Rose's late free throws shut door on Lions season
By David Yarger
In front of the Lockport faithful at the "Lions Den," the Niagara Falls Wolverines defeated the Lockport Lions, 48-45, on Friday.
The win advances the Wolverines to Buffalo State, where they will play in the Class AA semifinals.
The victory was the Wolverines' second over the Lions this season. Two prior matchups were entertaining, with the first one ending in a brawl between fans, and the second ending with a Lockport win at Niagara Falls.
The third meeting between the two lived up to its hype.
The low-scoring battle was, at times, sloppy, but, in the end, fans at Lockport High School were on their feet as the game came down to the last possession.
Niagara Falls looked like it would run away with this game early, but turnovers and missed opportunities kept Lockport close.
Niagara Falls led all game, except for when the score was tied at 2.
There were many turnovers early but, after a Josiah Harris 3-pointer to end the first quarter, the Falls held a 14-6 lead.
Lockport came back and was aggressive in the second quarter, diving all over the floor for loose balls and offensive rebounds.
Lockport's Kyle Brown had 7 points at halftime to lead all scorers, but the Lions trailed 21-18.
Niagara Falls came out and won the third quarter, 13-7, and by then eight different Wolverines had scored.
In the fourth quarter, the Lions offense took big steps.
Down 13 points, Lockport embarked on a massive comeback. Going on a 14-2 run, they trimmed the Falls' lead to 1 with 17.8 seconds left. Cordell McDowell's drive to the hoop made it 46-45.
Niagara Falls inbounded the ball and Lockport was unable to foul a Wolverines player until there were 4 seconds left.
Tazaun Rose went to the line to shoot free throws. His free throws went in with ease, giving the Falls a 48-45 lead.
With one chance left, Brown received the inbounds pass and began to drive to the hole, only to realize the team needed a 3 to tie. He looked back to pass and then threw the ball away. That ended the game.
The loss ended the season for Lockport. The Lions finish 15-5. It was the team's second loss to the Wolverines in three matchups this season.
Coach David Gilson said the mood in the locker room was melancholy.
"Pretty somber, obviously; I mean that's a tough one," he said. "It's a difficult thing for seniors, and juniorswise, I hope they take from that and understand how quickly a season can go."
Brown, a senior, finished with a game-high 16 points. Fellow seniors Tavon Chambers and Cordell McDowell had 12 and 11 points, respectively.
Along with those three, the Lions will graduate four more seniors this year, including Kya Doxey, Isiah Johnson, Dorian Byrd and Anthony Lloyd.
For the Wolverines, the win sends them back to Buff State, where they captured the Class AA title within the past year.
Their opponent will be the team they defeated in that game: the Jamestown Red Raiders.
Coach Sal Constantino acknowledged the Raiders' status as the No. 1 seed, and the history between the two schools.
"We're going to take it one game at a time," he said. "They have Rojas, and he's definitely a Division 1 kid, so we might have a tough time matching up with him. But I'd like to think that, with our pressure and we come out with a team effort, we're gonna be fine."
Team effort is what the Wolverines gave vs. Lockport, as nine different Wolverines scored.
Rose led with 10 points, while Marquise Miller also added 9, 2 of which came on clutch free throws at the end of the game.
The Wolverines will play Jamestown on Wednesday, March 1, with a time to be determined.