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Back-to-back: Niagara Falls captures 18th title

Sun, Mar 5th 2017 03:35 pm
The victorious Niagara Falls High School Wolverines.
The victorious Niagara Falls High School Wolverines.

9 players score for Wolverines in path to victory

By David Yarger

The near-capacity crowd at Buffalo State College witnessed Niagara Falls High School win its 18th title in program history, and second consecutive AA championship, on Saturday night.

The Wolverines defeated the Lancaster Legends, 61-56, in what was a close game throughout.

The win adds to Niagara Falls' stellar history as a power in Section VI. Coach Sal Constantino noted the added pressure on his guys, who knew the past history of the team.

"It's hard to play at Niagara Falls," he said. "There's so much pressure. Everybody, every year, thinks this is a given. So I give those guys a lot of credit."

Lancaster made life difficult for the Wolverines early.

Alec Tamburri and Noah Speyer got the Legends off to a 14-12 lead by the end of the first quarter.

The Falls came back early in the second quarter, as sophomore Josiah Harris hit a jump shot at the free-throw line to give the Wolverines a 17-16 lead.   

The lead changed 12 times, and Niagara Falls led at halftime, 28-27, after Jamel Burton's 3-pointer went off the backboard and in.

In the third quarter, the Wolverines got off to a hot start. Tazaun Rose hit his third 3-pointer of the game to give the Wolverines a 37-34 lead.

The momentum-shifter came just a few minutes later, as Wolverines' forward Tyler Sanders stole the ball and broke out on a 2-on-1, with Charles Lamar to his right. Sanders lobbed the ball up to Lamar, who threw down a vicious alley-oop dunk over the Lancaster defender.

From that moment on, the Wolverines controlled the energy, and the score was 42-34. The Falls led after three quarters, 44-40.

Lancaster showed determination in the fourth and, after being down by 8, LG Castillo scored 4 straight points to cut the lead to 48-44.

The game got to 1 point, as Lancaster made it 50-49, but Wolverines senior Cortese Myles ended the comeback with a driving layup.

Rose has made it a habit of closing out games for the Wolverines. Against Lockport in the quarterfinals, he made two free throws to make it 48-45, giving the Wolverines the win. Then against Jamestown, he made six free throws in the fourth quarter to put that game on ice and give the Falls the win.

Saturday was much of the same. Rose made a free throw to make it a 4-point game, 53-49, and then he made an acrobatic layup to again ice the game for the Wolverines, 57-50.

As the horn sounded, players clapped and grinned ear-to-ear as the Wolverines made it official as back-to-back Class AA Section VI champs.

Constantino said he didn't envision the season turning out the way it did, as the Wolverines endured a rough patch of games in January (recording four of their eight losses). He said the dramatic turnaround shows how the team has grown.

"One of things we've done is gotten out of our own way," he said. "We shot ourselves in the foot all season, from guys missing practice, to how we carry ourselves on the court, or sitting a guy for this or for that," he said. "I think now we're really starting to get out of our own way and we're not bad."

Constantino couldn't say enough about Lamar, Tyler Sanders and Devin Sanders. The three players have been with the team since 2014, when the team had a losing record.

"They were with us when we went 7-13," Constantino said. "For them to now be in three championship games and to win two, I think it's special for them. I'm happy for them."

Rose led the Falls and all scorers with 16 points. Myles added 10 and Lamar scored 9.

For the Legends, Tamburri led the way with 14 points, while Castillo and Connor Duck chipped in 12 and 11, respectively.

Niagara Falls moves on, and will play the winner of Fairport and UPrep on Monday night in the Section V AA finals. The Wolverines played UPrep on Dec. 3, and won 65-64 in a comeback effort at the Cataract Classic.

The Far West Regional game will be played at Rush-Henrietta High School at 9 p.m. Saturday, March 11.

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