Photo courtesy of Kathleen Kramer/simplemomentsphotography.net
Cheektowaga Central boys basketball coach Pat Cullinan came into Wednesday’s Class A-2 Section VI semifinal with a hope of containing Lewiston-Porter star freshman Roddy Gayle; the Warriors did OK in that regard. His hopes of stopping the rest of the Lancers, however, that didn’t happen.
Gayle’s 14-point performance was only good for a third-place tie on the team leaderboard as the balanced Lancers returned to the sectional title game for the first time in three years with a 75-44 win over the Warriors at Buffalo State College’s Sports Arena.
“I didn’t anticipate them being able to do things that they did with such ease, especially without it being Gayle,” Cullinan said. “So credit to them, that’s a good team win for them. I didn’t expect to lose at all – certainly not like that. I thought we had a shot but it wasn’t meant to be today.”
For a while, the underdog Warriors seemed poised to make a serious upset attempt. With Gayle limited by early foul trouble, Cheektowaga led for much of the first 12 minutes but that’s when the Lancers got started. Down three, Lew-Port scored 11 straight to surge ahead and then built a 36-24 halftime lead.
The third quarter was more of the same and it all added up to a 37-4 run by the Lancers that turned the game into a rout.
“We just had to focus on the defensive end,” Gayle said. “Once we got going on defense, that led to transition on the offensive end.”
Gayle’s evening was highlighted by a drive and one-handed jam with a little more than two minutes left that delighted the large contingent of Lancer fans that braved the snow for the long journey to Buff State.
Trent Scott scored 17 points to lead the Lancers (19-3). Zack Clayborne added 16, Jack Bernstein joined Gayle with 14, and Jalen Duff added 8. Overall, nine different Lew-Port players hit the score sheet.
“That makes us hard to stop,” Lew-Port coach Matt Bradshaw said. “Wanna stop Roddy? Then Trent will score, then Jalen will score, then Bernie will score, then Clayborne will score. We have balance and that’s why we’re in the final.”
Jaylen Williams scored 12 to lead Cheektowaga (12-8).
Lew-Port will play top-seed Amherst at 7 p.m. Saturday back at Buffalo State for the Class A-2 title. Much like the Lancers, the Tigers were in a dogfight for 1 1/2 quarters before pulling away for a 70-48 win over No. 4 seed Iroquois in the first game of Wednesday’s tripleheader.
The Chiefs took a one-point lead midway through the second quarter but Amherst responded with a 10-0 run and then put things away in the third quarter.
“The major key for us was to keep pushing,” Amherst standout Jaylen Stewart said. “Even though we were down and some people had their heads down, we had to keep pushing and we’d win it.”.
Stewart led Amherst with 23 points, while Jake Mullen added 14 and Ja’Kye Womack 10 for the Tigers.
After missing out on Buffalo State for the first time since 2011, Amherst returns to the championship game for the seventh time in eight years and will be seeking title No. 4.
“It never gets old,” Amherst coach Chris Kensy said. “One of my plyers asked if I still get nervous. Yeah, I still get the butterflies. There’s nothing like the atmosphere at Buffalo State.”
Matt Matla scored 15 points to lead Iroquois (13-8).
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