Defending Catholic School federation champs upend Lancers
By David Yarger
The Lewiston-Porter Lancers boys basketball team has their sights set high for the 2019-20 season. The saying is, “To be the best, you have to beat the best.” But, Wednesday night, in front of a stellar audience at the Creek Road campus, the Lancers fell against one of Western New York’s best.
Lew-Port was defeated in its season opener, 68-49, versus the defending Catholic School state and federation champions The Park School Pioneers.
Lew-Port played a superb first half, leading Park at the break, but the game shifted in the final 16 minutes of action.
The game started exactly how the Lancers would’ve liked. Down 4-2, the Lancers embarked on a 16-3 run highlighted by 3-pointers from Jack Bernstein and Roddy Gayle and four points from Mehki Starks.
Down 11, Park’s Keonjay Carter went on his own 6-0 run with three layups to cut the L-P lead to 18-13.
Gayle finished the quarter with a bucket, though, and the Lancers lead, 20-13, after one.
The Lancers could’ve extended the lead further in the second quarter, but the team missed several open shots. The misfires led to a Pioneers comeback.
A 10-5 run by Park cut the Lancers’ lead to 25-23. Gayle notched a bucket to bump it back to four, then the Pioneers’ Caleb Hutchins nailed a trey and Desmond Davis added a 2-pointer to give Park its first lead since 4-2, 28-27.
Gayle rounded out the first half with a bucket to give the Lancers a 29-28 lead heading to halftime.
The second half was strictly dominated by Park.
After Lew-Port notched the first two buckets of the half to take a 33-28 lead, the Pioneers followed with a 21-2 run highlighted by Jalen Bradberry’s 11 points and two Davis treys. Before everyone knew it, Park held a 49-35 lead.
A Park bucket and five Gayle points for L-P rounded out the third, as the Pioneers led, 51-40.
Park started the final frame with an 8-0 run to extend lead up to 19.
Lew-Port faithful held their breath in the frame, as Gayle, who sat a total of 44 seconds in the first half, came up hobbling on the sideline. Fans were able to breathe a collective sigh of relief, though, as the sophomore just cramped up and checked back in a couple minutes later.
However, the Pioneers continued to extend the lead to as much as 21 before the final horn sounded and the scoreboard showed, 68-49.
For Park, the win boosts its record to 3-0. The Pioneers had double digit contributions from four players – Bradberry (17), John Orugun (14), Carter (13) and Davis (12).
For the Lancers, Gayle did much of the heavy lifting, scoring 24 of the team’s 49. In addition, Starks and Bernstein added 8.
Following the defeat, Lancers coach Matt Bradshaw compared the contest to similar one the team lost on their home floor last season.
Last season, in a highly hyped matchup, the Lancers led league rival Niagara Falls, 33-31, at halftime. In the second half, though, the Wolverines took over, advancing to an 18-point victory.
Fast forward to Wednesday night, the Lancers were up by one at halftime and ended up losing by 19 points.
“This was almost a carbon copy of the Niagara Falls game the first time we played them last year. (It was a) great crowd, we came out fired up, we were winning in the first half and then they came out and opened it up on us,” Bradshaw said.
Despite falling, Bradshaw said he was still pleased from what he saw in the first half and reminded everyone that it was the team’s first game and the Lancers are still searching for their identity. The coach added he still has high hopes for the season.
“We’re going to be pretty good. To play with them guys for the first half, come out and score the first basket; I think we played well enough, we just couldn’t make shots,” Bradshaw said.
Missed shots, free throws and layups were an Achilles heel for the Lancers. In the second quarter, Bradshaw pointed out that the Lancers could’ve went into halftime up 12 points, which could have changed the dynamics of the game.
“When you play a great team like that, the margin of error is real slim and you have to make those shots,” Bradshaw said.
With tough non-league competition on the Lancers’ schedule, Bradshaw said prior to the game, regardless of the score, he wanted his team coming out of the games playing well. Despite the score, Bradshaw was inspired by spurts he saw from L-P.
“One thing I felt was inconsistent through the preseason was our effort. I thought tonight, we played with great effort. I thought we were inconsistent in scoring, as we only scored 49 and Roddy had 24 of them. … We just gotta put the shots in. … If you’re asking me, there was a lot more positive out of this than negative.” Bradshaw said.
Despite a tough night from the field for freshman Jalen Duff (3 points), Bradshaw remained confident in his young guard and said his shot will come around and the points will drop.
Though, the scoreboard read a 19-point loss, Bradshaw and the Lancers said they felt the score was not indicative of how the game was played.
“We’re OK. We’re going to be OK. We’ll get back in the gym tomorrow and practice and hats off to my kids, they played hard. That was supposed to be the best team in the area and our coaching staff’s message to the players after the game was, ‘If that’s the best, then we’re right there with them,' ” he said.
Lew-Port’s (0-1) next game is on the road at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 10, at Grand Island.