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The journey to McKinley’s state championship did not begin with their first game, or their first practice. It began four years ago.

“I remember my first day of tryouts as a freshman,” said Marcus Morris, now a senior leader of the Macks. “Coach took me, Reyjzon [Jordan] and [Daequan] Warren into the locker room and told us we could do it the first day of tryouts. I’m just happy it came true. We dreamed of it.”

The goal that coach Zaire Dorsey told those players, as well as other current seniors like Lovell Smith, was a state championship.

The Macks have one. Now they’re going to try for another.

Last weekend those seniors continued to lead the Macks in what has been a tremendous postseason, winning two games at the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A final four in Glens Falls to win their school’s first state title.

On Sunday they won the title, on Monday they were celebrated in a school-wide assembly, and today they’re back on the Thruway heading east. After a big week, they have another big weekend ahead of them.

Referred to as the “Federation,” the season-ending tournament hosted by the Times Union Center in Albany is run by the New York State Federation of Secondary School Athletic Associations to determine the state’s overall champion. The tournament accounts for New York City’s public and private schools as well as other schools from throughout the state.

The tournament features the champions of the PHSAA (of which Section VI is one of 11 member sections), the Catholic High School Athletic Association (of which the Monsignor Martin Association is a member), the Association of Independent Schools and New York City’s Public Schools Athletic League.

On Wednesday, Morris admitted to not really being aware of the Federation, which is understandable considering the emphasis locally – in all Section VI sports – on the NYSPHSAA Tournament, the uniqueness of the Federation setup (no other team sports account for a true overall state champion), the grandeur of the final four in Glens Falls, and the lack of sustained Federation success by Section VI.

Western New York has only won six Federation titles in what can be considered “large school” divisions. The Nichols team that featured seniors Will Regan and Ron Canestro and sophomore Stan Wier won Class A in 2010. The Niagara Falls team that some consider Western New York’s best of all time (featuring Paul Harris, Greg Gamble, Robert Garrison, Jonny Flynn, James Starks, Miguel Respress and Tyrell Lynch) won Class AA in 2005. Those are the only titles won in those divisions.

Western New York schools won four Class B titles when the state was divided into four classes (A, B, C and D): Turner-Carroll in 1999, LaSalle in 1988, Bennett in 1984 and St. John Neumann in 1979. Section VI won 10 titles in Class C; the Federation has held finals in Class AA, A and B since the state went to a five-class format in 2004.

McKinley meets PSAL champion John Adams in Friday’s 1:30 semifinal. The other semifinal includes state Catholic champion Nazareth (which beat Canisius two weeks ago at Fordham University for that title) meeting independent Albany Academy, the state’s top-ranked school in Class A.

“I didn’t know about the Federation,” Morris said. “But I’ve gotten to know about it — if we win, we really are the top dog in New York State, so we’re happy to play.”

Dorsey said the Macks do have some film and a scouting report on John Adams.

“We’re going to go with the same mindset that we had all year,” said Dorsey. “We’re going to win a basketball game, We’re going to prepare, we’re going to go out and play our basketball. We’re not going to change anything that we do.”

Even one victory this weekend would be another great accomplishment for a team that followed up on its coach’s vision.

Lovell Smith earned MVP honors at Glens Falls, Morris was named to the all-tournament team while fellow seniors Jordan, Warren, Samuel Smith and Stephen Johnson all made a major impact.

“I’m glad they listened,” Dorsey said. “I’ve got a principal who supports me in my discipline. The parents: ‘Coach, do whatever you have to do, here’s my number, call me.’”

Said Morris: “All that time, that hard work at practices, ‘Dorse’ getting on you even though you get your feelings hurt and you want to argue – but you just have to shut up and take it, and it’s worth it now, because we’re state champions.”

Macks on PrepTalkTV

Go to buffalonews.com to watch Dorsey, Morris and five other Macks appear on Wednesday night’s episode of PrepTalkTV Weekly. The Macks talk about the state championship, their celebration and the Federation.

email: kmcshea@buffnews.com