With the season on the line, Niagara Falls head coach Sal Constantino didn’t really need to draw up a play. He just needed to let Willie Lightfoot be Willie Lightfoot.
Lightfoot saved the day with a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the end of regulation and then delivered in overtime as the Wolverines won their fourth straight Section VI championship with a 72-64 title game victory over Williamsville North on Saturday afternoon.
“Guess what? That certainly wasn’t drawn up, I can tell you that,” Constantino said. “That’s 100 percent him making a play.”
Lightfoot did a lot of that on Saturday afternoon in a performance for the ages on the grand stage. The freshman superstar scored 39 points – 32 after halftime – and at one point scored 20 straight Niagara Falls points.
He shined the most when he was needed most. The top-seeded Spartans, who led most of the way, were up 63-60 after two Jacob Belote free throws with 8.4 seconds left. After a timeout, Lightfoot delivered a long 3-pointer that dropped just before the buzzer.
“I just put up a prayer and it went in,” Lightfoot said. “I was feeling it. I knew it was going in.”
Overtime was controlled by Niagara Falls as Lightfoot scored seven straight to seal the deal. North was limited to just one free throw in the extra session.
“It was a wrap after that,” Lightfoot said. “There was nothing they could do with us then. We had our confidence back.”
North led throughout most of the final three quarters of regulation and the Spartans were up by as many as 11 in the fourth quarter and by 10 with a little less than four minutes to play. But that’s when Lightfoot and friends went to work.
“We just tried to tell them all good teams play from behind, you can’t always play with the lead,” Constantino said. “You want to find a game you’re going to remember? It’s not going to be a game where you blew the other team out, it’s a game like this. I’ll remember it for the excitement of the game and I’ll remember it for the character of the kids.”
Jaemon Turner added 16 points for the Wolverines (20-3), who will play next Saturday night in the Far West Regionals at Greece Athena High School (Section V).
Meanwhile, it was a dissapointing finish to a dream season for Williamsville North (20-3). Belote scored 18 points to lead the Spartans. Johnathan Abaya added 12 points, Joe Nusall netted 10, and Scott Hopkins nine for the Spartans, who came oh-so-close to the first Section VI title in program history.
“They’re all good, solid kids,” Spartans coach Chuck Swierski said. “They do the right things, they get good grades and they’re good athletes on top of it. They deserve better.”
Leave a Reply