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Buffalo draws Catholic again

Jeff Baughan
Buffalo's Aaron Lewis defends against Parkersburg Catholic in the regional.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- The euphoria of knocking out Parkersburg Catholic in the Region 4 co-finals Thursday night hadn't even worn off when Buffalo's players and coaches got the news.On the bus ride back down Interstate 77, the Bison found out its game matchup for the first round of the Class A state tournament next week - none other than Kanawha Valley neighbor and longtime nemesis Charleston Catholic (22-3), the No. 3 seed.Now, that draw is as close to a death sentence for the Bison than any other potential quarterfinal matchup, as the Irish have beaten Buffalo 32 straight times over the last 16 years.Still, the No. 6 seed Bison (21-4) seems to be taking the high road for its state tournament assignment, which comes at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, and not treating it like a downer."I really didn't have any reaction,'' Buffalo coach Chuck Elkins said about Thursday's late-night news. "We're there. We're going to play."The only reaction I had is I wish we'd play somebody different. But I'm not so much concerned about Catholic as I am with playing at 9:30 in the morning. But we're there, and we'll take it from there. It's another game and we'll approach it just like we did Parkersburg Catholic, and see what happens.''Not every Catholic-Buffalo game has turned into a rout, though there have been a good deal of those in recent years.
In last year's regionals, the Irish outlasted a shorthanded Buffalo team 46-42 to reach the state tournament. This season, Catholic won at home in the regular season just 53-46 before blowing out the Bison four weeks later on the road 83-59 behind some sharp shooting.In last week's sectional final at Wahama, Buffalo led the Irish much of the first half before eventually falling 55-44."Our kids have been pretty resilient all year,'' Elkins said. "We've played Charleston Catholic pretty tough except for that time down here when they could have thrown one backward over their head from the bleachers and it would have gone in. They just shot unbelievable that night."I liken it to the night they played Tug Valley at the Civic Center and Tug Valley couldn't miss. We're going to get ready and show up and - knowing our kids - they'll play real hard.''All things considered, it could be worse for the Bison. They might not have even made it to the Civic Center following a season in which they've lost only to the Irish thrice and to St. Marys at the buzzer in the finals of the Hometown Invitational Tournament in Summersville."We've told the kids we get to play the first game of the 100th state tournament,'' Elkins said. "That's going to be something. Now the crowd will probably just be our people and Charleston Catholic's, because at 9:30 in the morning, there's not going to be many other people there.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or 
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