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Some Nichols players thought they truly could win the Manhattan Cup all season. Junior Cam Lewis said he thought it really could happen at the start of the playoffs. Coach John Reinholz said that after the quarterfinals, he and the team thought, “Why not us?” – even though that would mean knocking off the best team in Western New York to even get to the championship.

Well, here they are.

Nichols, the No. 5 small school in The News poll, continued a remarkable postseason before an estimated 2,000 Sunday evening at Canisius College’s Koessler Athletic Center as it beat Bishop Timon-St. Jude, 49-43, to win the school’s third Manhattan Cup.

Lewis scored 18 points and earned MVP honors while junior frontcourt mate Chris Miner scored 20 in Nichols’ victory over No. 5 large school Timon. The championship followed Nichols’ stunning, 57-50 upset of No. 1 large school Canisius in the semifinals.

“It’s been a great eight days,” said Reinholz. “It’s an unbelievable feeling. I would have never imagined that we would be able to beat Canisius and Timon in the same week. Everybody knows they are two of the best large schools in WNY. We’re going to enjoy this moment.”

The three Cups have come in the last eight years for Nichols, which joined the Monsignor Martin Association in the early 2000s.

“It came from me believing in my teammates when I knew we could knock off the best team in the league, which is Canisius,” said Lewis. “When we finally did it after talking about it so many times, I just knew we could win it all. No one could beat us after that. I just knew we just had to finish it basically. We were here in the championship; we just said that we might as well win it all.”

By virtue of winning the Manhattan Cup, Nichols – traditionally a Class B (small) school in the Monsignor Martin Association – will play in the Class A bracket of the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association tournament. Nichols will play the Long Island Class A representative in a semifinal game on Saturday at a Long Island site to be determined.

With Nichols claiming the Class A playoff spot, St. Mary’s became something of a winner Sunday evening as well. The Lancers (19-7), because they had the next-best Manhattan Cup performance by a Class B school (losing to Timon in the semifinals), will play for the NYSCHSAA Class B championship in two weeks.

If Nichols wins its Class A semifinal, the NYSCHSAA championship games in both Class A and B will be played at Canisius College on March 15. If Nichols loses in the semifinals, St. Mary’s will play the Class B final at a downstate location.

Sunday’s game was tight through three quarters, with Nichols taking a 13-12 lead after the first, Timon claiming a 26-24 halftime lead, and Lewis’ three-pointer at the buzzer giving Nichols a 41-39 advantage heading into the fourth.

In a game in which baskets were well-earned all game, the pace slowed in what would be an 8-4 quarter in favor of Nichols. The biggest basket came with Nichols up, 43-41, a lead it had held for about three minutes.

The Vikings worked the ball around to senior guard Greg White, who knocked down an open shot to give Nichols a 46-41 lead. Timon did not come within one possession the rest of the way.

The three-pointer was the first basket of the game for White.

Timon (15-12) was led by 22 points by senior Donte Williams, who was announced after the game as Monsignor Martin Association’s co-Player of the Year with Canisius sophomore guard Howard Washington.

email: kmcshea@buffnews.com