KENMORE — Niagara Falls boys basketball was able to display the hearts of champions.
Despite only six players playing for the Wolverines, they were able to defeat Lewiston-Porter, 71-65, in the Niagara Frontier League title game Wednesday night at Kenmore West High School. The Falls (16-4, 13-0 NFL) wraps up an undefeated league season and helps head coach Brent Gadacz win his first league championship in his inaugural season at the helm.
Early on this was a duel of arguably the NFL's two best players, as the Falls' Jaemon "Mookie" Turner and Lew-Port's Roddy Gayle Jr. dazzled with 28 and 29 points respectively. Turner was able to hit three 3's in the game and distributed with ease, as opposed to Gayle's ferocious attack on the rim that include two monstrous dunks and an alley-oop jam.
With Turner and Gayle respectively scoring 21 and 23 points by the half, the question of the second half would be who's supporting cast would step up. Undoubtedly it was the Wolverines, who saw Aarien "Oobie" Robinson (16 points, four 3-pointers) and Faybion Prather (12 points, three 3-pointers) extend the Lancers out with their long-range shooting.
Lew-Port (12-8, 9-3 NFL) came up just short, with Jalen Duff's 14 points (all in the second half) and three 3-pointers, as well as Mehki Starks nine points falling short in the comeback efforts.
Gadacz called the win a really big accomplishment for his group considering the team's limited depth. With players like Bryce Smith and Taylor Sanders not even suiting up for the game, the Falls's first year head coach couldn't be more proud of his bunch.
"I was telling the guys earlier, for what we try to do in our system, the next guy can step in and we're not really losing that much," Gadacz said. "But I have a lot of guys that play hard. Dominic McKenzie, Caleb Tillman (they) play really hard. It's nice to have Aarien playing hard tonight, he's a lot calmer. It's a beautiful story for me, for him, the kid's gotten some help that he needed for some certain things. (It) got him in the right direction and he's thrilled, he seemed like a different kid tonight. Which I'm really proud of for him, and for that and he did a nice job, stayed real calm today and that's a big step for him. I hope he can continue to do that throughout the playoffs when the game gets close.
Gadacz also talked about Prather who has come on in recent weeks as a scorer and shooter, Turner running the show once again, Tillman bringing energy as he returns from being hospitalized with an infection and Joey Palka clogging the paint and cleaning the glass.
With ten 3-pointers made in the game, Gadacz believes that his team outshoots most teams in Western New York with the amount of treys they get up everyday. And that barrage was felt, with Turner adding to that mix as he always seems to do so.
When Gadacz said this season would be a coming out party for "Mookie," he wasn't wrong. Now he's fully established himself at the top of the point guard heap in all of WNY.
"As far as a point guard is concerned, or a guard, I'll take Jaemon Turner over any point guard in Western New York or guard in Western New York right now," Gadacz said. "Anyone, he's tough. He's a good kid and it makes it even better; he's a great kid."
Lew-Port head coach Matt Bradshaw was most disappointed in the fact that his guys struggled on the boards and he feels that they did not bring as much intensity to the defensive end of the floor in comparison to their offense. He believes there was one specific factor that was the Lancers downfall on Wednesday.
"Effort, Niagara Falls they outworked us. We've got good offensive players on our team with a lot of skill," Bradshaw said. "They got outworked. ... They didn't have their full squad and you have to give them credit, they wanted it. ... I've gotta challenge my kids, if we play like this, we could lose in the first round in the sectionals. ... Again, you've gotta give Niagara Falls credit, give Brent credit, he got these kids ready to play with a purpose."
Both teams have wrapped up the regular season schedule and will now wait for playoff seeding for the Class AA (Niagara Falls) and A-2 (Lew-Port) sectionals.
Follow sports reporter Khari Demos on Twitter @riri_demos. 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.