Basketball is often a game of inches at times, where one exertion of hustle can sometimes be the difference. Despite trailing for much of the night, the Orchard Park Quakers made those game-winning plays when they needed to most.
Multiple defensive stops in the final minutes lifted Orchard Park over previously unbeaten Williamsville North, 73-71, in ECIC I action on Monday night.
“Kids just stepped up defensively on that end of the floor a little bit,” Quakers coach Chris Frankowski said. “Their kids shot the lights out tonight … It wasn’t the stifling defense that we’re actually kind of known for at times, but we fought tonight, and that’s what you need to do in a league game.”
In a battle between two top 10 large schools in Western New York, both sides showed exactly why they fit into that grouping.
Strong play in the paint by Orchard Park’s Brad Fowler, as well as the driving ability of Tino Mancabelli, showed early where the Quakers wanted to attack their opposition. However, on the other side of the court, and for most of the night, it was the Breht Swiech show.
The Spartan sharpshooter buried seven of his nine 3-pointers in the first half, tallying 27 of his game-high 39 points at halftime. His seventh ‘3’ capped off the second quarter with North leading 44-36.
“On the offensive end, that’s a lot of points for a high school game for two teams to come out like that and shoot the way they did,” Will North coach Chuck Swierski said. “Orchard Park played well, I thought we played well, but down the stretch Orchard Park played better.”
Out of the break, the Quakers (6-3, 1-1) and Spartans (6-1, 2-1) exchanged blows, as Fowler once again proved large with 11 of his team-high 20 points in the third quarter. After North managed to jump out to a 58-50 advantage late in the third, which tied the largest lead of the night by either side, a 12-2 Orchard Park run that extended into the final stanza was capped off by two Chase Kline 3-pointers.
“Our offensive ball movement is really good, and when I get the ball down low all I do is look to score,” Fowler said. “If its not there, I know I can just kick it out for an inside shot or a three from the guards.”
After the Quakers’ run gave them a 62-60 lead with 7:00 to go, each offensive possession became extremely valuable, with neither team able to jump out to an edge larger than three points the rest of the game. So, after Jackson Roskow tallied a layup to put Orchard Park up 73-71 with 1:10 left to play, the entire Quaker team knew strong defense and winning battles could secure them a win.
In the end, two offensive rebounds off missed free throws by Mancabelli helped kill precious seconds, and sound defense prevented the Spartans from getting a good look to tie or win the game prior to the buzzer sounding.
“We were all probably hurting, it was a long game, big fight. I just dug in at the end,” said Mancabelli, who filled up the stat sheet with 17 points, seven rebounds, and six assists. “It’s a big league win. They were at a good place in the league standings, so hopefully we were able to mix it up today and contend at the top.”
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