NORTH TONAWANDA — What a night it was for the Lumberjacks.
North Tonawanda took care of business against Niagara Wheatfield, scorching the Falcons, 80-60, Friday on senior night at North Tonawanda High School. The Lumberjacks (12-4, 7-3 Niagara Frontier League) keep exploding offensively, scoring over 70 for the 11th time this season and eclipsing 80 for the fourth time.
The Jacks took control early with a 16-5 first quarter, and even though NW (7-10, 4-7) fought back and cut the deficit all the way to six in the third quarter, Luke Granto’s three straight steal-to-layup conversions put the game away for good.
NT had another well-rounded attack from Jordan Cutter (25 points, 5 3-pointers, 4 steals, 2 blocks), Dante Moultrie (14 points, 6 assists, 2 steals), Cameron Cutter (10 points, 9 rebounds) and Granto (15 points, 3 steals).
The Falcons were led by TJ Robinson (25 points) and Alex Fletcher (13 points, 3 3-pointers) as the youthful backcourt continues to fuel NW’s offense.
“This feels good because, you know, we came out last year for the playoffs and they kind of upset us,” Jordan Cutter said of last year’s sectional game, which allowed the Falcons to reach Buffalo State for the Class A-1 sectional semis. “It’s kind of revenge, but other than that we’re just kind of like looking on, looking forward. Just trying to get to (the) playoffs, get through (the) playoffs and get to Buff State.”
Falcons head coach Erik O’Bryan appreciated the fight his kids showed all game and knows they’ll take their lumps having such a youthful backcourt. But he tipped his cap to his former staff members and NT head coach Ryan Mountain for pulling away in the long run.
Mountain thought, with how well they had been playing coming in, the Falcons would be a tough team to put away until the late stages. But with as deep of a roster as there is in Western New York, he is thankful to have a group with many capable scorers and shooters alike.
“Traditionally, over the last 10 years, we’ve always played 8-10 guys. We believe in that as far as team spirit,” Mountain said. “ ... This team is special because we’ve had majority of these guys for two years so they know the system. And then we’re able to add on to the system. ... What’s beautiful about it is every night it’s someone else’s night and that’s what’s tough.
“ ... I’m a defensive coach, first and foremost, and if I’m looking at our squad, I’m scared. Because I don’t know who I’m gonna stop. And if one guys struggling, someone else picks him up.”
Cutter agreed with his coach, saying how he loves being on a team with a bench unit capable of scoring even when he may be going through an off stretch.
This one was bigger than basketball though, as the NT athletic community honored the fallen Mike Marra pregame with his family in attendance. Cutter said he was good friends with Marra, adding it felt good to being able to honor his memory with the team on the court.
Mountain also talked about honoring Marra after knowing him from a teacher-student perspective. He knows how important it is for the NT community to be there for school nurse Mary Marra and Mike’s twin sister Megan.
“We have eight seniors, so it’s very important to them (to honor Mike),” Mountain said. “They just went through 12 years with Mike through school. ... (Mary) mentioned to me on Tuesday that she was gonna be coming to our game out of appreciation, we went over to Mike’s wake as a team and she was returning the favor by coming to support us on senior night.
“I thought it was an opportunity for the team to show love and appreciation for one of the faculty members and someone that takes care of them when they’re sick.”
NT is back in action with a 6:30 p.m. tip-off Tuesday night at Niagara Falls. NW will look to bounce back against the Falls as well, when the Wolverines and Falcons faceoff at 6:30 p.m. Feb. 14 at Wheatfield.