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Lockport defeats Niagara Falls in rematch

Sat, Jan 28th 2017 09:15 pm

Tavon Chambers 20 points lead Lions to a season split with the Wolverines

By David Yarger

In front of a modest crowd inside the "Wolvearena" at Niagara Falls High School, the Lockport Lions defeated the Wolverines, 58-53, on Saturday. The Lions lost the first time the two teams met, 64-43, so the win gives the teams a split of their season series.

For the Wolverines, it's their second straight loss against Niagara Frontier League teams. The last loss came against Kenmore West, 65-55.

Unlike the Wolverines, the Lions are rolling with three consecutive wins. With the victory Saturday, the Lions are back in the running to win the NFL.

Lockport got off to a quick start with Tavon Chambers and Kyle Brown knocking down 3-pointers. After an and-one by Chambers, the Lions lead was 4. Niagara Falls cut it in half with a bucket, and the score at the end of the first quarter was 21-19, Lockport.

The Wolverines came back fighting in the second quarter. With contributions from Tazaun Rose and Syquan Ralands, the Wolverines took a 33-30 lead into halftime.

Niagara Falls has had struggles in the second half of games this season, squandering leads to Grand Island, Kenmore West and North Tonawanda. With Lockport being quick and athletic, like the Falls, the Wolverines needed to come out of the locker room strong to win.

That was not the case. Lockport came out and made three straight layups to grab a 36-33 lead before the Wolverines made a shot in the half. Lockport won the quarter, 17-8, and they led at the end of it, 47-41.

In the fourth, Lockport made a quick shot to make it 49-41. The Wolverines stormed back on a 6-0 run, led by layups from Ralands and Charles Lamar.

The Lions didn't budge and, with under a minute to go, they led, 53-51.

Chambers was fouled and went to the line, with 6.5 seconds remaining, to shoot a one-and-one opportunity. The first shot was good, but the second one missed, making it 54-51 and giving the Wolverines another chance.

Jamel Burton dribbled the ball up the court and went to shoot a 3-pointer. He got hit while attempting the shot and was fouled. Burton went to the line to shoot three free throws and possibly tie the game up with 1.3 seconds remaining.

The first one missed, and the second one went in. Burton tried to miss the third one, to give his team a chance to rebound it and make a shot, but the shot went in. Lockport's lead was now 54-53.

The Wolverines fouled Chambers on the inbounds play, and, with 1.1 seconds remaining, he made both free throws. A timeout was called and, once again, the Falls had one more shot to tie it up.

Jhamir Isom, who played quarterback for the Wolverines in the fall, was designated to make the long pass from one side of the court to the other. His first attempt was swatted out of bounds by the Lockport defender in front of him. With one more shot, his pass was errant and resulted in a turnover.

The Wolverines fouled again. Chambers hit two more free throws and that was it. Lockport won 58-53.

Lockport coach David Gilson said his team played a lot better the second time against the Falls.

"It's easier playing a team a second time; you kind of knew what was coming, and we talked about the three keys to the game," he said. "One was handling their pressure. Last time we turned it over way too much. Being able to box out, which I felt we did a better job, not great but better. Then we settled down on offense. The first time we rushed everything."

Gilson called Chambers' game the best this season.

"He's sneaky," Gibson said. "He kind of goes at different speeds and you don't see it coming and then he just backdoors you. He gives you a lot, and I thought this was probably his best game he's played all year. He did it both offensively and defensively. He had a couple big stops down in the last minute."

Along with Chambers, Brown added four 3-pointers, on his way to 16 points. Malik Brooks and Cordell McDowell added 12 and 10, respectively.

For the Wolverines, the loss hurts their chances of winning the NFL. The team stands 7-4 in league play, with North Tonawanda at the top at 8-2.

Coach Sal Constantino started to look at the sectional picture, wondering where his team would be in the playoffs, and said anything could happen.

"Who knows what's going to happen?" he said. "The AA schools in the ECIC division still have a lot of games left, and they're all AA teams, so we'll see how it all plays out."

For sectional seeding, teams get seeded by how many points they receive during the season for beating another team. AA schools are worth the most points, so losing to an AA school such as Lockport hurts Niagara Falls, and gives Lockport the points to become a higher seed.

Constantino was visibly aggravated at how the game turned out and questioned how the gameplay went.

"Why're we always looking to run plays? We're better running up and down and playing a fast-breaking style," he said. "They're looking at me to run a play and I'm just like, 'Why aren't we just playing?' "

Constantino said his team did a poor job sharing the ball, and that can get contagious. He also said his players need to stop trying to be "that guy" and force plays.
The Wolverines are in a funk, and a frustrated team, Constantino said.

"The attitude of the team amongst each other - for example, I saw guys going out of character, blaming a teammate, which is so not them," he said. "I just think it's the frustration of this little stretch that we're going through."

Ralands, who had 12 points, led the Wolverines. Lamar and Rose both chipped in 10.
Niagara Falls' next game is at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 31, versus Niagara-Wheatfield, at home.

For the Lions, their next game is against the division leader, the North Tonawanda Lumberjacks. Lockport is one of two NFL teams to beat NT this year, winning the first battle 64-51.

Gilson said his team must remain consistent in Tuesday's battle.

"We just have to keep doing what we're doing, and hopefully they're starting to buy into it," he said. "It's a good bunch, and they're not the biggest kids, but they're athletic and they can make teams speed up. And that's what we're going to try to do."

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