By Anthony Fiorello firstname.lastname@example.org
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — TONAWANDA – Ben Stich scored 24 points and Tristan Boling added 10 of his own to lead the fourth-seeded Tonawanda Warriors boys basketball team past the No. 12 Alden Bulldogs 41-32 in Section VI Class B-1 quarterfinal action Friday night at Tonawanda High School.
The win, which will send the Warriors (12-7) to the semifinals Tuesday at Buffalo State for the third time in four years, was one of the team’s greatest, according to head coach Hank Hughes.
“Tonight’s win feels unbelievable,” Hughes said. “This is probably one of the biggest wins in our program’s last 50 years or so. To be able to play at Buff State for a third time in four years is huge.”
From the opening tip, the game between turned out to be a showcase of defense and physicality. Neither team was able to score much through the first two quarters, combining for just 27 points while dealing with a barrage of players disrupting the flow of the game by getting rough with one another.
“We missed a ton of open shots and we weren’t too crisp, but we had to dig down and figure out a way to win,” Hughes said. “Sometimes you can get frustrated when shots aren’t going in, but we just had to battle to win this one. Alden’s a tough school, and I expected them to bring that type of mentality tonight. They did, and we needed to keep our poise to come away with the win and we were successful at that.”
“We’re not as talented as we have been in years past, so in order to become a successful team, I think we needed to develop a little more of an edge and put some more grit into our game,” he said. “We’ve really had to work hard and be focused every day in practice to develop that mindset, and it definitely paid off tonight.”
The third quarter remained close until the Warriors started to open the floodgates. The team was able to build a small cushion by increasing its lead to as much as 10 late in the quarter, but the Bulldogs (8-13) wouldn’t go quietly. Alden kept battling back through the fourth and threatened to end the Warriors’ season, but Stich and fellow senior Paul Palladino hit 3-pointers with just over two minutes left to swing momentum back to Tonawanda’s side for good.
“Basketball’s a game of ebbs and flows,” Stich said. “We’ve played in a lot of close games before, and we knew that if we just kept our focus on what was happening in front of us, we would come away with a victory. We were able to make some clutch shots and came up with some big stops with not much time left. and those were the results of hard work.”
Tonawanda will now turn its attention to knocking off the top-ranked team in Class B-1, Fredonia, a team that will present a big challenge for the Warriors, according to Hughes.
“They’re very fundamentally sound and they have five guys who can really score,” Hughes said. “We’re going to have to watch a lot of film on Fredonia, because they’re not the No. 1-ranked team for no reason. It’s a very tall task, but we’ll be up for it.”