By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — When Kenmore West point guard Terell Ford began his varsity career this season he knew how big the shoes were that he'd be expected to fill.
His older brother, James Mallory, dominated on the hard wood as a Blue Devil and then went on to D-1 Central Connecticut State to play in college.
On Friday night, with his brother in the stands, Ford lived up to the family legacy, setting the tone for his team and helping it upset No. 6-seed Williamsville North, 56-53. He scored Ken West's first eight points, had 12 total in the first half and finished with 17 for the game.
"If your older brother was James Mallory, you have a lot to live up to. He is the x-factor this year. I thought I'd just bring him up and let him sit, but he's earned that starting spot. We're not leading at halftime if not for Terell. I mean, he was ripping rebounds away from centers. You don't teach that out of freshman that is about 140 pounds. He just doesn't care and he's all (about the) team."
Ford looked fearless in his team's biggest game of the season. He said he gets his confidence from his older brother.
"I had to play well because this was the biggest game for us and I haven't really done much the past few games," he said. "It was only right that I came out and set the tone. … My brother gives me confidence. Every day he makes me work hard and we work out together. He encourages me so much."
Late in the game, after two thirds of the Blue Devils' starting frontcourt watched from the bench (Quinton Campbell fouled out and Adam Fron left the game with a broken nose), Ford and the rest of the Ken West guards stepped up to hold off a relentless offensive explosion from Spartans standout Sterling Taplin. The junior scored 16 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter and almost single-handedly erased a 14-point, fourth quarter lead for the Spartans.
But Ford corralled a couple late rebounds and senior Joe Northrup shined in the fourth quarter. He finished with only six points, but his composure late in a one possession game and during an 0-for-7 stretch from the charity stripe helped the Blue Devils hold on.
"I can't say enough about our guards and the way they played tonight against one of the top teams in Western New York," Meetze said. "(Joe) played like he should have been playing his whole career. I think he's the smartest kid on the floor and I tell him all the time that I want the ball in his hands. He's probably the nuttiest kid on my team and he kept his composure more than anyone else out there. I don't think he got rewarded a lot out there tonight but he didn't complain and he stepped up like seniors do."
The Blue Devils led for most of the game after the hot start by Ford in the first quarter. Junior Alex Price hit big shot after big shot throughout the game, finishing with a team-high 21 points, including five 3-pointers.
With a 51-37 advantage with just under four minutes left in the fourth quarter, Taplin led the Spartans on a 14-1 run to bring his team to within one point at 52-51. Northrup scored Ken West's final four points and grabbed a big rebound away from a North big man to secure the win.
Meetze knew his guys would be in for a fight because of how good the Spartans have been this season.
"We played very physical in the first half and that kind of set the tone, but you know they're going to come back," he said. "Sterling is too good and they're well-coached. That second quarter scared me because they slowed us down to seven points and they figured out what they wanted to do. They've been here before and we haven't."
Kenmore West was upset at home last season by the Spartan and Price said it was a good feeling to return the favor. The win also marks the first time Ken West has advanced to the Final Four since 1988, and the first time since it's been held at Buffalo State College.
Price said that the Blue Devils are one of the top teams in Western New York when they're clicking on all cylinders and playing like a team.
"First time in Kenmore West history to go to Buff State, feeling great," he said. "We came and played as a team today and that's what we wanted to do. Everybody said it would be an upset and it was a upset — for us. I'm ready, let's go, I'm ready. Ready for Buff State. … We're one of the top teams in Western New York. If we play as a team nobody can stop us. I want a championship."
Campbell finished with six points and 10 rebounds in limited minutes because of foul trouble. When he was in the game he was a force on both ends with his rebounding.
The Blue Devils have struggled at times this season when they were forced to deal with adversity, but Meetze said that the recent turnaround shows how much his players care and want to win.
"We believed and that was the biggest thing we talked about — you have to believe and you have to follow the game plan," he said. "You have to handle adversity and we did tonight. That's a big change over the past few weeks. Sometimes you have to go real low and that three-game stretch with the Falls, Lockport and NT, that's probably the lowest we were.
"We've come back and played hard every day," he continued. "I like where our heads are at. I'm just excited to go to Buff State, I'll worry about the Falls on Monday."
Ken West meets Niagara Falls next Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.Contact sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.