NIAGARA FALLS — Faybion was feeling it from deep in this one.
Niagara Falls guards Faybion Prather and Jaemon "Mookie" Turner put the finishing touches on the Wolverines' 70-61 win over North Tonawanda on Tuesday as they enjoyed senior night at Niagara Falls High School. The Niagara Frontier League has been the Wolverines' (14-4, 11-0 NFL) all year, and they inched one step closer to an undefeated league season.
Prather had one of his best performances of the season, scoring 16 points aided by four 3-pointers. But two of those treys were what really decided the game, as his back-to-back makes late in the fourth put the Falls ahead for good.
Niagara Falls saw its dynamic duo do what it does best as well, with Turner (18 points) and Taylor Sanders (20 points) running the show offensively. Turner was extremely clutch here, knocking down 11 of 12 free throws in fourth quarter after Sanders fouled out without just under two and a half minutes left to play.
NT (12-5, 8-3) gave the Wolverines every run they could handle but it just wasn't enough in the end. The Lumberjacks' solid mix of scoring has been the theme all season, with Dante Moultrie (17), Cameron and Jordan Cutter (11 each), and Noah Fox (10) all scoring in double figures.
Prather knew the attention Turner would draw was key, allowing him to be open to hit the biggest shots of the night. Even through the highs and lows of the season and being on the short end of a chewing out from head coach Brent Gadacz, Prather is appreciative of his first-year head coach and the relationship they've formed.
"Basically all players get a little heated at the coach. But that's my guy, you feel me?" Prather said. "That's my coach, I'm gonna listen to him. If he yells at me, it is what it is, I'm on to the next play. Now we've just gotta get better knowing playoff time is coming, so all that catching an attitude, we've just gotta calm down, slow it up and just listen what coach says."
Gadacz acknowledged Prather has had his struggles, but added that he's come up big in games against Jamestown, St. Joe's, Kenmore West, Lockport and now NT, which Gadacz said was due to some plays being set up for the senior shooting guard.
Prather mentioned the team's depleted depth at the moment too, with the Wolveriens missing four players from the lineup due to injury or illness. Just seven players made appearances in the game.
"I knew it was gonna be a tough game tonight, especially shorthanded," Gadacz said. " ... We've got a couple JV kids up helping us out and I'm still excited for (the rest of the year). Dom Mackenzie did a nice job trying to fill in for the loss of our big guy (Bryce Smith), he's grabbing rebounds for us. But I think Joey Palka is doing a fantastic job of clogging up the middle.
"I mean, if we happen to get beat off the dribble, he's blocking shots, closing out, and then he's doing a better job rebounding and we're getting it inside to him a little bit more and he's been a little more effective there. And he's making his free throws, which is nice to see."
Gadacz has also enjoyed working with two of the best players in Western New York, his senior leaders, Turner and Sanders.
"(Sanders) hurt his ankle last game and it's actually not too bad, it's been bugging him a little bit but he played through it," Gadacz said. "But he said, 'Coach, I'm not losing on senior night, not on my senior night.' And guess what? He did his job. If you remember (Jordan) Cutter ... had close to 30 on us the first time and Taylor wanted him tonight and he held him to 11 points tonight, so I thought that was a pretty good job defensively for him, and then he made some big baseline jumpers that Mookie found him (on) in transition to keep us in the game.
" ... It's great having two seniors that are very good kids and very good players. It's great."
NT head coach Ryan Mountain tipped his cap to the Falls for their stellar defense on the night, which held the Jacks to their second-lowest point total of the season. Mountain believes the first half may have been where NT lost things, missing several close shots and putting itself in the hole early.
Real recognizes real, though, and Mountain knows in a game this tight one team must come out on top.
"It was a tie game and someone had to win and someone had to lose," Mountain said. "You've gotta give (Prather) credit for hitting those two huge shots back-to-back. You know it was gonna be whoever hit the two big shots was gonna win. So, even game under two minutes (to play), they won that last two minute game and that was it. But I couldn't be more prouder, coming into a hostile environment, a couple thousand people here, a school with 2,000 students. This is just gonna make us better for the sectionals."
Both squads close out their NFL schedules Friday, the Falls set for a 6:30 p.m. tip-off at Niagara Wheatfield while the Jacks welcome in Lockport at 7 p.m. Niagara Falls will take Lewiston Porter then next Wednesday for the NFL championship.
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.