By JOHN LIKANJE
GREECE, N.Y. – McQuaid’s bid for a second straight trip to the NYS semifinals fell short Saturday night at Greece Athena High School. In a tightly contested game through the first three quarters, the Knights were unable to stay close in the final period in an eventual 84-71 loss to Niagara Falls (VI) in the Class AA Far West Regionals.
After freshman guard Justus Ross-Simmons drove right down the lane for a layup to give the Knights a slim 47-46 lead, the Niagara Falls Wolverines came alive for a 16-5 run to take a 62-52 edge. Freshman Willie Lightfoot invigorated the Wolverines with eight points on a pair of right-corner three-pointers and a floater.
“Every time I watch him (Lightfoot), my heart’s pumping,” Wolverines head coach Sal Constantino explained. “He’s (Lightfoot) got a different gear.”
“I’m supposed to be the chosen one, so we had to make it happen,” Lightfoot said on securing the victory.
Junior guard Jaemon Turner knocked down a floater and made a layup. Sophomore Jalen Bradberry netted four free throws. During the surge, the Wolverines forced the Knights into five missed field goals and four turnovers in 13 possessions.
“We put in a little bit of zone stuff this week,” Constantino explained of his squad’s game plan. “Last time we played them (McQuaid), we thought they really scouted us well. Our strength is definitely our perimeter players. I think when they start getting up and down the floor, we’re really good.”
One game after scoring 39 points in the Wolverines’ win over Williamsville North in the Section VI Class AA final, Lightfoot stung the Knights with 32 more, including 22 in the second half. The freshman guard dished out four assists, collected three rebounds and swiped a steal.
“We got a great team,” Lightfoot explained. “They do a good job of getting me the ball, getting me to spots to create for them.”
“He’s just letting the game come to him a little bit,” Constantino said about Lightfoot. “We told him to be our catalyst.”
Bradberry netted eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter as the Wolverines outscored the Knights, 33-22. The sophomore forward grabbed six rebounds, handed out four assists, blocked a shot and had a steal.
“Jalen’s probably the best scorer in West New York in my eyes,” Lightfoot said about Bradberry. “He can score the ball very well.”
Turner scored 14 points, collected a trio of assists, a pair of steals and two rebounds. Josiah Harris knocked down three of his four long-range shots in the first half. For the night, the senior guard scored 13 points along with three rebounds, two assists and a steal.
“Once we started to drive it and kick it out to each other and start to get that ball moving around and stuff, they built momentum for us,” Constantino noted.
Niagara Falls scored 23 points off turnovers while McQuaid only had six.
For McQuaid, Kobe Long scored a team-high 20 points. The junior guard pulled down four rebounds and handed out three assists.
— Paul Gotham (@PickinSplinters) March 10, 2019
Jermaine Taggart recorded a double-double of 14 points and 13 rebounds. The junior forward had an assist, a block and a steal as well.
“They’ve (Long and Taggart) had to battle through being face-guarded and having people making it really difficult on them and Niagara Falls did a really good job on that,” Knights head coach Jack Leasure explained. “Playing some triangle-and-two and making them have to work for everything they do.”
Senior guard Jon Catone netted 12 points, tallied eight assists and grabbed four rebounds.
— Paul Gotham (@PickinSplinters) March 10, 2019
Senior center Connor Zamiara chipped in 10 points and hauled in eight rebounds.
“He’s been the heart and soul of this thing over the last couple of years,” Leasure said about Zamiara. “He’s been nothing but a great teammate, great leader, and worked really hard to get where he’s at. He exemplifies everything we’re trying to do.”
McQuaid outscored Niagara Falls, 42-34, in the paint. The Knights had 23 second-chance points compared to the Wolverines’ 12.
Niagara Falls advances to the state semifinals to play the winner of Saratoga Springs (II) vs. West Genesee (III) Friday at 5:00 PM at Floyd L. Maines Arena in Binghamton.
NIAGARA FALLS (21-3)
Willie Lightfoot 11-19 7-7 32; Jalen Bradberry 4-12 8-9 16; Jaemon Turner
5-8 4-5 14; Josiah Harris 4-9 1-2 13; Moran Montgomery 2-3 2-2 6; Naim
Bradley 1-3 0-0 3; Joe Palka 0-0 0-0 0; Faybuon Prather 0-0 0-0 0; Arthur
Miller 0-0 0-0 0; Jaden Turner 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 27-54 22-25 84.
Kobe Long 6-14 6-8 20; Jermaine Taggart 6-17 2-4 14; Jon Catone 6-13 0-0 12;
Connor Zamiara 4-7 2-2 10; Justus Ross-Simmons 3-9 1-2 8; Michael Maloney
2-3 0-2 4; Brandon Simms 1-1 0-0 2; Harry Bruu 0-1 1-2 1; Will Anderson 0-0
0-0 0; Brady Darby 0-0 0-0 0; Seamus Hogan 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 28-65 12-20 71.
Niagara Falls…………….. 18 16 17 33 – 84
3-point goals–Niagara Falls 8-23 (Josiah Harris 4-8; Willie Lightfoot 3-6;
Naim Bradley 1-2; Moran Montgomery 0-1; Jaemon Turner 0-2; Jalen Bradberry
0-4), McQuaid 3-18 (Kobe Long 2-9; Justus Ross-Simmons 1-3; Jon Catone 0-2;
Connor Zamiara 0-1; Michael Maloney 0-1; Jermaine Taggart 0-2). Fouled
out–Niagara Falls-None, McQuaid-Harry Bruu; Connor Zamiara.
Rebounds–Niagara Falls 23 (Jalen Bradberry 6), McQuaid 38 (Jermaine Taggart
13). Assists–Niagara Falls 14 (Jalen Bradberry 4; Willie Lightfoot 4),
McQuaid 14 (Jon Catone 8). Total fouls–Niagara Falls 20, McQuaid 22.
Technical fouls–Niagara Falls-Jalen Bradberry, McQuaid-Jermaine Taggart.