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Sunday, Dec. 29, 2013: Buffalo East impressive in win over Aquinas

   Leading off today: No disrespect to the likes of Westhill or Babylon, but it became clear to me Saturday night that the winner of the Section 6 Class B boys basketball championship will be the prohibitive favorite to come home from Glens Falls two weeks later as the NYSPHSAA champion as well.

   I sat and watched as Buffalo East dismantled an above-average (state-ranked, in fact) Class AA Aquinas -- at Aquinas -- 75-62, all the while keeping in mind that there's still a school of thought that Olean, which has been building toward a March 2013 victory tour for three years now, is even better than East.

   What I saw, though, was an East team as good as any I've come across in Class B in the past five years and probably longer. Johnathan Lewis scored a game-high 32 points to go with seven rebounds and seven steals, highlighting an impressive team effort. The excellent Centercourt blog did its usual thorough summary and analysis of the game, so you can get additional details there, but here's the thought that has to be worrying future opponents:

   East lost its best low-post player -- 6-foot-9 Tyree Tyson -- to a knee injury midway through the first half, yet its rebounding got better as the rest of the lineup stepped up. And then forward A.J. Ayala, arguably the steadiest player on the squad, went to the bench with four fouls early in the third quarter ... and East actually overcame a five-point deficit and pulled away from Aquinas without him.

   East is ranked No. 1 in the state by the New York State Sportswriters Association. That probably changes at some point if Tyson's knee injury (apparently a hyperextension) becomes a long-term issue, even with the relentless backcourt play that powers the team. Otherwise, save me a seat for East-Olean a couple of months from now.

   On the subject of Olean, which is playing a very tough independent schedule this winter, the Huskies edged Nichols 72-71 to win the boys large schools championship of the IAABO Tournament at St. Bonaventure.

   Wil Bathurst's two free throws with 7.1 seconds left gave Olean the lead for good in the rematch of last year's final in which Nichols handed Olean its only regular-season loss.

   Nick Schmidt made eight 3-pointers and led all scorers with 27 points.

   Remember this name: White Plains freshman Jordan Tucker, a 6-6 guard, scored 34 points Saturday in a 75-48 win over Cardinal Spellman in a Slam Dunk opening-round game.

   Tucker scored 24 in the first half and finished 12-for-19 from the field, including 6 of 11 from beyond the arc.

   The Tigers advanced to their first Slam Dunk final since 2009.

   What???????? Hey, someone tipped me off a couple of days ago about a New York high school sports story that's nuttier than grandma's fruitcake.

   As the second overtime of last week's girls basketball game between Silver Creek and Dunkirk ended with the score still tied, the officials called over both coaches and informed them the third overtime would be sudden death.

   "Both coaches challenged that it was not the correct ruling," Silver Creek coach Tammy Rice told The Observer. "The referee was insistent that it was the ruling. I didn't want to risk a technical foul."

   Said Dunkirk coach Sarah Burnett: "They were so convincing about it. They said the rule had been in place forever."

   As the paper pointed out, the rule does exist -- in modified basketball. But the varsity rule continues to be that you play as many full, four-minute periods as needed in order to break the tie.

   Instead, less Silver Creek's Jade Lewis made a free throw less than a minute into the third overtime to give the Black Knights a 55-54 victory.

   With the game having been a CCAA West conference game, their are league implications to the preposterous officiating error. Look for the third OT to be replayed in its entirety at a future date, because such a blatant mistake can't be allowed to stand regardless of the protocol for filing and upholding protests.

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   Opinion: I'll offer congratulations but not necessarily best wishes to Bill O'Brien, the Penn State coach who by many accounts will be selected Monday to coach the NFL's Houston Texans.

   If he does leave the college ranks, O'Brien will really need to make the most of his new pro gig because a return to NCAA sidelines may be a bit more difficult for him than for most. As recently as this weekend, O'Brien was reassuring incoming recruits, including Abraham Lincoln star Thomas Holley, that he had no deal with the Texans and strongly implying he was staying in State College, Pa.

   Further, O'Brien and his assistants last week were telling high school coaches with Division I prospects on their rosters to ignore NFL chatter because they were at Penn State for the long haul.

   If the Texans make a farce of such reassurance by introducing O'Brien as their new head coach, then he and many of his assistants will have lost a lot of credibility with parents, prospects and coaches in future recruiting efforts.

   To be clear, the Penn State staff wouldn't be the first (nor last) to cut corners in the area of honesty with recruits. But given the depths of the scandal from which the Nittany Lions are attempting to recover, you'd certainly hope for a little more personal integrity.

   The word on the tweet: I had an enjoyable conversation watching Aquinas vs. Buffalo East, but somebody is giving me way too much credit:

   Extra points: It's more than a little sad, but the Warsaw vs. Midlakes final of the Dick Vincent Wrestling Duals at Letchworth may as well have been conducted by the federal witness protection program as media coverage in the 24 hours afterwards was non-existent.

   Highly placed sources say Warsaw, ranked No. 2 among the state's small schools, knocked off No. 1 Midlakes 37-34.

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