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Irish, Bison not cursing their luck

Courtesy photo
Junior point guard Isaiah Robinson has scored in double figures 11 times this season for Buffalo.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- When the seedings for the Class A state tournament were released last week and revealed yet another Charleston Catholic versus Buffalo game, many thought it was the Bison who would yelp.

After all, Buffalo has lost its last 32 meetings with the Irish, including three already this season.

Well, Catholic can't be all that enamored with the matchup, either, having beaten a good team thrice this season and looking for a fourth conquest.

But both teams have been taking the high road since the announcement came that No. 3 seed Catholic (22-3) and No. 6 Buffalo (21-4) will open the 100th state tournament at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday in the quarterfinals at the Civic Center.

"From our perspective,'' said Irish coach Bill McClanahan, "and I would suspect Buffalo is the same way, we're happy to be there. It's not a given that you get to the state tournament. You have to earn your way there. To get there, you have to be one of the last eight teams playing. It's an accomplishment and an honor.

"Being there is a fantastic thing. Who you play? Well, you've got seven choices and you end up with one of them. The voting and the ranking we do the last few years is as good and fair a system and way to do it, from my perspective. How it works out is how it works out.''

Like Buffalo coach Chuck Elkins indicated last week, McClanahan said Catholic's past successes against the Bison - which include no losses since a sectional game on March 5, 1997 - mean nothing this week. It's a clean slate.

"As far as being our fourth time against Buffalo [this season],'' McClanahan said, "we're preparing like it's the first time.

"Our mindset has to be that it's the state tournament - a different court and different officials - and we have to treat it like it's a different team. It's the fourth time, but it's the first time.''

Of course, playing Buffalo is always a bit different for most teams.

The Bison plays at a breakneck style, often running and pressing the length of the court for 32 minutes, taking the 3-pointer when it's there, to make up for a decided lack of height.

"It's fun to be back in Charleston.'' Elkins said after the regional win at Parkersburg Catholic. "I don't know [if it affects] our kids' confidence. They just go and play.

"With 30 seconds to go [in the regional], Laythen [Good] asked me, 'Do you still want me to shoot it out of the corner?' Sure. That's the way we've played all year. We're not going to change up. We're confident that we do what we need to do, and we'll just keep playing.''

McClanahan doesn't expect a different look from the Bison on Wednesday.

"Buffalo has been very successful,'' he said, "and had a great year. I'm not expecting them to change anything that they do. It would be a disservice to them to expect anything different. They've proven they belong there. They earned their way there - doing the pressing and the pushing of the basketball and mixing up their zones.

"Their style of play has been very successful and got them where they are. All eight of the teams at the state tournament probably have a different style, and they're going to ride their style - whatever that style is.''

Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickryan@wvgazette.com.


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