With just two weeks left in the boys basketball regular season, the importance of each game is raised.
In the Niagara Frontier League, Niagara Falls (13-4, 10-0 NFL) picked up two wins this past week over Kenmore West and Lockport to remain undefeated in league play. North Tonawanda (12-4, 7-3) has been a recent tear, winning five straight since an upset loss to Kenmore East. Lewiston-Porter (10-7, 7-2) may have taken a tough loss to St. Joe's in Saturday's Centercourt Classic, but the Lancers compiled two league wins over Grand Island and Ken East while Roddy Gayle Jr. returned from injury.
Hats off to coach Matt Bradshaw leaning on guys like Jalen Duff, Mehki Starks, Joe Beatty and Jack Bernstein before Gayle returned to the court against the Bulldogs.
In the Niagara-Orleans League, Newfane (11-6, 7-3) got back on track with a win over Wilson (11-7, 6-4), snapping the Lakemen's five-game winning streak. The Panthers have a chance to tie Albion (12-4, 9-2) in league standings, with the two set to battle Thursday.
Let's take a look at what this week of basketball has in store for us:
GAME OF THE WEEK
North Tonawanda at Niagara Falls, 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
The Lumberjacks will be looking avenge their Dec. 17 loss to the Wolverines, which was one of the NFL's wildest games of the season. Despite the Falls taking as much as a 26-point lead, NT battled back before eventually falling in the end.
These are two of Western New York's top programs and have been playing like it. The Jacks' deep roster was on display last week, scoring 91 and 80 points in respective wins over Tonawanda and Niagara Wheatfield, while the Wolverines have won three of the last four contests behind the play of Jaemon "Mookie" Turner, Taylor Sanders and Faybion Prather.
"Mookie" just notched his 1,000th-career point Saturday against the Lions. Sanders has scored 26 and 31 points in the last two performances, while Prather has scored in double figures over the last three outings, giving a huge boost to team whose depth has been tested due to injuries and eligibility.
I'm intrigued to see who's going to lead the Jacks offensively on Tuesday for the Jacks. Will it be Jordan or Cameron Cutter? Dante Moultrie? Tyler Macneil, Noah Fox, or Luke Granto? Coach Ryan Mountain's offensive weapons will be on display and it'll be fun to watch how they come to play against the Falls' long, lengthy lineup.
Let's just kick back and get our popcorn ready for this one.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Avion Harris, Cardinal O'Hara
This Niagara Falls native has taken the ball into his court, leading the Hawks to four straight wins and victories in five of the last six games. He has averaged 18.5 points, 6.5 assists and four steals per game in the stretch, helping the Hawks notch a couple upset wins.
O'Hara knocked off Bishop Timon on Jan. 31, in part due to Harris' first-career triple-double (16 points, 12 assists, 11 rebounds). He also played well against a top-notch Middle Early College squad, then nearly recorded another triple-double when the Hawks took on St. Mary's (15 points, 9 assists, 8 steals).
What's next for Harris? Another shot for an upset win when the Hawks battle with 15-1 Health Sciences on Tuesday.
We mentioned how NT will be looking for revenge against the Falls this week, but there are more notable rematches to keep an eye on. Lew-Port will look to get back at CSAT on Tuesday after four-star prospect Gayle missed the first matchup, which led to the Lancers' first league loss of the season.
Newfane will also look to get back at Albion on Thursday, with the Purple Eagles winning the initial battle back on Jan. 14. And although Wilson handled Medina in their previous game on Jan. 14, the Lakemen will be looking to stay away from the Mustang's revenge tour after the latter beat both Albion and Newfane to close January.
Battles to watch
I know we've already discussed our game of the week, but there's too many gems to not highlight. We've got NF native Jalen Bradberry and Park being challenged by MEC, the Falls looking to slow down TJ Robinson and Niagara Wheatfield, and Lew-Port playing host to Section V's Bishop Kearney, with both squads being much tougher than records would indicate.
It should be a fun week of hoops all around as programs start to gear themselves up for sectionals.
Respond to sports reporter Khari Demos on Twitter @riri_demos or at email@example.com. Also, tune in to Khari at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on WGR 550’s ‘Inside High School Sports,’ as well as the ‘Greater WNY Sports Connection’ podcast, a collaboration with Jon Simon and WNY Athletics.