Cam Sionko's late baskets end Sweet Home's comeback
By David Yarger
In front of a jam-packed Grand Island High School on Friday, the Vikings defeated the Sweet Home Panthers 45-40.
The win takes Grand Island to the Class A1 semifinals at Buff State. The last time the Vikings played in such a game was in 2009.
The victory also is Grand Island's second over the Panthers this year, as the Vikings won the first matchup 57-37.
This game looked like it would be over early but, after a hot start, the Vikings cooled offensively.
Seconds into the game, Cam Sionko drained a 3-pointer, on his way to the Vikings first 9 points. At one point, it was Grand Island (led by Sionko) leading 9-3.
The quarter ended with a Devin Brandon 3-pointer to give Grand Island a 20-9 lead.
The hot start was totally opposite in the second quarter.
The Vikings only managed to put up 5 points in the quarter, and Sweet Home mustered 9 more points to make the halftime score 25-18.
Before halftime, Sweet Home let an opportunity to trim the lead slip away.
Stephen Trueheart was fouled on a 3-pointer and ended up missing all three free throws. If those three go in, it's possibly a 4-point game at half.
In the third quarter, Sweet Home came out with the same defensive pressure as the second quarter.
The Panthers held the Vikings to 8 third quarter points. After starting with 20 points, the Vikings only scored 13 points between the second and third quarter combined.
Sophomore Maurice Robinson sank big shots to get Sweet Home closer and, after three quarters, Grand Island led 33-27.
Late in the fourth, the Panthers made a push. Dylan Barrons hit a 2-point jump shot to cut the lead to 3, 38-35.
With 1:19 left, Sionko had enough of the Panthers comeback, and drained a 3-pointer to make it 41-35. Following a Panther bucket, Sionko drove to the hoop and finished an acrobatic layup to push the lead back to 6, at 43-37.
Sweet Home cut the lead back to 3, 43-40, and then fouled Viking Garrett Robinson.
After a timeout, Robinson stepped up to the line and made a pair of free throws to put the game on ice. The Vikings won 45-40.
The loss for the Panthers ends their season. Sweet Home finished with a 9-12 record. Barrons led the team with 11 points, while Robinson had 9.
Grand Island coach Ron Krysztof called Robinson his "Player of the Game," as he finished with 7 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists.
Krysztof was ecstatic after the win.
"I didn't tell any of the guys, but today's my birthday," he said. "The range of emotions from knowing we could make Buff State for the first time in almost 10 years, it was a wave of emotions. I'm excited; it's been a long journey."
He gave all the credit to his team, noting all the hard work the players put in during and after the season.
Sionko led the Vikings with 14 points, while Mario Wright added 11 points and 7 rebounds.
The team's next game is against a familiar foe from the Niagara Frontier League: The No. 2-seed North Tonawanda Lumberjacks.
North Tonawanda won the first battle, 63-51, but Krysztof said his team will be ready.
"It's gonna be tough; they're a very tough team and very well coached," he said. "I have a lot of respect for their program, but we do have some familiarity with them. It's one where we have to reach their level. So it's something where we have to play up and I'm hoping we do that."
Krysztof credited NT coach Ryan Mountain. He said Mountain has made his program one of the best in the area.
The game against NT at Buff State will be at 6:45 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 28. The cost of admission is to be determined.