There are seven boys basketball teams from Western New York hitting the road this weekend with hopes of extending their playoff path with another road trip in the weeks to come.
In the span of about 10 hours Saturday, we’ll know if all seven are moving on, or going home.
Section VI’s five champions will compete in the Far West Regionals at Rochester’s Blue Cross Arena, taking on the Section V champions for the right to advance to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four in Glens Falls on March 15-17.
The two representatives of the Monsignor Martin Association will play for New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association titles at Fordham University. Winners earn an invitation to the state Federation Tournament of Champions on March 22-24 in Albany.
Here’s the who, what and where of the most important day of the season, with teams’ state rankings included.
Far West Regional: No. 16 Jamestown (19-2) vs. No. 14 Bishop Kearney (14-7), 8:45 p.m. at Blue Cross Arena.
Bishop Kearney is a familiar team to Western New York hoop fans, who have seen Kearney struggle early in the season (with losses at Niagara Falls and Canisius) before surging late (win at St. Joe’s, home win over Niagara Falls). The two coaches are very familiar with each other, as Jon Boon and Ben Drake grew up down the street from each other in Jamestown before Boon left the area early in his high school years. They have remained friendly and talk during the season.
Kearney boasts an outstanding lineup of 6-foot-9 Syracuse recruit Chinoso Obokoh, 6-9 major Division I recruit Thomas Bryant and scintillating senior guard Antwoine Anderson, who will likely end up in Division I. It’s an intriguing matchup with Jamestown, which might not have the talent level, but it has excellent pieces in a cast that is very well coached. The backcourt of senior Tommy Campion and sophomore Zach Panebianco is among the best in Western New York while the front line includes very adept 6-5 underclassmen in junior Quinn Lee Yaw and sophomore Branden Kellam.
State Catholic final: No. 1 Canisius (23-4) vs. No. 10 Nazareth (22-5), 2:45 p.m. at Fordham University.
On paper, things look good for the Crusaders. Canisius beat the Brooklyn school, 64-54, at home during its Tom Keenan Memorial Tournament last Dec. 15. Nazareth won last year’s state Catholic Class B title. The Crusaders are also coming off an impressive, 18-point state semifinal win over Long Island’s Chaminade, which beat Nazareth, 62-50, on Jan. 26. Canisius, ranked first in The News large school poll the second half of the season, has won seven straight since a loss at Cathedral Prep of Erie, Pa., with seniors Adam Weir (Canisius College signee), Aaron White (Manhattan Cup MVP) and Matt MacDonald leading the way.
Far West Regional: No. 12 McKinley (19-3) vs. No. 6 V-Aquinas (18-4), 7 p.m. at Blue Cross Arena.
The Macks are coming off an extremely entertaining Class A win over Amherst in which their double-digit rotation dictated the frenetic pace of the game and senior Marcus Morris came up with big shots, all the way to his tiebreaking floater in the final seconds. McKinley will play more than 10 players in the first half as it tries to force turnovers. Aquinas, which handled a similar style of play in the Section V final against Charlotte, notched wins against Bishop Timon-St. Jude, St. Francis, East and Nichols this season. It split with St. Joe’s and lost to Canisius.
State Catholic final: No. 9 St. Mary’s (19-7) vs. unranked Monsignor Scanlan (16-6), 1 p.m. at Fordham.
The Lancers, who earned the Monsignor Martin’s Class B berth with a quarterfinal victory over Nichols, are aiming for their first state title since winning three straight from 2009 to ’11. Senior standout Paul Rath, son of first-year coach Paul Sr., leads a balanced, unselfish group that includes juniors Cory Kiebzak, Matt Wrobel, Tyler English, Dione Strome, Latrell Tyson and seniors Quinn Gill and Dan Fabian. Scanlan, of the Bronx, advanced to the final with a 59-48 victory over Sacred Heart (13-12) in a downstate final in which senior Terell Duck scored 21 points.
Far West Regional: No. 1 Olean (21-1) vs. No. 9 V-Batavia (18-3), 4:30 p.m. at Blue Cross Arena.
Olean’s presence in this round is no surprise, as one can tell by its state ranking, one earned largely since the Huskies return nearly their entire rotation from last year’s run to the state semifinals. Shining in the postseason have been two of the Huskies’ four starting juniors: 6-3 do-it-all Wil Bathurst and 6-7 polished post presence Sam Eckstrom.
Batavia, as has been the case in recent years, is a familiar face to Western New York fans with games against Williamsville North (season-opening 51-32 loss at Niagara Falls), Lackawanna (81-65 home win), Bishop Timon-St. Jude (67-63 road win) and East Aurora (59-36 road win). The Blue Devils are led by 6-3 senior slasher Justice Washington and 5-11 senior Jalen Smith.
This is Olean’s sixth regional appearance in the last seven years, which includes a 40-38 loss to Batavia in 2010.
Far West Regional: No. 2 Silver Creek (22-0) vs. No. 15 V-Mynderse (18-5), 2:45 p.m. at Blue Cross Arena.
The Black Knights are in the middle of a special season, one that continued with a hard-fought, 67-62 victory over a Middle Early College team that went to the state championship game last year and was ranked fourth in the state. Mynderse has knocked off two teams ranked higher in the state (No. 8 Clyde-Savannah and No. 5 Lyons) this week to reach the regionals.
The Black Knights, who are one of just three unbeaten teams left in the state, are led by Virginia-bound lacrosse star Zed Williams. Unselfish Silver Creek uses quick, lacrosse-like ball movement to find the best shot, whether it comes down low from 6-7 sophomore Bill Brooks (also a serious defensive intimidator and shotblocker), or from three-point threats Kaine Kettle (5-10 junior), Steve Marcey (5-9 senior) or Brennan White (5-10 sophomore), or from multi-tasker Williams, who gets to the rim almost as well as he gets to the cage in lacrosse (in which he has set the state all-time points record).
Far West Regional: No. 4 Sherman (16-5) vs. No. 2 V-UPrep (18-3), 1 p.m. at Blue Cross Arena.
The Wildcats avenged two losses to Brocton in the regular season by knocking off the top seed, 40-27, in last week’s Section VI final. Sherman has just one senior, but UPrep, a charter school in its first season of varsity basketball, goes even younger:
The University Preparatory Charter School for Young Men is in its third year as a school (housed in the former Nazareth Academy in Rochester), and the team is comprised of sophomores, freshmen and eighth-graders. Marique Simkin, who scored 23 points to earn sectional MVP honors as the Griffins won Class D-1, is a 15-year-old eighth-grader who starts alongside two freshmen and two sophomores. The Griffins are coached by Raheem Miller, a former Michigan State football standout who attended Rochester’s East High.