Defense Wins For Private School Powers
As they say, defense wins championships. So Saturday’s action at Depew High School showed why Canisius and Park School are the championship favorites again in the Monsignor Martin Athletic Association.
The Crusaders stymied Class AA powerhouse Jamestown in the final game of the three-day ADPRO Public/Private Challenge tournament and posted a 56-42 win over the Red Raiders. In the penultimate game, Park rolled to a 98-49 win over Cheektowaga Central.
Private schools won three of the four games on Saturday at Depew. In the tournament, the MMAA was 7-2 against public school foes. Two games were snowed out.
Canisius 56, Jamestown 42
In the marquee matchup of the tournament, both teams got off to a sluggish start, combining for just 13 points in the first-quarter. But the Crusaders, behind junior Austin James, started to hit some shots to gradually creep away.
“Offensively, we’re going to have some peaks and valleys, especially early on,” Canisius coach Kyle Husband said. “So we have to stay true to who we are on the defensive side to make sure we can pry through some dry spurts.”
James opened the game in style with a dunk 20 seconds into the game. But his best work was done in the second half when he scored 13 of his team-best 17 points.
“Austin’s a really, really talented player,” Husband said. “When he gets it going, he’s hard to stop.”
Jayce Johnson and Nick MacDonald added 11 points for Canisius and it was Johnson that had the key defensive play of the game. Jamestown trailed 14-13 and had a fast-break chance, but Johnson hustled back on defense and blocked a layup attempt off the backboard. The Crusaders followed that with a 12-2 run and then put the game in control with another 12-2 spurt in the third quarter.
James Rojas led all scorers with 26 points.
Park 98, Cheektowaga 49
The Pioneers were in control throughout and nearly hit the century mark with a 34-point fourth quarter. Park was able to create a number of fast break opportunities with its tenacious press that caused turnover after turnover for the Warriors.
“We played a heck of a defensive game,” Park coach Michael Battaglia said. “If you watch Western New York basketball, you’re not going to see anyone that plays full-court man-to-man pressure like we do. That’s why we won.”
Dan Scott scored 22 points for Park, leading six players in double-figures on the squad. Joe Jones and Jaylen Stewart had 18 apiece, Brandon Smith had 12, Marques Lowe had 11 and Quentin Nnagbo had 10.
Dominik Welch had 21 for Cheektowaga Central.
St. Francis 67, Kenmore West 50
After a tight first quarter, the Red Raiders created some separation in the second quarter and knocked off the Blue Devils.
Bo Sireika had 20 points, Robert Welch had 16 and Julian Cunningham 15 for St. Francis. Tyler Aquilina had 23 to lead Kenmore West.
Depew 64, Christian Central 43
The host Wildcats joined ECIC III rival Maryvale as the only public schools to win in the tournament. The game was far from a thing of beauty but the Wildcats broke open a close game in the second half, holding CCA to just 19 second half points.
“There were times I liked what we did at both the offensively and defensively and there were times we were just awful at both ends,” Depew coach Larry Jones said. “But the bottom line is that if we’re going to play poorly, I’d rather win by 20 than have it go the other way. But we need to find easy offense more often because when we play East Aurora, when we play Cheektowaga and Maryvale, nothing is going to be easy.”
The Wildcats improved to 4-0 ahead of Wednesday’s big match-up with rival Cheektowaga. Chad Biersbach led all scorers with 21 points and Eric Jarrett tossed in 13 for Depew.
“It’s a great start,” Biersbach said. “We haven’t had a start like this in a while, hopefully we can keep the momentum going. We have Cheektowaga on Wednesday, that’ll be a real big test.”