went out with a bang.
And so did McKinley and Marcus Morris.
In the final boys basketball game to be played locally this season, Morris hit a tie-breaking jumper with 16.8 seconds left to help lift McKinley over Amherst, 64-61, Tuesday night in an frenetic, hard-fought, Class A overall title game that will go down as the best show of Championship Week 2013 at Buffalo State.
“I’ve dreamed about this all my life. I had a feeling it was going to happen, and it happened to me,” said Morris. “Last year, it’s a playback in my head about how we lost to East Aurora [in the overall A final]. I didn’t want it to stop here.”
McKinley, along with other Section VI champions as well as Monsignor Martin Association playoff representatives Canisius and St. Mary’s, still have some basketball to play. The Macks (19-3) advanced to the Far West Regionals on Saturday at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena, where they will play Section V (Rochester area) private school power Aquinas (18-4) at 7 p.m. for a spot in the state final four.
They will bring the familiar pace-pushing style that was matched by Amherst for much of Tuesday’s game. The teams often traded baskets, and spent the game diving for loose balls and hustling to make blocks on defense. McKinley set the pace early, holding leads of 18-16 after one quarter and 37-29 at halftime. Amherst came out quickly in the third, not only digging out of the deficit but taking a 43-41 lead with 2:10 left in the quarter.
The fourth, which started at 46-46 with an estimated crowd of 1,800 oohing-and-ahhing each time the ball went through the net.
It was tied at 50-50 when freshman T.C. Brown knocked a ball loose and finished a break for Amherst for a 52-50 lead. Morris came down and knocked down an NBA-range three from the left side (53-52 McKinley). With the shot clock running down, 6-foot-7 senior Alex Turecki hit a three from the left corner for the Tigers (55-53 Amherst). Senior Reyjzon Jordan answered with a drive down the lane (55-55). Johnathan Belton knocked down a three from the left side (58-55 Amherst) with about 3:30 to go.
Senior DaeQuan Warren scored on a putback to make it 58-57 but Brown answered with a banker off a drive down the right side (60-57 Amherst). After the teams traded free throws, Amherst had a 61-59 lead with 52.6 seconds left and, with McKinley pressing, inbounded in the backcourt. Senior Lovell Smith stole an errant pass, scored and was fouled with 49.4 seconds left. He missed the free throw but after a battle for the rebound, a tieup was called and McKinley had the ball with 44.8 to play.
“I think it was our effort down the stretch,” said McKinley coach Zaire Dorsey. “The 50-50 balls I think was what got us back in the game.”
The Macks put the ball in the hands of Morris, who dribbled down the clock from well out on the left side. He then drove to the right side of the lane and swished a jumper.
“I tried to run the clock down to 15-10 seconds,” Morris said. “Then I knew I just had to keep my composure and keep control of the ball. Other than that, I knew it was going to go in.”
McKinley ended Amherst’s two final possessions with steals, with Morris adding a free throw in between.
Amherst (20-2) was led by senior Dion Lewis (16 points, four threes), and got 11 points apiece from Brown, Turecki and senior Steven Reynolds.
“All year the guys believed in each other,” Amherst coach Chris Kensy of his 20-2 team. “Our saying is family, and every single one of the kids, from the guys on the bench to the guys on the floor, believed in each other and believed in the game plan. They executed well. They were fearless. They went toe-to-toe with one of the best teams and best coaches in Western New York, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”