Midway through the third quarter Tyler Aquilina drained a 3-pointer, and though his Blue Devils were only up by just six points, you could tell by Aquilina’s reaction-and the way it lit up everyone in blue and white that it was no ordinary shot.
It was the game-defining shot the Blue Devils had been waiting for.
Aquilina had 32 points as No.3 Kenmore West beat No.6 Williamsville North, 73-54, in Section VI Class AA action that was played at the Kenmore West Athletic Complex Friday night.
The Blue Devils now advance to the semifinals where they will face No.2 Lancaster at Buffalo State College. As of press time it was not known if this would be the 5:15 or 6:45 game.
The contest looked like it would be anything but lopsided as Ken-West, tri-champs of the Niagara Frontier League, clung to a slim 30-29 lead at halftime.
It was a bumpy start for the Blue Devils as they had three starters get tagged with two fouls each within the first three minutes of the game. The Spartans were winning the battle of the boards and getting lots of second and third looks at the basket. Aquilina said the halftime talk centered around cleaning up those aspects of the game.
“We had a sloppy first half. It wasn’t our best first half,” Aquilina said. “We got in the locker room and coach (Mike Meetze) was telling us all the things we needed to do to put this team away. I think it kinda clicked when we got on the court for the third quarter. We got in the huddle we told each other what we were about to do and it showed.”
Meetze said that the Spartans showed exactly what they expected to see from them. Meetze expected Will-North to slow the game, hammer the boards and run long offensive possessions. Which they did. Meetze, however, said that they were a bit by surprised at how explosive Jairus Huggins (14 points) was and how tough Anthony Maniscalco was on the boards.
Ken-West turned the tables on the Spartans in the second half by not only out-rebounding them-especially in the Will-North end. They also succeeded in taking away the 3-point shot from Will-North.
“That’s what it came down to, especially in the third quarter. I’m not sure how many offensive rebounds they had on us, but they had so many,” said Will-North coach Chuck Swierski
“We made the initial stops, then we gave up the second and third opportunities.”
Meetze said the evidence that his team was doing a better job on the perimeter was the fact that the Spartans only had four points-all of free throws-in the first four minutes of the second half.
“Then all of a sudden we were up by (six) and you could feel it kind of turn,” said Meetze.
The turning point, again, was Aquilina’s 3-pointer that put Ken-West up 39-36.
“We needed that,” Meetze said. “When him or Tal (James) are hitting 3’s our confidence goes through the roof. There’s a reason why (Aquilina) is one of the best players in the league.”
Aquilina had four 3’s, as did James who finished with 23 points.
The Spartans did their best to slow the game down. And it worked to a degree early on, but, Swierski said once the Blue Devils started getting more aggressive on the offensive boards and began playing more run-and-gun there wasn’t much they could to do slow them down.
“Then we’re so compact on the inside we left shooters open on the outside,” he said.
Ultimately the Spartans did not have the team speed to keep pace with the more athletic Blue Devils, including guard Tal James who had 23 points.
Ken-West will be making its first appearance at Buff St. in four years.
“I think we’re ready,” said Aquilina. “Our goal isn’t just to get to Buff St., but to win it. We have the potential to do that.”
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