Lamar and the Sanders twins have seen it all for Niagara Falls
By David Yarger
At the end of the 2013-14 Niagara Falls High School basketball season, it was tough to judge in which direction the Wolverines were heading. The team had just finished 7-13, the program's worst record since the opening of the new high school in 2000. But the program had a storied past.
The answer, then, was nowhere but up.
Since 2014, the Wolverines have been to three straight sectional title games, winning two.
Charles Lamar, Devin Sanders and Tyler Sanders have experienced all four years of the program's best and worst of times.
Coming off a win vs. Lancaster to secure the trio's second Section VI Class AA title, the three players agreed three title appearances and two championships was hard to imagine. But it wasn't out of the equation after the 2014 season.
"Freshman year - It was really rough," Lamar said. "We said, obviously, we're gonna get better as a team. That year we didn't have anybody with varsity experience. There was a lot going on, because we went from not making it to Buff State to going to the finals, which was a lot of change. It's kind of like no, but yes at the same time."
"Our ninth-grade year, it was tough; I'm not gonna lie," Devin said. "We didn't make it to Buff State and, for Niagara Falls, that's not good. But, making it three years straight is amazing. Each year we've consistently been getting better and better."
Coach Sal Constantino praised the three players' growth, and said he was happy for their accomplishments.
"They were with us when we were 7-13," Constantino said. "And for them to be in three championship games and to win two, I think it's special for them. More than anything, their growth is just to see their maturity, their character and everything. There's never a kid that gave me a hard time."
All three agreed this year's win was most exciting, because they had to go through adversity to get the wins.
In January, the Wolverines lost four of their nine games. The slump was deemed a learning process.
"This year, we went through a lot of adversity, and the team was able to pull through. So, I feel like this year was better than any year," Tyler said.
"During that time, we had a lot of soul-searching," Devin said. "We just had to come together as a team and figure stuff out."
"We had to find ourselves," Lamar said. "We had to figure out what was best for the team going forward."
Lamar said his favorite moment from high school came in the win vs. Lancaster, and it was thanks to Tyler.
"Tyler threw me the craziest alley-oop. And I've had many dunks in my high school career, but I had never caught an oop in the game," Lamar said. "Tyler, being my teammate for the last four years, when he threw me that, it was like 'about time.' "
When the three look back, they will be able to recognize their accomplishments and how they added to the history of Niagara Falls basketball.
The 2017 title was the 18th in program history. The three recognized the past history, and said they were excited they had their own piece in adding to it.
"We came from a school where NBA players have come from, like Jonny Flynn," Lamar said. "We're not going to be compared to them, but I will look back and say we held it down for our city. In 10 years (looking back), we were winners of the school, too. It wasn't just Jonny and them; we won too. It's like a family of winners."
"It's a culture over here just to win," Tyler said. "Hopefully, looking back 10 years from now, we think about how well we've done and where we've came from; where it all started."
"We just had a lot of fun," Devin said. "Especially growing together, it's a real good bonding experience for all of us. So, I'll look back on that the most."
The trio's journey isn't finished yet. They will attempt to continue their season against Fairport High School, which won the Section V Class AA crown.
The winner of Falls vs. Fairport will head to the state titles in Binghamton.
The game will be played at 9 p.m. Saturday, March 11, at Genessee Community College.