Charleston Catholic guard Garret McCarty floats up a shot over Gilmer County's Nathan Allison (5) during last week's Class A regional. McCarty is the second-leading scorer for the Irish at 12 points per game.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- For openers, you can't get more of a contrast than the game that tips off the 100th state basketball tournament.The way in which Charleston Catholic and Buffalo go about their business may be polar opposites in many respects, but their success stories this season are similar as they collide at 9:30 a.m. today in the Class A quarterfinals at the Civic Center.Catholic (22-3), the No. 3 seed, makes its ninth straight appearance in the state tournament, having reached the finals in seven of the previous eight and winning 18 of 23 tourney games in that stretch.
Meanwhile, Buffalo (21-4), the No. 6 seed, hasn't been to the state tournament since 2008, the final year of its four straight first-round exits (2005-08). Prior to that, the Bison last made the tourney field in 1961.
The Irish prefer to disrupt on defense, especially in half-court sets. They've held 18 of 25 opponents to 45 points or fewer this season.
The Bison, meanwhile, would rather outscore you. Thirteen times Buffalo has rung up 70 or more points in a game, topped by an even 100 against Wahama three weeks ago.Catholic opts for a traditional inside-out approach to its offense, first working the ball down low to 6-foot-4 junior and leading scorer Nick George (15.6 points per game) or forward Zach Casto (11.8), then perhaps draining an occasional 3-pointer.
Buffalo, however, is bombs away at all costs. The Bison is outsized nearly every game (its tallest starter stands 6-1), so it presses and traps and lets it fly from long range.Leading scorers Levi Jordan (he of the bushy beard) and Laythen Good (he of the bright gold shoes) have hoisted a combined 340 attempts from 3-point distance, and the team tries nearly 19 of those per game."It surprises me that this late in the year, after playing 25 games, that people don't prepare for what we do,'' Buffalo coach Chuck Elkins said after last week's regional win at Parkersburg Catholic.
"We're going to run the ball. We're not going to set up in a lot of things. We'll take the ball to the basket and score. We've got good shooters and ball-handlers. I'm sure we'll have to tweak a few things, but basically that's what we do.''Buffalo averages more than 12 steals per game with its breakneck, 94-foot approach to defense."We use our speed and our shooting ability,'' Jordan said. "That's our talent.''Jordan tops the Bison at 17.1 points per game, followed by Good (15.0) and Isaiah Robinson (10.0).Buffalo may have taken a lot of teams by surprise with its tactics, but certainly not the Irish. Catholic has handed the Bison three of its four losses this season, and has beaten Buffalo an incredible 32 straight times over the past 16 seasons.
Catholic coach Bill McClanahan wants his team to have short-term memories when it comes to its recent domination of Buffalo, and doesn't think the overwhelming edge in state tournament experience will amount to much of a benefit, either."Even though we have some guys who were in it 12 months ago,'' McClanahan said, "their roles are different now. Their situations are different. So it's a little bit different for them. As coaches, we've got to use our experience to get them in a comfort zone."From my perspective, the biggest advantage is more from a coaching staff and preparation perspective. You're dealing with 14-, 15-, 16, 17-year-old young men. They know what's at stake, but they still have to deal with the reality, the nerves and the magnitude of the situation. They understand it, but they're kids. They're not so mechanical or robotic that they don't feel that. From a coach's perspective, we're better able to handle those circumstances and help them with what's expected.''Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.