McQuaid shuts down Section VI champions
By David Yarger
It was a season many believed could be "the year" for the Niagara Falls Wolverines basketball team. The team compiled one of their best seasons in recent history and hopes were high. The hopes and dreams of the state tournament are now let to be "what if's?"
The Wolverines were defeated by the McQuaid Knights, 65-57, in the Far West Regional game at Buffalo State.
For the Wolverines, it's their third straight Far West Regional loss.
A win would've sent the Wolverines to their first state tournament since 2009, but Saturday night belonged to the Knights, who came out and game planned well for the Section VI champions.
The Falls also struggled, shooting 33 percent from the field and 15 percent from 3-point range.
In the first quarter, Willie Lightfoot carried the load of the Wolverines offense, scoring nine of the Falls' 15 first quarter points.
McQuaid lit up the field with three 3-pointers in the quarter, but they trailed after one, 15-13.
The Knights added three more treys in the second quarter. McQuaid also outscored the Wolverines 17-11 in the quarter and went into halftime leading, 30-26.
Offensively, the Wolverines continued to struggle in the third quarter, as they only mustered 9 points, compared to McQuaid's 19. Lightfoot added 4 more points in the quarter.
In the fourth quarter, the Falls' vintage pressure defense got McQuaid on their heels.
The Wolverines defense led to a 12-2 run that cut the McQuaid lead to three, 51-48.
The Falls came as close as three once more, but shots refused to fall for the team and the Knights were able to seal the game at the free throw line.
As the clock ticked to zero, the Knights had upset the favored Wolverines, 65-57.
For the Wolverines, Lightfoot led the team with 23 points, while Tazaun Rose and Syquan Ralands added 12 and 8 points, respectively.
For Wolverines coach Sal Constantino, he said the third straight loss in the regionals didn't sting as much as others, but what upset him most was the fact the season was over.
"I told the guys, 'One team will finish their season with a win.' We'd like for it to have been us, but when we look at everything we've done from spring to summer to the season, it stings because it's over," Constantino said.
The Wolverines defeated the Knights early in the regular season, 76-54, but Constantino didn't think his team overlooked McQuaid in the regionals.
"If you look back at the (first) game, it was a three-point game at the half; it was six-point game after three quarters and we really kind of opened it up at the end, like it was a lot closer game than people thought.
"I just think we didn't do a great job of rebounding. We had some crucial possessions where we didn't rebound and I thought in the first half we were having a little trouble from the point figuring out if they were in a zone or man," Constantino said.
Constantino added, he was proud of how his team came together in the fourth quarter and played very well.
The Wolverines won the Niagara Frontier League title to go along with their third straight Section VI Class AA title. Along with the 19-5 record, the Wolverines accomplished the accolades with two eighth graders, two sophomores, three juniors and four seniors. To come this far and get the end result they did, Constantino felt it gave the youth an experience they won't want again.
"For the young guys coming back, we just said 'We have to keep working at it. You got a little taste of this,' and we'll see how we feel," he said.
Constantino also praised the work of his for seniors for everything they did for the program.
"I'd say 'thank you.' They really put a lot into it, they've done everything that we've asked them to do ... playing a different role than they thought they were going to play coming into their senior year. I just appreciate them," Constantino said.
Seniors for the Wolverines include Marquise Miller and Ralands, who won three straight sectional championships, as well as Quran Dubois and Rose, who were part of the latter two championships.