(Amherst celebrates a 2nd straight Class A2 title /Photo: Harry Scull,Buff News)
Niagara Falls 61, Lancaster 56
Four years ago, Niagara Falls rolled out a very young lineup that included three freshmen (Charles Lamar, Tyler Sanders, & Devin Sanders) with a lot of potential for the future. That season, the Wolverines finished with a losing record. Fast forward four seasons, those freshmen are now back-to-back Section VI Champions in Class AA and moving on to the Far West Regional on Saturday night at Rush-Henrietta High School against Fairport at 9 pm.
"I'm really happy for this group," Niagara Falls coach Sal Constantino. "I never would ignore the heritage, what Niagara Falls basketball has been, but what Jonny Flynn and Paul Harris did - that was their accomplishments. Tonight is about these guys."
Lamar scored nine points in the team's victory over Lancaster, while the Sanders' twins combined for 10 points. Tazaun Rose led the Wolverines with 16 points and Cortese Myles finished with 10 points on the evening. In total, nine players scored for Falls.
The Wolverines went back-and-forth with Lancaster throughout and the Championship Saturday finale treated fans to a great ending to a long day of basketball. Through the first three quarters, there were 10 ties, while the lead changed 17 times.
However, after coming into the postseason as the #5 seed and needing to win a road playoff game just to get to Buff State, Niagara Falls never gave up its lead in the fourth quarter and looked like a team that is putting it all together at just the right time under Constantino.
"One of the things that we've done is we've gotten out of our own way," Constantino said. "Just to see their maturity and their character...it's hard to play at Niagara Falls - there's so much pressure. Everybody thinks that every year this is just a given."
Alec Tamburri finished with a team-high 14 points for Lancaster. LG Castillo added 12 points in the loss, while Vito Fulciniti & Noah Speyer each netted seven points.
Niagara Falls 12 - 16 - 16 - 17 = 61
Lancaster 14 - 13 - 13 - 16 = 56
Niagara Falls: Tazaun Rose 16, Cortese Myles 10, Charles Lamar 9, Tyler Sanders 7, Jamel Burton 5, Josiah Harris 5, Syquan Ralands 4, Devin Sanders 3, Quaran Dubois 2
Lancaster: Alec Tamburri 14, LG Castillo 12, Connor Duck 11, Vito Fulciniti 7, Noah Speyer 7, Collin Reformat 3, Tim Molik 2
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North Tonawanda 60, Williamsville South 54
For the first time since 1961, since before the coach or any of his players were born, the Jacks are sectional champions. Adding to the magnitude of the win, North Tonawanda entered the game as an unranked large school and knocked off WNY's top-ranked team from Williamsville South, who happened to be the two-time defending champions.
"We thought we had the better team all year long," said North Tonawanda coach Ryan Mountain. "We proved that we could do it the old fashioned way - a bunch of guys growing up in the same neighborhood, balling out together. We don't need any transfers, it's our family."
The Billies got in front early in the opening quarter and stayed there until halftime, when Devin Degree canned a second straight 3-pointer to give South a 32-27 advantage at the break. Trailing by six points late in the third quarter, North Tonawanda got a big 3-pointer from Trevor Book, followed by another basket and then a score from Patrick Milbrand for a 7-0 run to end the frame. The Spurt gave the Jacks a 43-42 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
However, 3-pointers by Cody Sanford and Greg Dolan were part of a 12-4 push back from Williamsville South that restored its lead.
Facing their largest deficit of the game, 54-47, with just over three minutes to play, the Jacks got a 3-pointer from Zack Woodard to ignite a spectacular finish. North Tonawanda never allowed another point to be scored by the Billies and rattled off a championship-clinching 13-0 run to complete a comeback win and stun the area's #1 large school.
"We had a vision over the summer," Mountain said. "We saw it, we felt it...we just had to go out and earn it."
Book scored a team-high 14 points in the victory. Vincent Tripi finished with 12 points and Woodard added 11 points in the win. A total of nine different Jacks scored in the contest, supporting their 'Strength in Numbers' motto.
