Tonawanda News — Heading into the sectional boys basketball playoffs, North Tonawanda senior Joe Piotrowski said his experienced, veteran Lumberjack squad feared no team.
In the quarterfinal round against a Sweet Home group with serious upset potential, the Jacks (13-6, 9-5 Niagara Frontier League) demonstrated exactly what Piotrowski exclaimed before the game in a 48-39 victory: no fear.
But the road only gets tougher this evening when the fourth-seeded Jacks, making their first trip to Buffalo State College since the 2009-10 season, meet No. 1 Williamsville South at 6 p.m.
“Will. South is a high scoring team that averaged about 62 points per game this season, so our defensive coverage needs to be tight,” said NT coach Ryan Mountain. “They want to try and run out in transition and they shoot the ball extremely well from the three-point arc. So we’re going to have to defend the three-point line like our life depended on it.”
The Billies (10-8, 8-3) rely heavily on standout Sam Castronova, who averaged over 17 points a game on the season.
Mountain said his NT squad must locate Castronova at all times because of his ability to shoot the ball and score inside.
“He is a great perimeter shooter and can finish with both the right and left hand. He is also the football team’s quarterback, so you know he is a warrior,” Mountain said.
The Jacks will continue to lean on Piotrowski and point guard Nehemiah Stone, but it was junior Chris Woodard who had the monster game against Sweet Home. He scored 18 points, 11 rebounds and five blocks, and NT will count on his ability to defend in the paint and disrupt passing lanes against a Billies team that likes to move up and down the floor.
Mountain said the environment at Buffalo State is filled with energy and excitement, and he wants his team to let those two factors provide an assist. But when the whistle blows he told his guys they need to focus inside the lines.
“It’s every high school player’s goal to get to the final four and play in front of a couple thousand people,” Mountain said. “I like where we are at this point in the season — we’re battle tested and this group has been together for 40 varsity basketball games. Hopefully that determination and will that we’ve built up through our experiences will help us on the court.”Follow @tonanewssports and sports editor @MattParrino on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.