Success for the Panthers boys basketball team is becoming somewhat of a culture around Newfane. Tuesday night, the Panthers clinched their third straight Niagara-Orleans League title by defeating host Medina, 51-50. Another year of supremacy in the N-O finishes up tonight as the Panthers host Roy-Hart to complete their league schedule. But while Newfane has enjoyed great success in recent regular seasons, the playoffs have been another story.

Two seasons ago, a strong Panthers squad drew a tough first round matchup with Yale Cup-power Buffalo East, which ended Newfane’s season. Last year, they were unable to complete the difficult task of defeating the same team three times in one season, and fell to scrappy league-foe Medina. So what might be different this season in Newfane, where playoff wins have been hard to come by? The difference could be the man in the middle, Dave Shuey.

As a junior, Shuey stood at 6-foot-3, recorded a season-high 17 points against Amherst and contributed off the bench. This season, Shuey stands at an imposing 6-foot-6, is averaging a double-double with 15.5 points and 10 rebounds, and in entrenched as the team’s starting center. Shuey recorded a career-high 25 points in a win over Akron and hauled down his personal-best 17 rebounds during a visit to Albion this year.

Shuey’s success is all the more impressive when you consider his experience. His senior season marks only the third year of organized basketball for the big man. Prior to his freshman year, Shuey moved with his mother, Michaelene Raymond, to Florida. After spending a year in the sunshine state, they returned to Newfane and Shuey began his playing days on the court.

“His all-around game has improved tremendously considering this is only his third season,” Newfane head coach Scott Fuller said. “He has put the time in, stayed in the weight room, and stepped up his defense.”

Fuller also cited some positive aspects of Shuey’s game not typically associated with the play of interior presence.

“Besides being our leading rebounder, Dave sees the floor well and has been making some nice passes. Also, his shot has improved greatly, which adds another element,” the coach said.

While his primary location is under the basket, Shuey has been coming out to the perimeter more often and keeping defenses off balance. He has shown a nice touch from outside, while also utilizing the threat of the shot to get to the basket.

“Every year, I’ve gained a little more confidence. On JV, I worked on getting up to block shots and rebound, rather than just rely on my height. Last season, I wasn’t allowed to shoot the 3-pointer, so I worked at my shot. Now, I’ve been given the green light to shoot from the outside, so I worked hard this summer on faking the shot and getting to the basket,” Shuey said. “Coach Fuller and (head junior varsity) coach Klump have done so much to help me get to where I’m at today.”

The Panthers will need Shuey to be at the top of his game when they head into sectional playoffs next week. Newfane, a class B-1 school, is in a strong playoff bracket with state-ranked Olean, Alden (who spent time in the state poll), Fredonia (who the Panthers narrowly defeated earlier this season), and N-O league-power Akron. Newfane will likely host either Medina or Southwestern in the quarterfinals next week. Fuller recognizes the challenge ahead and feels the team’s chemistry and balance is in the right place.

“There’s some great teams this year in class B-1, including Medina who we may have to face again. This group plays together as a team and has found its rhythm. Dave’s presence inside makes us better on the perimeter at both ends,” Fuller said.

Shuey agreed with his coach, and added “the team is very close this season, unselfish, and committed to winning. It also helps that I’m best friends with the leading scorer (Trey Sherrie) and the guy setting everyone up (Nick Vona).”

At this time next year, Shuey will be at Hilbert College, where he has been recruited to play basketball. While he will most certainly have fond memories of his team and senior season on the court, he hopes that this is the year Newfane takes a step forward to contend for the section.

“We achieved our first team goal (winning the league) and I’m ready to do whatever I can to help this team reach the section championship game, which is our second goal,” Shuey said.

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