McKinley coach Zaire Dorsey said he made no mention of his program’s Yale Cup win streak before Wednesday’s showdown at East High.
But his players know. They’re trying to continue the standard that has been set by their “big brothers,” and the Macks did just that with a stirring, come-from-behind victory.
Senior D’Andre Steward had 21 points, sophomore Jaylen Prophet had 17 and junior Devin Morris had 16 as McKinley, the two-time defending champion of the Buffalo Public Schools’ Yale Cup, overcame a 12-point halftime deficit to win its 30th straight league game with a 78-74 win at previously undefeated East.
McKinley is the No. 3 large school in The News polls. East (7-1, 4-1) is the No. 1 small school, and with double-digit wins over teams like Rochester power Aquinas and Bishop Timon-St. Jude, the host Panthers were considered a favorite by many to win this first round between the Yale Cup powers.
“We do think about the streak – it motivates us,” said Steward, who was part of last year’s McKinley team that not only won its second straight Yale Cup but claimed the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class A championship. “Last year’s team is like our big brothers. It’s a team thing. We played Mack ball.”
The sign outside the East High gym door had a sign that read “GYM IS FULL” and the bleachers were packed as East took a 13-11 lead after the first quarter, which they stretched out to 39-27 at halftime.
The backcourt of junior Percy Bryant (20 points) and senior Johnathon Lewis (16) did their usual excellent job of penetrating, while senior Shawn Young (21 points) contributed from inside (two putbacks) and out (two threes) during a 14-point second quarter.
“We knew it was going to be a tough environment but we just came out and played basketball,” said Dorsey. “The first half was a little difficult but in the second half we got things going. We stayed out of foul trouble, we executed, we set screens when we needed to, we penetrated, we hit shots.
“We didn’t talk about the streak. New season, new kids, just come out and play basketball.”
Prophet had 11 of his 17 after halftime as McKinley’s 23-14 third quarter drew the Macks to within 53-50 entering the fourth.
Morris had all of his 16 in the second half as he literally lived up to the legacy of his big brother, Marcus Morris, who was a first-team All-Western New York selection last season. Morris had four three-pointers, including three in the fourth quarter.
East would hold a seven-point lead twice in the fourth, but the Macks rallied to tie it at 62-62 on a Varin Lenard follow and a Steward layup off a Prophet steal gave the Macks their first lead since the first quarter at 64-62 with 4:27 to play.
The Macks stayed a step ahead through some frenetic final moments, with a Morris three falling in after hitting the front rim to put McKinley up, 70-66, with 2:37 left.
In the final minutes, Prophet went 4 for 4 at the line while Morris was 2 for 2 with 11.7 seconds to play to give the Macks their four-point lead. All of those free throws were in one-and-one situations. Prophet and Morris combined to make McKinley 6 of 8 at the line in the fourth.
Both teams face ranked opponents Saturday at the Buffalo Public Schools’ MLK Classic at City Honors. East faces No. 9 large school Sweet Home at 12:30, followed by McKinley meeting No. 1 large school Canisius at 2. McKinley and Canisius finished last season tied for The News large school poll championship.