ROCHESTER — Operating at an optimum level and watching the opponent whither, DaeQuan Warren walked to the foul line Saturday and shouted, “that’s McKinley basketball right there, boys!”
Soon after, McKinley was on its way to Glens Falls for the third time in school history.
Warren had 19 points, eight rebounds, four steals and three blocks — all game-highs — as the Macks turned up the intensity in the second half and overwhelmed Aquinas, 79-52, in the Class A Far West Regional at Blue Cross Arena.
“We’re definitely on a mission,” Warren said. “We didn’t get on the bus for nothing.”
The Macks (20-3) fell behind early and trailed for most of the first half before pulling in front, 36-31, by the break. Their 10-4 run to close the quarter set the tone for a dominant second half that saw the lead quickly reach double-digits and continue to rise.
“We played our hearts out,” said senior Marcus Morris, who had 16 points on seven field-goal attempts. “We had to leave it all on the floor. We didn’t want to go home with that salty feeling.
“So we played McKinley basketball.”
What exactly is McKinley basketball?
“We want to win every quarter,” coach Zaire Dorsey said. “We want to get every 50-50 ball. We want to pressure and rotate on defense and when we can run, we want to push the ball ahead and run.”
Nobody embodied McKinley basketball more than Lovell Smith on Saturday. The 6-foot-3 senior scored 16 points, snared seven rebounds, and while he was only credited with three steals, his defensive pressure played a part in many more of Aquinas’ 19 turnovers.
“That’s what you get from Lovell every game,” Morris said.
Reyjzon Jordan joined his senior classmates in double figures with 11 points. Samuel Smith, the fifth senior starter, scored five points and had a team-high five assists. Overall, the starters shot 23 of 43 from the field and had assists on more than half of their baskets.
“Coach told us from day one that he was going to make us champions and at the end of the day he made us champions,” Jordan said.
Fans made a fashion statement with T-shirts that read “MACKS SHOW NO FEAR,” but the players made an even stronger statement about their fearlessness against one of Section V’s premier programs.
“We knew that’s a big name team and we stepped our game up to win,” Warren said. “We ain’t scared of nobody.”
“I’ve been telling the guys for three years that we can get to Glens Falls and we can be state champions,” Dorsey said. “When you do things the right way and you work hard and you go to class and you do the little things, you can be successful in life. I think the big picture here is that all of the guys bought into the system and that’s what got us this far.”
McKinley will face III-Bishop Ludden at 10:45 a.m. Saturday in the state semifinals.
The Macks advanced to the state semifinals in 1981 with Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Famer Ray Hall leading the way, and got back to Glens Falls in 2007. But a state title has eluded them.
What would it mean to this group of seniors if they can be the first team to close the deal?
“It’ll feel really good,” said Morris, “and we’re going to throw Gatorade on coach.”