Simply put, there’s likely never been a more collective display of post-season dominance by Catholic high schools in this diocese.
Of the 10 varsity teams at six institutions, a staggering seven — the boys’ and girls’ squads from Aquinas Institute, Bishop Kearney and Elmira Notre Dame, along with the boys from Geneva DeSales — won sectional titles. Another — the Our Lady of Mercy girls — finished as runner-up.
Three of those sectional champions went on to reach the state Final Four with the Aquinas boys making a title-game appearance and the AQ girls and BK boys reaching the semis.
The Little Irish came tantalizingly close to bringing home a state crown against traditional power Mount Vernon of Section 1, falling 61-57 in the Class AA final played March 18 at Glens Falls Civic Center.
Down by as many as 14 points in the third quarter, Aquinas rallied to go ahead midway through the final period before the Knights forged back ahead for the win. AQ’s Phil Valenti had a monster effort with 33 points and 10 rebounds.
The state final was preceded by a 50-41 semifinal win over Baldwin of Section 8 on March 17 as Valenti had 21 points and 11 rebounds and Jarron Jones added 13 points and 16 boards. Aquinas had reached the Final Four with a 57-49 quarterfinal victory over Niagara Falls of Section 6 on March 10 behind 30 points and 16 rebounds from Valenti.
Earlier in the post-season, top-seeded Aquinas earned the Section 5 Class AA1 crown with a 63-57 title-game win over No. 3 Webster Schroeder on March 3 as Valenti had 26 points and 12 rebounds. The Irish also upended East High, 76-66, in the state qualifier on March 7 as Jamahl Pardner and Valenti had 21 points each. In games prior to the sectional final, AQ won 75-60 over No. 8 Webster Thomas in a Feb. 24 quarterfinal as Valenti had 23 points and Christian White added 21; and 72-63 over No. 4 Hilton in a Feb. 28 semifinal with Valenti hitting for 24 points.
Aquinas’ final record was 21-3.
Despite being a No. 9 seed, the Irish copped the Section 5 Class B title by winning 75-56 over No. 3 Wellsville in the final played March 2 as Nicole Bini knocked down 34 points. Earlier in sectionals, Aquinas won over 77-54 No. 8 Bath-Haverling in first-round play on Feb. 21 as Bini amassed 42 points; 73-65 in double overtime over No. 1 Newark in a Feb. 24 quarterfinal as Bini scored 31 points and Teja Reaves had 21; and 78-62 over No. 5 Hornell in a Feb. 28 semifinal behind Bini’s 30 points. Bini scored an astounding 137 points in her club’s four sectional games.
The Irish went on to win 58-37 over Olean of Section 6 in the state Class B quarterfinals on March 9 as Bini had 22 points. However, Aquinas fell 47-41 to South Jefferson of Section 3 in semifinal play on March 16. Reaves had 19 points as Aquinas finished with a 15-9 mark.
The Kings, seeded No. 4 in Section 5 Class A, won the title with a 55-48 decision over No. 7 Pittsford Mendon in the final on March 3 as Chinonso Obokoh totaled 15 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks. BK scored the game’s final nine points.
Kearney had reached the final by winning 64-46 over No. 13 Marshall on Feb. 22 in first-round play as Obokoh had 22 points; 61-39 over No. 5 Batavia in a Feb. 25 quarterfinal as Obokoh totaled 23 points and 15 boards; and 55-52 over top-seeded Franklin in the Feb. 29 semifinals with Obokoh scoring 18 points.
After capturing sectionals, BK won 64-43 over East Aurora of Section 6 on March 10 in a state Class A quarterfinal as Thomas Bryant had 15 points. The Kings’ season ended with a 57-53 semifinal loss to Harborfields of Section 11 on March 17 despite Antoine Anderson’s 16 points and a fourth-quarter rally that saw BK cut a 19-point deficit to three. Kearney’s final record was 17-7.
Kearney, seeded No. 2 in Section 5 Class CCC, won 55-35 over No. 5 Addison in the Feb. 29 final as Karley Fanning scored 19 points. BK took control in the second quarter, holding a 21-8 scoring edge for a 31-16 halftime lead.
Prior to the sectional title victory, Kearney won 72-46 in the quarterfinals over No. 7 Warsaw on Feb. 22 as Taina Graham had 13 points and 12 assists; and 58-26 over No. 6 East Rochester in a Feb. 25 semifinal as Graham totaled 13 points, 11 assists and eight steals.
BK’s season ended with a 64-59 loss to Perry in a Class C state-qualifying game on March 3. Graham topped BK with 21 points. The team’s final record was 15-7.
The Crusaders, seeded third in Section 4 Class C, upended top-seeded Groton with a 60-54 title-game win on March 3. ND surrendered the game’s first 10 points and trailed 28-18 at halftime, but scored the first 12 points of the third quarter to go ahead. ND’s Shane Manning and Tom Agan had 22 and 15 points, respectively.
ND had gotten to the final by winning 71-58 over No. 14 Tioga on Feb. 21 in the first round as Agan netted 21 points; 59-51 in quarterfinal action over No. 6 Moravia on Feb. 24 as Manning scored 18; and 55-40 over No. 7 Sidney in a Feb. 28 semifinal behind 18 more from Manning.
The Crusaders’ season ended in the state Class C quarterfinals as they lost 63-49 to Cooperstown of Section 3 on March 10. Matt Davis had 19 points to lead Notre Dame, which posted a final mark of 19-3.
Notre Dame, seeded fifth in Section 4 Class C, stopped top seed and previously undefeated Harpursville, 60-49, in the title matchup on March 3. The Crusaders led 36-23 at halftime and hung on despite seeing their advantage shrink to one. Sheridan Heine led ND with 23 points while Detta Gublo finished with 19 and Olivia May had 14.
The girls’ path to the final saw them win 55-42 in the first round over No. 12 Newfield on Feb. 22 behind 24 points from Heine; 66-44 over No. 4 Marathon in quarterfinal play on Feb. 25 as Gublo erupted for 41 points; and 55-28 over No. 9 Bainbridge-Guilford in a March 1 semifinal as Gublo had 16 points.
ND’s season ended with a 67-55 loss to Little Falls of Section 3 in the state Class C quarterfinal game on March 10 despite 23 points from Gublo. The Crusaders finished with a 16-6 record.
The Saints, seeded No. 2 in Section 5 Class D2, claimed the title with a 69-56 triumph over top-seeded Whitesville on March 3. DeSales took a 16-point lead in the first half and had its advantage cut to three in the third quarter before finishing strong for the win as Kayshawn Nelson had 17 points and Michael Cragg and Tom Kanaley added 14 each.
DeSales had made its way into the final by winning 73-38 over No. 7 Houghton in a quarterfinal game on Feb. 24 as Nelson had 23 points; and 97-84 over No. 6 C.G. Finney in a Feb. 28 semifinal as Kanaley had 36 points.
The Saints’ season ended with a 69-64 loss to Batavia Notre Dame in the state Class D regional qualifier on March 6. Kanaley had 23 points for DeSales, which earned a final record of 16-6.
The Monarchs, seeded No. 3 in Section 5 Class AA, won 56-50 over No. 6 Victor in quarterfinal play on Feb. 22 as Dani Naylon had 18 points. That was followed by a 50-32 semifinal victory over No. 10 Canandaigua on Feb. 27 with Samantha Sorge scoring 12 points, Naylon adding 11, and Julia Delgatti and Tylar Guerrieri netting 10 each.
Mercy was derailed by top-seeded Greece Athena, 65-36, in the March 1 final with Sorge’s seven points leading the Monarchs. Mercy’s final record was 13-8.