North Tonawanda ends Vikings season, looks for first sectional title since 1961
By David Yarger
In front of a packed gym at Buffalo State College on Tuesday, the North Tonawanda Lumberjacks defeated the Grand Island Vikings 64-34.
The Jacks dominated on all sides of the ball, putting pressure on defense and storming out of the gate offensively.
Coach Ryan Mountain said the team tried to play as hard as it could on defense, and take away Grand Island's best scorers.
That is exactly what happened.
NT started the game on a 7-0 run, before Grand Island's first bucket. The lead quickly grew to 14, with the score 16-2.
The lone bright spot of the quarter for the Vikings was Garrett Robinson, who nailed a long 3-pointer before the buzzer sounded. Grand Island trailed 16-5 after the first quarter.
The Vikings tried to creep closer, but the Jacks defense refused to give in. NT went on a 9-0 run to extend the score to 27-9.
Grand Island answered going on a small 7-2 run to end the half. Derek Callen's 3 before the buzzer capped off the run and made the deficit 13 (29-16) at halftime.
NT kept its foot on the gas in the third quarter, starting the half with a 15-3 run to extend the lead to 44-19. At the end of the third quarter, the Jacks led 45-22.
Nothing changed in the fourth quarter, as Brandon Casterline and Patrick Milbrand nailed 3-pointers to extend the NT lead even further. The Jacks walked away with a 64-34 win.
The Vikings end their season with a record of 15-7. Despite a disappointing loss, coach Ron Krysztof said the season was a victory.
"A success; 100 percent," he said. "It was hard giving a speech in there, because 15 wins. We made it to Buff State; we beat Niagara Falls and Ken-West - there's a lot of things to be positive about," he said. "We had a negative experience here, but, if you take a step back, obviously a very successful season, making it to Buff State for the first time in eight years."
Though the Vikings will graduate seven seniors from the program, Krysztof was positive when speaking about the future.
"It's going to be interesting," he said. "We still got (Cam) Sionko and (Liam) Carey. Then I like a couple of JV kids we have. We have another Sionko coming up; he'll be a freshman next year, and the goal for him is to be on varsity."
Krysztof said the team might not be as deep next year, but it will have talent coming back.
Derek Callen led the Vikings with 10 points while Sionko and JB Wilkes added 8 apiece.
The departing seniors for Grand Island include Wilkes, Mario Wright, Ray Cleveland, Roman Cacciatore, Connor Buzby, Garrett Robinson and Devin Brandon.
For the Lumberjacks, the win puts them in their first sectional title game since 2015, when they lost to Williamsville South. They will battle the Billies once again for the Class A1 crown.
Mountain said the team is excited to face the Billies.
"It's going to be an up-and-down game," he said. "There's a lot of scorers on both sides, and we both have elite players in Trevor Book and Greg Dolan. And both teams have great supporting casts."
Mountain said Will South averages about 71 points per game compared to the Jacks' 68 per game, while the Jacks give up an average of 49 points per game, compared to Will South's 53. He called it as an even as a matchup as they could find for the finals.
In the win over Grand Island, Book and Rory Farkas led the way with 12 points apiece, while Casterline and Alex Quinn had 9 points apiece.
Nine different Lumberjacks scored in the win. Mountain said that's been the theme of the season.
"Strength in numbers has been our motto all year long, and it was that again tonight," he said. "Everyone contributed, but there's some guys who might not have scored, but they bring a lot to the table, as well."
The Jacks look to hoist their fifth sectional title, and first since 1961, when they return to Buff State to battle No. 1 Williamsville South at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 4.