It took seven years, but the Central region finally found its way to the top at the Basketball Coaches Association of New York’s Summer Hoops Festival – and did so with a perfect 6-0 mark.
Over the course of three days at various schools in Johnson City, near Binghamton, Central vanquished all six of its opponents by double digits, capped by Sunday afternoon’s 95-58 romp over Buffalo.
BCANY established the Hoops Festival in 2011 after the demise of the Empire State Games. It carries a similar format, with teams from various regions in New York State vying for bragging rights.
Going into the 2017 edition, Central, again under the direction of Fayetteville-Manlius head coach Jason Dudzinski, was one of the favorites, with seven players back from the 2016 side that reached the semifinals before falling to Buffalo, eventually finishing with a 3-2 mark.
Facing four games in pool play within a 24-hour span, Central got to it by facing Catholic High Schools of New York Friday night and going on a 20-0 run during the first half to quickly decide matters.
Winning by an 83-54 margin, Central had all but one of its players get on the scoreboard. Four reached double figures as Charles Pride (Liverpool) led with 15 points, but Mika Adams-Woods (Bishop Ludden) and Tyler Bertram (Cooperstown) were close behind with 12 points apiece.
Buddy Boeheim, the Jamesville-DeWitt standout heading to prep school this fall, had only 10 points, but more than made up for it Saturday afternoon as Central made it back-to-back wins, handling Mid-Hudson 84-61.
Though strong defense and work on the boards helped, the baskets had to fall, too, and Boeheim led the way with 25 points. Bertram continued to shine with 16 points and Pride finished with 15 points.
Then it was time to show off the skills, which Central did by having Boeheim and Bertram win the 3-point competition, while Pride’s Liverpool teammate, Naz Johnson, finished second in the slam-dunk contest.
Once back in pool play, Central clinched at least a semifinals berth by smashing Adirondack 98-64. Boeheim and Symir Torrence both gained 18 points to pace another well-balanced attack.
Pride again hit double figures with 16 points and Frankie Policelli had 13 points. And while Pride had to leave the tournament due to illness, Central kept on rolling.
With a chance to avenge its 2016 semifinal defeat to Buffalo at the end of pool play, did so and nearly reached the century mark with a 99-73 victory.
All of Boeheim’s 19 points came in a first half where Central established a 51-39 lead. Then the depth kicked in as Johnson poured in 13 points, followed closely by Adams-Woods and Policelli earning 10 points apiece. All 12 players scored at least one point and Central hit on 11 3-pointers overall.
Sunday’s semifinal, against Hudson Valley, turned out to be Central’s closest call of the tournament. Only up by three at the break, Central had to go to the final minutes before emerging with an 83-73 victory, Boeheim leading the way as he got 25 points for the second time in as many days.
Buffalo beat Rochester in the other semifinal, providing a title-game rematch of the 26-point rout of the night before.
For most of the first half, Buffalo hung close, but Central’s depth and firepower proved too much. A 16-4 run to close out the half was capped when Boeheim converted from near half court, and that momentum carried over into a dominant second half.
Here, Bertram picked up 23 points and Johnson also had a tournament-best total of 22 points. Adams-Woods contributed 15 points.
Now Boeheim, Adams-Woods, Torrence and Bertram all head to various prep schools this fall, and Policelli is heading to Long Island Lutheran, but the rest of the Central roster should retain local ties this winter.
Aside from Pride and Johnson, Westhill’s Sean Dadey, West Genesee’s Lucas Sutherland, Bishop Ludden’s Ed Walser, Henninger’s Jaden Graves and Ogdensburg Free Academy’s Caleb Sargent were part of the winning Central team.