The Regis Varsity Basketball team claimed the CHSAA “B” State Championship on Sunday, March 11 in a thrilling overtime win. Held at Villa Maria College (Buffalo, NY) the team overcame a late-game surge by Niagara Catholic High School to record a 64-59 victory. The win gave Regis its first state championship since 2014, and punched the team’s ticket to the New York State Federation Championship tournament, which begins on Friday, March 23.
Regis trailed only once during the game, down 3-2 early on, but ending the first quarter on a run that earned them a comfortable 18-11 lead. The team held a 31-22 halftime lead, but the margin dwindled to just five points at the end of the third quarter. While the team maintained its composure for most of the fourth quarter, a few late-game turnovers and missed foul shots gave Niagara Catholic the opportunity to tie the game 55-55 on a three pointer with only seconds remaining, forcing the overtime period.
“It was a little frustrating to know we would have won in regulation if we had just hit our foul shots in the waning minutes of the game,” said Coach Kevin Cullen who, with the win, earned his third state championship as Regis Varsity head coach.
“The team was not happy that they didn’t win in regulation, and I think every player on the court was going to do everything they could to make sure we didn’t lose that game in overtime. The toughness, confidence, and determination of our student-athletes is what guided us through this season and helped us earn the state championship,” added Cullen.
The Regis defense would hold Niagara Catholic to just 4 points in overtime. The offense maintained their composure and regained the lead, securing the state championship victory. Sophomore Joe Manfredi ’20 led all scorers with 23 points. Senior Liam Gallagher ’18 and Junior William Eastwick ’19 had 11 points each, and senior Conor Nicholson ’18 added 7 points for Regis.
“I really never lost faith in winning the game, despite them tying it and forcing OT,” said Joe Manfredi ’20. “We all had to travel over seven hours just to get to Buffalo, and we did not want to leave with a loss. We were committed to bringing the title home to Regis.”
For Liam Gallagher ’18, the lack of a real scouting report did not deter the team from having confidence that they could compete with any team in the state.
“Our confidence and experience turned out to be the key difference maker, as we responded to each Niagara run with poise. Despite our admitted struggles in the fourth, we had all the confidence in the world that we were going to win that game,” said Gallagher.
Perhaps the championship win had a touch more emotion for the Nicholson brothers (Conor ’18 and Liam ’19) who have been playing basketball together since they were five and six years old. Coached by their dad in their local recreation league at every grade level until high school, this year presented one final season for the brothers to play together.
“Playing alongside my brother this playoff run has meant the world to me,” said Conor reflecting on his time spent with brother Liam.
“It feels right ending my career with the person who has been playing alongside me my whole life. I am so proud of him. Watching him perform at a high level and contribute to the team's success has been amazing. The best thing about playing with Liam is knowing he has my back. He'll run through a wall for me with no hesitation. It definitely gives me confidence on the court.”
Of the 13 members of the team, four of them — Conor Nicholson ’18, Sean Stix ’18, Liam Nicholson ’19, and Andrew Vittoria ’19 — were also members of the Varsity Soccer team which earned the city championship this past fall. Of those four, Sean Stix ’18 has the distinction of also winning the spring 2017 volleyball city championship, making him the only athlete in Regis history to win three city championships in three different sports in a span of one year.
“Being a part of three city championship teams has been an incredible experience, and means even more coming in my senior year,” said Stix. “In all three instances, Regis has been the underdog: to Salesian in volleyball, to Fordham in soccer, and to La Salle in basketball. Getting those wins as underdogs makes them even more special.”
In just his second year as president of Regis, Rev. Daniel K. Lahart, SJ has already witnessed impressive achievements in Regis athletics, and he is well aware of the determination these student-athletes have demonstrated during their championship runs.
“Our students have to have grit to make it at Regis. Our athletes do too. They give their all in the classroom and on the courts and fields where they compete,” said Lahart.
“Win or lose, they know what is needed to succeed in life, and how to overcome setbacks and failures. I am very proud of all our students, and I am particularly proud of these athletes who represented us so well this weekend in Buffalo.
“I have always felt that smart players can make up for other disadvantages,” added Lahart. “Often we are not the most athletic team. In many sports we have real limitations here in Manhattan regarding practice and playing facilities. Our players travel great distances to get to Regis, and greater distances to a variety of fields or to play opponents. These adversities build camaraderie, and our teams are better because of it.”
The Regis Varsity Basketball team heads to Glens Falls next week to face the New York State Public High School champion on Friday, March 23 at Cool Insuring Arena. A victory would earn them a spot for the Federation championship on Saturday, March 24. Regis has won the federation title only twice, in 1993 and 2005. The 1948 team won what was then called the National Schoolboy Championship, and is often regarded as the best high school team of its era.
Photographs from the state championship game, provided below, are courtesy of Anne Marie Stix P'18.
Andrew Vittoria '19 battles for the tip-off at the start of the CHSAA "B" State Championship game.
Joe Manfredi '20 scores a layup for two of his game-high 23 points.
William Hoopes '18 sets a screen for Conor Nicholson '18 to help beat the Niagara Catholic press.
Andrew Vittoria '19 blocks a shot in the first half of the state championship game.
Liam Gallagher '18 helps lead the charge for defensive intensity.
Charles Bostwick '18 pulls up for a long-range three pointer.
Liam Nicholson '19 and Liam Gallagher look to execute a pick-and-roll.
Conor Nicholson '18 looks for an outlet late in the second half.
Conor Nicholson '18 is fouled as he looks to escape the Niagara full-court press.
William Eastwick '19 looks to pass the ball across the court in overtime.
The 2018 New York State CHSAA “B” champions: (Front row) Sean Stix '18, Matthew Clarkin '18, Joseph Rosowicz '18, Conor Nicholson '18, Liam Nicholson '19, Joseph Manfredi '20. (Back row) Assistant coach Jack Moran '08, William Hoopes '18, William Eastwick '19, Patrick McGoldrick '18; Ryan DeStefano '18, Andrew Vittoria '19, Charles Bostwick '18,Liam Gallagher '18, and Rev. Daniel K. Lahart, SJ, and Coach Kevin Cullen.