Malik Brooks' 9 fourth quarter points help Lockport come back
By David Yarger
In front of a loud crowd inside the "Lion's Den" at Lockport High School, the Lions defeated the first-place North Tonawanda Lumberjacks 61-51. With the win, Lockport sweeps the season series with North Tonawanda. The Lions are the only Niagara Frontier League team to beat NT twice.
The NT loss, coupled with a win by the Grand Island Vikings over CSAT, drops the Jacks into a tie for second - and the puts the Vikings in possession of first place at 8-2. NT, Lockport and Ken West are all 8-3.
The game looked like it was going to be all Lumberjacks at the start. They came out in their 2-3-zone defense and gave the Lockport offense problems for most of the first quarter. NT forced Lockport coach David Gilson to call timeout 48 seconds into the game.
Rory Farkas and Trevor Book scored all 12 points for the Jacks in the first quarter, scoring 8 and 4 respectively. The Lions kept it close, though, and at the end of the first it was 12-10.
In the second quarter, Lockport found holes in the defense and began to score in chunks.
For the Lumberjacks, it was the total opposite. The ball could not find the bottom of the hoop, resulting in only 7 second-quarter points.
Lockport took advantage of the Jacks' struggles and won the quarter, 18-7. The score at halftime was 28-19, Lockport.
In North Tonawanda's last game against Niagara-Wheatfield, coach Ryan Mountain said he hoped his team would bring its confidence shooting the ball against the Falcons to the game against the Lions. For the first half, that didn't seem to be the case.
But in the third quarter, that confidence began to show, as the Jacks went on an 18-4 run to start the half. Alex Quinn led the run by scoring 7 straight points to open the quarter.
The Jacks looked to Alex Johnson off the bench to start the third. He ended up pitching in 7 points.
Joseph Kish, another man off the bench, also highlighted the run. Kish hit a 3-pointer to give the Jacks the lead, 34-32. Kish would hit another 3 and finish with 6 points.
Mountain said he was pleased with the contributions off the bench.
"That's our season right there: Strength in numbers and every game is different, every team requires different players," he said. "Joe is a great 3-point shooter. We saved Alex Johnson for the second half. That was in the game plan, and he also came up big with 7 points"
The Lumberjacks won the third quarter, 25-10, and took a 44-38 lead into the fourth quarter.
Mountain said the team went into halftime and made offensive adjustments to find ways to score the way it did.
"We made a couple adjustments offensively. I thought our ball movement was very slow and credit Lockport for that," he said. "We just weren't doing a good job of moving the ball, so we adjusted offensively and we were calm. We just said, 'What do we have to do to score?' "
The game was a game of runs. When NT went on a run, it seemed like Lockport would always counter with a run.
In the fourth quarter, Lockport went on one of those runs. Malik Brooks scored 7 of his 9 fourth-quarter points consecutively to throttle the Lions on a 17-5 run, making it 55-48. Brooks finished with 11 points.
The Lumberjacks had no answers, and finished the quarter with 7 points.
The Lions comeback was complete and the final score was 61-51.
Gilson credited his seniors for coming back after NT's 25-10 quarter.
"We have four seniors, and sometimes you really don't have to really say anything," he said. "You know sometimes you just got to call a timeout and let them settle down and figure everything out."
Gilson said, aside from the slow third-quarter offense, the defense wasn't moving and the players' hands weren't active enough.
For the Jacks, Quinn led the way with 13 points, while Farkas had 8. Book and Johnson also added 7 apiece.
With a jam near the top of the NFL, Mountain said the mission remains the same.
"Just take care of business," he said. "We take care of business and there's still a good chance we'll be NFL champions."
The Jacks' next game is a home game vs. CSAT at 7 p.m. on Friday.
For the Lions, Cordell McDowell and Kyle Brown led the way with 13 points. Brooks and Tavon Chambers both added 11.
The win for Lockport now puts them into serious talk for winning the NFL.
Gilson says the message to the team is to control its own destiny.
"We can't dictate what NT does, we can't dictate what GI, Ken-West or even the Falls does," he said. "We just have to do what we need to do and just play strong."
Gilson said whether it's a tie for the league title or not, it's still a league title and that's an accomplishment.
The Lions' next NFL game is on the road vs. Lewiston-Porter at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 17.