Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — Three and a half minutes into Thursday night’s Section VI Class AA semifinal game between Kenmore West and Niagara Falls, Blue Devils center Quinton Campbell picked up his second foul and was forced to the bench.
When he returned in the second quarter he was almost immediately whistled for an offensive foul, but Ken West coach Mike Meetze left his big man in the game. Two minutes later, he picked up number four and didn’t return until the fourth quarter.
With their defensive anchor on the bench for most of the game and up against the No. 2 large school in Western New York, the Blue Devils dug deep and accepted the challenge. Shay Cuadra exploded in the second half, scoring 16 of his team-high 18 points, but it wasn’t enough in the end, as Niagara Falls senior J.J. Wilkins netted a game-high 26 points to lead the Wolverines to a 72-62 win at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.
Meetze was proud of the way his team dealt with adversity after Campbell went out.
“Im so proud of this group, people wrote us off months ago, we had that little slide and it wasn’t looking good at halftime,” he said. “Early in the season they would have packed in their bags, felt sorry for ourselves — (but) they put a scare in the Falls.”
The Blue Devils cut it to five late in the third and Meetze was thrilled with the way they were running their sets and maintaining their composure.
But Wilkins sensed Ken West building some momentum and confidence, so he calmly buried a pair of 3-pointers on back to back possessions to settle his team down and rebuild the Falls’ double-digit lead. The Blue Devils made a few runs down the stretch, but the Falls’ experience helped it hold them off.