By Brandon Schlager email@example.com
Niagara Gazette — BUFFALO — One shot stood between the Lewiston-Porter boys basketball team and its first ever chance to play for a Section VI championship.
Unfortunately for the Lancers, it was a shot they didn’t take.
Trailing by two points with 10.2 seconds to play, senior Zack Keegan corralled a desperation pass and dribbled past the perimeter line, but by the time he had a chance to look up and take his shot, top-seeded Amherst was already celebrating its 51-49 win in a Class A-2 sectional semifinal game Wednesday at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.
Lew-Port, the No. 4 seed, was playing in its second straight sectional semifinal after making it to Buffalo State for the first time in school history last season.
“I’m really proud of my kids,” Lancers coach Matt Bradshaw said. “We didn’t come out victorious, but my kids hung in there the entire game. They fought back and we were one shot away from advancing.”
The Tigers (18-3) started the game strong on an 8-2 run to take a lead into the second quarter before the Lancers (12-8) answered with an 8-0 run of their own to pull ahead with about six minutes to play in the first half.
It was their only lead of the game.
Amherst dominated the boards and the remainder of the half while Lew-Port came up short on seemingly every free throw and rebound attempt, allowing the Tigers to close out and 18-point second quarter on a 14-1 run that put them ahead 26-16 at the half.
The Lancers trailed by as many as 12 points as they struggled to score in the second half.
But senior Tyler Dietz, playing his first and only season on varsity, kept them in the game.
He collected eight rebounds and scored a team-high 14 points, many of which came in late in the third and fourth quarters to allow Lew-Port to hang around.
Dietz was also tasked with matching up against Amherst’s 6-foot-7 center, Amadi Ikpeze.
“Tyler did a great job for us,” Bradshaw said. “I thought if we could control the pace and keep the game in the 50s, then we would have a good chance. And we were right there.”
Lew-Port took off on a furious 14-2 run late in the fourth quarter to close the Tigers’ lead to 47-46 with 2:19 to play, but a 3-pointer by Jordan Nwora, who finished with 13 points, all but sealed the deal.
Bradshaw called the Lancers’ final timeout to draw up a play to get the ball into the red-hot hands of Jernard Jackson, but a tight double team forced the ball to Keegan, where the season came to an end.
Jackson finished with 11 points and Keegan scored 10 in his final game. Leading scorer Craig Paige managed just eight points.
Amherst’s T.C. Brown equalled Dietz’s game-high 14 points. Junior guard Darien Lowe also added 11 points for the Tigers.
While the loss marks the end of the season for the Lancers, the program’s first win over Niagara Falls in years and the promise of returning guards Paige and Jackson means they have plenty to look forward to heading into next season.
“This was a great season,” Bradshaw said. “I haven’t enjoyed coaching this much in several years with the group of kids that I have. … There’s nothing to be upset about.
“We were just one shot short.”
Follow contributing sports reporter Brandon Schlager on Twitter @B_Schlag.