Dolan led South with a game-high 19 points, while Adam Braniecki finished his career at South with 12 points.
NT advances to the overall Class A championship game against Amherst on Tuesday night at Buff State. The winner moves on to the Far West Regional on Saturday night.
North Tonawanda 7 - 20 - 16 - 17 = 60
Williamsville South 12 - 20 - 10 - 12 = 54
North Tonawanda: Trevor Book 14, Vincent Tripi 12, Zack Woodard 11, Alex Johnson 6, Alex Quinn 6, Patrick Milbrand 4, Brandon Casterline 3, Jordan Fox 2, Rory Farkas 2
Williamsville South: Greg Dolan 19, Adam Braniecki 12, Devin Degree 9, Dakota Wiley 8, Cody Sanford 6
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Amherst 55, South Park 53
After graduating the school's all-time leading scorer in TC Brown and a Division I big man in St. Bonaventure's Amadi Ikpeze, the Amherst Tigers kept the success of the program rolling along with a second straight Section VI title in Class A2. The victory also gave the school back-to-back 20-win seasons.
The Tigers jumped out to an 11-0 lead and went to halftime with a 28-20 cushion on the scoreboard, but found out why South Park earned the Yale Cup trophy this season when the Sparks came storming back in the third quarter to tie the game at 40-40 heading into the final stanza. The teams traded leads over the final eight minutes, but with 2:08 left, Da'Shawn Hines connected from long range for Amherst to make it 50-47. Marcellus Cooper added a free throw for a four-point lead at 51-47 as the game ticked under one minute remaining.
However, Shakur Harris shot a long 3-pointer over his defender and drilled it for the Sparks to cut the deficit to one. On the ensuing inbounds, Jakari Woods stole the ball and scored for South Park. Suddenly, the Sparks were in front 52-51.
"This group is a special group," Amherst coach Chris Kensy said. "They easily could have hung their heads when South Park took the lead, but they found a way."
A pair of free throws by Cooper got the Tigers back on top, 53-52, with 28 seconds left. Shakur Harris tied the game back up with his own charity toss with 10 seconds left.
One the final possession of the game, Jordan Barr rebounded a miss in the lane and score on the put back as the last two seconds ran off the clock to lift Amherst to the title.
Hines led the Tigers' balanced attack with 12 points, while Barr and Cooper each scored nine points in the win. Brian Fulford didn't score in the game, but his impact throughout was invaluable to his team's championship victory. With timely rebounds, diving for loose balls, interior passes, and keeping his team fired up throughout, Amherst doesn't finish the job without his contributions on Saturday.
"Brian Fulford plays every play like it's his last," said Kensy. "He's giving us so many good minutes right now and I'd expect nothing less - he's a captain and a senior."
Harris led the Sparks with a game-high 26 points to end his career at South Park. The senior was named Tournament MVP, rare in a losing effort, due to his two-game performance that turned the heads of all spectators in the Buffalo State Sports Arena. With Harris on the floor, the Sparks were always in it and the 5-6 senior nearly willed his team to a title.
"I told Shakur Harris he's got the heart of a lion," Kensy said.
Amherst will look to advance to its first regional appearance under Kensy when they face North Tonawanda on Tuesday night for the overall Class A title. The Tigers defeated the Jacks by four points during a regular season home game in late December.
South Park 10 - 10 - 20 - 13 = 53
Amherst 15 - 13 - 12 - 15 = 55
Amherst: Da'Shawn Hines 12, Jordan Barr 9, Marcellus Cooper 9, Desean Ashley 8, Richard Kay 7, Will Alfieri 6, Jake Funderburk 4
South Park: Shakur Harris 26, Jakari Woods 10, Ray Mushat 7, Khalil White 6, Jeremy Jackson 3, Anthony Mack 1
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East Aurora 75, Newfane 39
For the second time since taking over the boys program, head coach Chris Koselny has led East Aurora to a Section VI title. In 2012, the Blue Devils led by CC MVP Stan Wier, won Class A2 and went on to defeat McKinley for the overall Class A championship. With a completely new senior laden cast, East Aurora claimed the sectional plaque Class B1 and now has a shot to become the overall Class B winners and move on to the Far West Regional on Saturday.
