Another year, another Section VI Class AA championship for Niagara Falls.
Or so it seems that way. With the fifth-ranked Wolverines (14-8) topping second-seeded Lancaster (14-8) on Saturday night at Buffalo State 61-56, it’s the 13th sectional championship – and the third in six years – for the school in boys basketball. This one, however, is the sweetest, according to coach Sal Constantino.
“One of the things that we’ve done, over the last few weeks, is get out of our own way,” Constantino said. “We had been shooting ourselves in the foot all season, with guys missing practices and how we carried ourselves on the court. Now, we’ve been avoiding those mistakes, and this is the end result.”
Senior Charles Lamar echoed those thoughts.
“This win is really sweet for us,” Lamar said. “Just getting better and better throughout the year – and for me, seeing how much better we’ve gotten since my freshman year here – it’s great to get this win, especially for the seniors on this team.”
From the opening tipoff, the contest was a slugfest between the Wolverines and the Legends. Each team went on scoring runs throughout the first half and each got critical stops at critical moments throughout the two quarters of play, leading to a slim 28-27 lead at the half for the Wolverines.
What swung the momentum towards the Wolverines’ favor for good, however, was a 10-2 run – including eight points in a 24-second span – in the third quarter that gave the team an eight-point lead that, for the most part, they wouldn’t relinquish again. Tazaun Rose scored half of those 10 points, and finished the game with a game-high 16 points, five assists and four steals.
“I thought we did a nice job in the first half,” Constantino said. “But once we started to contain the ball and clog up passing lanes, I think that’s what really changed the momentum of the game.”
From then on, the Legends found themselves playing catch-up and despite converting on a few free throws, the team never recovered.
Up next for the Wolverines will be the winner of Section V in the Far West Regionals next Saturday, but Constantino wanted to savor this win first – especially for his upperclassmen.
“I feel real good for our kids,” Constantino said. “Three of our seniors – Charles and Devin and Tyler Sanders – they were with us since we went 7-13 a couple of years ago. For them to have gone to three sectional title games and won two since then… I’d never ignore the heritage of what Niagara Falls basketball has been, but what Johnny Flynn and Paul Harris did, that was their accomplishments.
“Tonight is about these guys. I’m really happy and proud for them.”
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