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CBA coaching milestone denied in tournament final

St. Joe's rallies past Grimes, Brothers for first place

— St. Joseph's, a powerful boys basketball program from the Buffalo area, cared little about local sentiment in the 25th edition of Christian Brothers Academy's Bottar-Leone Holiday Classic.

The Marauders didn't let the undefeated mark of Bishop Grimes, or the powerful motivation of CBA trying to get long-time head coach Buddy Wleklinski his 400th career victory, stand in the way of grabbing the first-place trophy by the time the tournament was done.

First, St. Joe's toppled the Cobras 73-57 in Thursday's opening round before CBA scraped past Nazareth, of Broooklyn, 33-28. Then, in Friday's championship game, the Marauders overcame an inspired start from the Brothers to prevail by a score of 69-64.

The final began with CBA bolting out to a 12-0 lead, including back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers from Kevin Bailey, Dylan Haines and Charlie Russo. But St. Joe's never called a time-out, instead turning to 6-9 senior forward Reginald Agbeko to bring his side back.

And Agbeko did just that, overwhelming the Brothers in the paint with a nifty combination of quickness and skill. He had 18 points in the first half alone, helping the Marauders tie it, 20-20, before two more 3-pointers from Russo helped CBA move back in front, 35-31, by halftime.

Early in the third quarter, the Brothers stretched the margin to 41-33. But St. Joe's had been here before, in the first round, trailing Bishop Grimes before unleashing six 3-pointers in a 29-14 blitz through the third quarter that turned things around.

Sure enough, as the Marauders picked up full-court pressure, CBA started to turn it over with regularity. And in a span of less than three minutes, St. Joe's put together a 16-0 blitz, eight of the points coming from Kyle Briggs, who had all 10 of his points in the second half.

CBA never faded away, Russo (who finished with 21 points) and Cam MacPherson (10 points, all in the second half) leading the push as the Brothers pushed St. Joe's to the wire. Agbeko proved too much, though, getting several key baskets in the homestretch and, with 31 points, earning tournament MVP honors.

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