"It feels really, really good," East Aurora coach Chris Koselny said. "I've got a group of seniors that have done any and everything I've asked of them and they've been nothing but great. I can't tell you how proud of them I am."
Facing a 2-3 zone employed by Newfane, the Blue Devils moved the ball enough to find open shooters on the perimeter and made the Panthers pay by knocking them down. A total of 10 long range bombs went in on the afternoon for East Aurora, with six coming in the second half to ensure Newfane could never begin to mount a run or gain any momentum throughout the contest. EA led by 15 points at halftime and continued to pour it on, taking its largest lead on the game's final score.
"We knew that was what they wanted to do was play zone and we were prepared," Koselny said. "We talked about where the spots would be open."
Three players finished in double figures for East Aurora and it was the usual suspects who have been doing it all season for WNY's top ranked small school. Nick Montgomery finished with a game-high 24 points, Cal McTigue scored 20 points, and Josh Denz added 13 points in the game. The senior trio combined for nine of the Blue Devils' 3-pointers in the game.
"Nick, Cal, and Josh have been steady all year," said Koselny. "They've got hundreds of games under their belt together and when you have that situation, things are going to go well."
Newfane was led by Max Weber's 15 points, while Kyle DeVoogel finished with 14 points for the Panthers.
Newfane 11 - 10 - 9 - 9 = 39
East Aurora 18 - 18 - 18 - 21 = 75
East Aurora: Nick Montgomery 24, Cal McTigue 20, Josh Denz 13, Will Beavers 3, Kellan Wittman 3, Owen Smith 3, Noah Denz 3, Liam Sheehan 2, Boss Connor 2, Joe Montgomery 2
Newfane: Max Weber 15, Kyle DeVoogel 14, Caleb Russell 4, Brandon Gross 3, Chad Dunbar 2, Connor Hill 1
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Health Sciences 60, Lackawanna 48
For a second straight season, the Falcons played in the Class B2 championship game, falling to Fredonia last year. However in the school's fifth year of existence and competition in the section, Health Sciences broke through on Saturday afternoon to hoist the first Section VI championship plaque in program history.
"I'm happy for our guys, I'm happy for our program, and I'm happy for our school," Health Sciences coach Ty Parker said.
After some good energy from both sides in the opening quarter, Tyron Lott broke a 9-9 tie with a basket last in the first quarter. Wize Threat added a 3-pointer before the end of the frame and the Falcons were off, never trailing the rest of the way. Lott scored 11 of his 19 points in the first half, as Health Sciences took a 31-19 lead to the break.
The Falcons continued to build their lead in the second half, going up by as many as 21 points during the fourth quarter. The team's defense, predicated on pressuring the ball, was once again highly effective, holding Lackawanna's leading scorer Noah Grabar to just five points and one trey in the game after he popped off in the semifinal round. Haris Bekric was the only Steeler to reach double figures in scoring on the afternoon, finishing with 14 points.
Davonte Gaines asserted himself early and often and put forth one of his best games of the season. The junior used a combination of finishes near the basket and smooth jumpers to pile up 26 of his game-high 27 points through the first three quarters of play.
"Davonte is one of the most unselfish basketball players that I've ever coached," Parker said. "I told him there's going to come a point in time where you have got to take over and exploit your talents...tonight he did that."
Health Sciences will face East Aurora on Tuesday night at 6 pm for the right to advance to the Class B Far West Regional on Saturday.
Health Sciences 14 - 17 - 18 - 11 = 60
Lackawanna 9 - 10 - 15 - 14 = 48
Health Sciences: Davonte Gaines 27, Tyron Lott 19, Wize Threat 6, Kameron Briggs 4, Shakir Cook 3, Tayvion Nelson 2, Josiah Haygood 1, Tysheen Lott 1
Lackawanna: Haris Bekric 14, Carlton Treeths 8, Jordan Pacillo 6, Noah Grabar 5, London Smith 4, Robert Rice 3, Noble Smith 2, Abdul Albaneh 2, Juan Rodriguez 2