BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Ten years since McKinley moved past Amherst on its way to winning a state championship, the boys basketball teams will meet again for the Section VI Class A crown.
Amherst has since won four of the past seven Class A-2 championships, breaking through the A crossover threshold to reach the state semifinals a year ago. The Tigers defended their sectional title Saturday night with a hard-fought 58-56 victory against Main Street neighbor Williamsville South.
McKinley repeated as A-2 champion in 2014 but after returning to the sectional final the following year, the Macks had not been back in the title game until Saturday night when they pulled out a 60-56 win against defending champion Niagara Wheatfield.
After their closely contested sectional finals in the prime time slots, two teams wearing the white and orange Bengal colors of the Buffalo State Sports Arena hosts will play in the last local boys basketball game of the season back here at 7:45 p.m. Tuesday in the Class A crossover.
“It’s going to be a battle,” McKinley coach Zaire Dorsey said.
Amherst coach Chris Kensey was proud of the way his team battled against an ECIC II division rival it faces twice each season but had only met twice before in the sectional playoffs.
“A group of guys that we all group up with,” Kensy said. “In the back of our guys’ minds, they didn’t want to go through the rest of their lives hearing, ‘remember when we beat you at Buff State?’ I think it was a little bit of wanting it more, a little bit more of getting in the trenches.”
“I would say about 80% of the Town of Amherst was here,” Kensy added. “It doesn’t get much better than two rivals going at it, the respect that we have for each other. I’m just so happy our kids get to perform on this stage. Not everybody gets to do that. We are battle tested, and we are ready to go.”
Josh Bugiera led Amherst (20-3) with 20 points, making all eight of his foul shots down the stretch, and fourth-year starting guard and game MVP Nick Moore scored 19. Nicco DiGiulio also had 19 points to lead South (18-5), which led for much of the first half before the Tigers pulled ahead with a 19-14 third quarter.
“I know the next loss is the end of my high school career, so I’m working 10 times harder,” said Moore, who played a key role in last year’s postseason run. “They knew about us, we knew about them. They made it extremely difficult for us to pull it off. But at the end of the day, we got the dub.”
McKinley got 17 points from Jordan David-Lewis, 16 from game MVP Mehki Williams, and 15 from Sajon Beasley to hold off a Niagara Wheatfield team led by Xander Fletcher’s 18 points. The Falcons fought back from down 35-22 at halftime, closing the third quarter with a 9-0 run to tie the score. But the Macks answered every run and had the guile to close out the win.
“We’ve been talking about this forever,” Beasley said. “It means everything to us.”
Dorsey reflected on “all of the stuff we’ve been through at McKinley High School over the past five years, all of the hard work that we put in with various kids coming through the program, it’s big for us,” he said. “It shows we have good character kids who work hard, not only on the basketball court, but in the classroom.”
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Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.