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St. Francis nearly pulls off Manhattan Cup upset in quarters

BUSRSE ON THE SHOT — Maurice Burse, seen here shooting earlier in the year at Timon, and St. Francis almost pulled off a playoff upset. Photo by David Marino.
Timon swept the regular season series against St. Francis, but it was the third meeting that would boast the most bragging rights. And as the stakes got higher, the outcome got tighter, as the third game came down to the final shot.

Donte Williams drove coast-to-coast and nailed a well-contested layup with 2.4 seconds remaining in the Manhattan Cup quarterfinal to lift second-seeded Timon against No. 7 St. Francis 59 – 57 on Feb. 22 at Mel Palano Gym. St. Francis could not get off a shot of its own before the final buzzer sounded.

“We gave them everything we got and the best player in Western New York made a play at the end,” said St. Francis coach Brian Ferris. “That’s why he’s the best.”

Williams has had better games, but no moment has been bigger than this one as his shot advanced the Tigers to the semifinals on their quest for a second consecutive trip to the Manhattan Cup championship game.

“I knew they were going to throw some type of defense my way,” said Williams, a 6-foot-4 senior guard, who finished the game with 18 points. “I just tried to make a play.”

Timon had 7.7 seconds to go the length of the court to break a 57 – 57 tie.

“[I wanted to] get it to Donte and let him go,” Timon coach Joe Mihalics said, explaining his plans for the last second shot. “He made a great play. He stepped up like we need him to do.”

Williams’ game-winner gave Timon its first lead of the quarter as St. Francis led 46 – 44 after three quarters and held the advantage up until the final eight seconds. He scored 10 points in the fourth, including a two-handed slam dunk on a fast break to close in at 54-53, erupting the gymnasium behind them.

“We needed a play for momentum and I just tried to make it happen,” Williams said about his steal-dunk sequence that he believed changed the game.

The Red Raiders answered with a Maurice Burse layup and free throw by Kordell Holness-Lightbody to go up 57 – 53 with 1:20, before Timon closed the game on a 6-0 run.

Williams laid one in to get within two points, before Will Lamar knocked down a transition jumper to tie the game at 57 with 22.1 seconds remaining. St. Francis missed a shot on the following drive before Timon regained possession to win the game in the final seconds.

Holness-Lightbody led all scorers with 20 points, including nailing three from beyond the arc. Burse added 18 points for the Red Raiders. Derick Simpson matched Williams’ 18 points to lead Timon.

The Tigers (14 – 11) won the previous two meetings by 80 – 57 and 65 – 53. Each game was more competitive than the one before. And this was the granddaddy of them all. Timon advanced to the Manhattan Cup semifinals on Feb. 26.

“We wanted to frustrate them, and I think we did for about 31 minutes and 50 seconds,” said Ferris, whose team finished the season 7 – 18. “If you’re going to go out, go out swinging. And we came out swinging today.”

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