Lions out-rebound, out-last Blue Devils in NFL boys hoops showdown
By John D'Onofrio Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
For the first time since 2006, the Lockport Lions sit alone atop the Niagara Frontier League boys basketball standings.
The Lions jumped out of the gates quickly on Friday, then jumped out of their sneakers, dominating the boards throughout as they held on to beat previously-unbeaten Kenmore West, 55-49, in the biggest league game and before the biggest crowd in the Lions' Den in quit a few seasons.
With the win, head coach Dave Gilson's Lions improved to a league-best 9-1 and are 10-3 overall. Head coach Michael Meetze's Blue Devils dropped their first league contest, falling to 8-1 in the NFL and are 9-3 overall.
The math is simple with four games left — if the Lions can win out, they clinch at least a tie for the league title, but Gilson said that's looking too far ahead.
“We got a long way to go,” Gilson said. “I'm proud of my team and that we worked hard to pull out this win.”
Once again, the Lions were led by senior forward Ryan Lawrence, who poured in 19 points, including four clutch buckets in the deciding fourth quarter. Lawrence added 11 rebounds. Fellow senior Charlie Sobieraski had five points and a season-best 20 rebounds and hard-working senior forward Mo Townsend added 13 inside points and 14 rebounds in heavy traffic.
“I can always do more. I'm always hungry,” Lawrence said, when asked about his individual performance. “We knew we couldn't come out flat at home and I think in the end, we were more intense. We have to stay humble and we have to win out. We're playing as a team, we're running and we know our potential. If we all play for each other, we'll get there.”
The teams traded baskets early, but then LHS senior guard Colin Dougherty (15 points) swished a baseline jumper and Lawrence drained a 3-pointer from Pine Street and the Lions quickly pulled away. Lockport's unsung senior point guard Danny Bronson (5 assists) also nailed a 3-pointer and at the end of one quarter, Lockport led 18-8.
Neither team could muster much offense in the second, but Lockport controlled the boards, holding the visitors to numerous one-shot opportunities. A flagrant foul on Dougherty late in the quarter kept Ken West from mounting any serious runs and the Lions' lead at halftime remained double digits, 27-17.
Ken West cut into Lockport's lead slightly in the third quarter, but Sobieraski, Townsend and Lawrence took turns ripping down rebounds at both ends of the floor and LHS maintained a 36-29 advantage heading to the fourth.
The visitors got as close as four early in the final quarter, 36-32, but Lawrence & Co. kept their composure and shot a deadly 7-for-9 from the free-throw line in the fourth (Dougherty was a clutch 5-for-6) to come away victorious.
Relentless senior forward Noah Whalen topped Ken West with a game-high 20 points. Trent White added 10 off the bench.
“The first thing I said when they walked into to the locker room was ‘Did you leave it all on the floor?’ That was the number one our five keys,” Meetze said.
“I said, ‘If this was the sectionals and I was giving our farewelll speech, I dont know if I could say you did that tonight.’ I loved the second half energy and I thought we played our style of basketball, but we knew Lockport would come out banging. They came out and they played a great game, executed when they needed to and destroyed us on the glass. Tonight, size got us. That was a crusher tonight.”
Newfane 59, CSAT 51
NEWFANE — Josh Kneeland canned a game-high 24 points on Friday, adding 14 rebounds as head coach Eric Klumpp's Panthers improved to 3-9 in the N-O and 3-12 overall.
Sean Costello added 17 points and 7 assists for the winners, while Nate Aurenhamer chipped in with 9 boards.
Darrell Leslie topped CSAT (4-7 N-O) with 17 points.
Lockport 41, Ken West 36
BUFFALO — Coming up big is nothing new for Lockport's Sara Franco.
Franco scored 12 of her 14 points, including a crucial put-back in the second half as the Lady Lions gutted out a 41-36 win over the Lady Blue Devils in NFL action that was played at the Kenmore West Athletic Complex, Friday night.
In foul trouble early, Franco found herself sitting much of the first half as she sank just one shot.
“I said to her 'you got your rest. You need to be able to go for us,'”said Lockport coach Karen Catalano. “And Sara can do that for us. Last year she did a lot of the heavy lifting so it's no surprise for her to be there for us.”
Franco responded as she hit back-to-back shots to open the second half to give Lockport the 28-19 lead. But her biggest bucket of the night came with 22.4 seconds to play when she put back a shot after Alyssa Wagner (11 points/seven rebounds) missed a free throw, giving her team a 39-34 lead.
Both teams came into the game on a high note and looking for that all important win that would help them keep pace with league leading Niagara Falls.
Sam Britton (11 points) helped the Blue Devils (7-2, 7-5) hold an 11-9 lead after the first quarter and senior Melissa Fisher (11 points/seven assists) did a good job running the point in the face of tenacious defense from Lockport's Gretta Dry.
In the end Lockport (9-1, 9-3) made the most of its second and third looks at the ring.
“I think we've actually grown up to the point where this one was allowed to hurt,” Ken West coach Mike Licata said. “Maybe if this December you can say it was a bit of a statement game.”
Destiny Catania played strong for Ken West and hit a huge shot to cut the Lions lead to 39-36 with 10.2 remaining in the game.
Carissa DuTullio went 2-of-2 from the line with 3.2 seconds left to secure the win.
Roy-Hart 43, Medina 38
MIDDLEPORT — Becky Harnish did everything but plow the parking lot, leading head coach Don Baker's Lady Rams (2-7 N-O, 3-9 overall) with a game-high 21 points, adding 11 rebounds.
“It was a hard-fought game between two teams struggling,” said veteran R-H head coach Don Baker.
Deandra Salone topped the Lady Mustangs (1-8 N-O) with 12 points. Nicole Blount added 11.
Newfane 51, CSAT 49
BUFFALO — Junior Bailey Koithan sank a runner with just eight seconds left in the game to lift head coach Kevin Klumpp's Lady Panthers (7-2 N-O, 9-4 overall) to an N-O victory on the road Friday night.
Junior Brooke Horning topped Newfane with 20 points, including five 3-point baskets. Eighth grade sensation Paige Emborsky added 14 points, including a trio of tres.
Also for Newfane, hard-working senior Marlo MacFarlane added 5 points and 26 rebounds.
Next up, the Lady Panthers host Medina on Tuesday.
Wilson 35, Albion 29
WILSON — Emily Lasher had 17 points, nine rebounds and six steals, and Allie Bubar recorded eight points, seven steals and 11 rebounds to lead head coach Brian Baker's Lakewomen (8-0 N-O, 10-2 overall) past the lady Purple Eagles (6-3 N-O, 7-6).
Hamburg 70, Starpoint 51
PENDLETON — Hattie Lasal scored 13 points and Jenna Faulkner and Allison Koithan each scored 12 points in the Lady Spartans' (8-3, 4-3 ECIC) loss to the Lady Bulldogs (10-3, 5-2).