By MIKE MEILER
Niagara Gazette —
There have been a few constants to the beginning of Niagara Falls Wolverines basketball the past decade: top teams, home games and outstanding talent.
This year will be no different, with the 13th annual Cataract City Classic set to take place Friday and Saturday at Niagara Falls High School. Just as in the past, this year's tournament will include top local schools and a few top programs from the surrounding region.
"We always try to bring in some local talent and some top teams from outside areas," Niagara Falls athletic director John Forcucci said. "It's a good test for us to get a chance against good teams, and it gives other teams a chance to show what they've got."
This year's marquee matchups will pit the Wolverines against two regional powerhouses, Rochester's Bishop Kearney and Ohio's Brunswick Blue Devils, at 8 p.m. Friday and 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
Top teams bring top talent, which will certainly not be lacking at this year's tournament.
Niagara Falls' Jermaine Crumpton has committed to Canisius College, but he'll be far from the only Division I prospect on hand.
Kearney's 6-foot-9 senior Chinso Obokoh has committed to Syracuse. Antoine Anderson and 6-foot-11 junior Gods Power Ogide have also drawn D-1 interest, and 6-foot-9 sophomore Thomas Bryant is ranked the No. 3 prospect in the nation in his class, according to Rivals.com.
Williamsville North junior Sterling Taplin has three offers from D-1 schools, including the University at Buffalo, and is also getting looks from top programs like Syracuse and Michigan State. The Spartans also feature freshman Maceo Jack, son of new UB women's coach Felisha Legette-Jack.
Brunswick is one of the top schools in Ohio, led by junior point guard Ryan Badowski.
The tournament is divided into three sessions. Session I kicks off at 5 p.m. Friday with Sweet Home against Niagara-Wheatfield, followed by Batavia vs. Williamsville North at 6:30. Niagara Falls and Bishop Kearney close Friday's action.
Session II starts at noon Saturday with Grand Island against Wilson, which will be followed at 1:30 by Newfane-St. Mary's. Geneva will play Bishop Timon, Niagara Falls' opponent last year, at 3.
The final session begins at 4:30 p.m. with Depew against Niagara Catholic. Jamestown takes on Williamsville South at 6, and Niagara Falls-Brunswick follows.
Tickets for each three-game session are $5, which goes to the Niagara Falls Education Foundation, which co-sponsors the tournament with NFHS.
"They money they bring in they give back in scholarships and similar things for scholar-athletes," Forcucci said. "They volunteer to run the tournament, and we provide the setting.
"It's a lot of work. It's a long weekend for us, but it's a great tourney."