The Yale Cup is Middle Early College’s to lose.
Thanks to their second clinical victory over McKinley in eight days, the Kats have put themselves in position to win the Yale Cup outright.
Middle Early College used its stifling zone defense and unselfish offense to gain an 80-64 victory over host McKinley on Saturday evening, a dominant performance that was remarkably similar to its 69-52 home win over the Macks last week. That victory ended two-time defending Yale Cup champion McKinley’s record league win streak at 33, and Saturday’s win put Middle Early College on the cusp of winning its first Yale Cup since 2010.
“It feels great. I’m proud of the kids,” said Middle Early College coach Randall Rich. “It’s a huge class of seniors – we probably played nine seniors today. They’ve worked hard for a long time. They’ve done a great job.”
Middle Early College (11-5) is 9-1 in the Yale Cup with two games remaining, both of which the Kats will enter as big favorites: Home Monday against Riverside (the Frontiers are 5-10, 3-6) and home Wednesday against Burgard (which MEC beat, 92-41, earlier this season).
The Kats are a full game ahead of McKinley (11-5, 8-2) and East (12-3, 8-2). MEC lost at East on Friday night (73-67) to split the season series with the Panthers, but it bounced back with an excellent performance Saturday to sweep the Macks.
“Once we lost that game, that set our mindset: Just go get it, just go get it,” said senior Kevin Briggs. “Today we went and got it.”
The 5-foot-10 Briggs helped lead the way with excellent ball-handling and drives to the basket, scoring 21 despite picking up three fouls in the first quarter. Multi-talented 6-4 senior Bri’an Brown had 22 while 6-1 senior Tarron Scott had 25, typifying a hard-working, unselfish Kats team by grabbing putbacks and finishing off drive-and-dishes by teammates. Scott scored plenty in transition, as did senior Brandon Jefferson (eight points).
There were plenty of transition baskets that began with the Kats’ zone defense, which was highly successful against the Macks for the second straight game. A key part of the 2-3 zone is the length of long-armed 6-7 senior Devon Singleton, who had just one point but was a major factor on the other end of the floor.
“Davon Singleton – he’s 6-7 with probably a 6-10 wingspan,” said Rich. “He probably blocked 10 shots tonight, changed 10 more, and had five fouls. So that’s 20-something shots you change, which makes it difficult.”
Just as the Kats did last week against the Macks, they steadily built their lead while McKinley struggled against the zone. MEC took a 37-29 lead at the half and it pushed its lead to 21 during a third quarter that would end with it up, 61-47. Again MEC pushed its lead to 21 with good passing setting up a one-handed dunk by Brown for a 77-58 lead with 2:44 to play. Another multiple-pass possession soon after ended with a three-pointer by 5-6 sophomore Joseph Staton to make it 80-60.
McKinley was led by 20 points from senior Varin Lenard. Junior Devin Morris had 18 while senior D’Andre Steward had all 12 of his points in the first half.
The last time that Middle Early College (which is a Class C-1 school compared to larger McKinley of A-1 and East of B-2) won the Yale Cup, it went on to win the Class C state championship.
“These are good teams that we played against, East and McKinley, it’s a great accomplishment,” said Briggs. “It’s one of the accomplishments that we wanted for this year, but we still have more work to do. We want to get to Glens Falls and win a state championship.”