East High of Rochester forward Tommie Banks is listed at 6-foot-7, three inches taller than anyone on the McKinley roster. Every inch of that was on display Saturday.
The Orientals (18-4) defeated McKinley (16-7), 69-55, in the Class A Far West Regional at Buffalo State College in front of an estimated 800. Banks led East with 19 points, 21 rebounds and five blocks.
“He was 6-foot-7 and he played about 7-foot-2 today,” said McKinley coach Zaire Dorsey.
The Orientals needed Banks’ offensive presence as their leading scorer, Dontay Caruthers, played only 11 minutes due to foul trouble.
Caruthers averages more than 30 points a game and has gone over 50 twice this season.
“First thing was we had to score,” Banks said. “That’s our leading scorer so whenever he’s not in we lose a lot of points on offense, but people stepped up including myself.”
Banks scored eight straight points for East from the end of the first quarter to the start of the second. He finished the first half with 14 points on 7-of-10 shooting, seven rebounds and three blocks.
Caruthers’ foul trouble led to the emergence of previously unknown players. Head coach Darrell Barley — a former Canisius College star — called upon his 14-year-old freshman guard Zion Morrison for the victory.
Morrison admitted he was “nervous” but played 21 minutes and recorded 19 points on 7-of-10 shooting. Five of his seven first-half points came in East’s 12-1 run to end the half. East held a 34-22 lead at halftime.
Morrison played 10 minutes the previous game and Barley expected him to play the same amount on Saturday. However, Caruthers’ “sticky hands” as Barley referred to them allotted Morrison more time.
“That’s the sign of a good team,” Barley said. “When your compadre falls, someone steps in and in this case, it was a freshman who stepped in.”
McKinley struggled offensively in every aspect of the game. The Macks had more turnovers (19) than field goals (18). McKinley shot just 2 of 14 from beyond the arc and 17 of 35 at the foul line.
“I think the intensity wasn’t there from the beginning,” Dorsey said.
Junior D’Andre Steward led McKinley with 19 points. Junior Varin Lenard added 15 points and nine rebounds while sophomore Juwan Toliver scored nine off the bench.
East’s lead reached 22 in the third quarter. Lenard recorded eight straight points in the fourth quarter — almost singlehandedly willing the Macks back into the game — to cut the lead to 11 before Morrison hit a three-pointer for East.
“Their role players stepped up in this game,” Dorsey said. “In film when I’ve seen them it was a one-man show, but today they proved they can play team ball.”
“It shows that we are not a one man team,” Banks said.
East High advanced to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four at the Glen Falls Civic Center.
The Orientals will face Section IX champion Red Hook in the semifinals next Saturday. Tip is set for 9 a.m.