By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
NORTH TONAWANDA — Kenmore West coach Mike Meetze said that the North Tonawanda basketball team has always been like his team's kryptonite, but on Friday night the Lumberjacks looked like supermen.
NT shot 59 percent from the field, had three players score in double figures and held Ken West standout Quinton Campbell to only six points en route to a 68-47 runaway win.
The Jacks (7-6, 6-3 NFL) responded after an 81-35 drubbing at the hands of Niagara Falls on Jan. 18, which proved to be a good learning experience for them.
"We think it's the Falls and then everybody else," said NT coach Ryan Mountain. "We have a quote: 'Separation is in the preparation.' Russell Wilson from the Seattle Seahawks said that and we loved it. We said the only way we can beat them is if we do it in practice. I told them in the locker room, 'Listen to me now, believe me later. While we're learning how to win, we'll learn how to beat them.'"
The Blue Devils (9-4, 7-2 NFL) won big, 60-42, in the teams' first meeting, but the Jacks lost junior Michael Awad in the first quarter after he suffered a knee injury. He was the difference-maker Friday night.
He finished with 15 points, six blocks and five rebounds and went 4 for 5 from three-point range. His shot making was important, but Mountain, who said Awad was a huge contributor on offense and defense, thought his ability to take Campbell away from the basket on the defensive end opened more holes inside for the other bigs and penetrating guards.
The Jacks went up quickly in the first quarter and never looked back. Mountain, who usually employs a standard 2-3 zone defense, installed a 3-2 zone this week in practice in an attempt to confuse the Blue Devils.
Senior forward Ian Gilhousen, who finished with a game-high 16 points, seven rebounds and five steals, thought it worked well.
"Coach harped on overcoming adversity," he said. "We face a lot of adversity every day in practice and we work on getting on to the next best action. I think (Ken West) faced adversity and couldn't handle it. I think we got in their heads. We threw a different defense at them and we executed that really well."
Meetze anticipated NT's best effort before Friday's meeting and he thought his team just wasn't up to the challenge.
"NT outran us in transition, they got more easy baskets — everything that we talk about on our checklist, NT won everything on the checklist tonight," he said. "I don't think we really brought our defensive intensity. They did a really good job of beating our pressure tonight and making the extra passes. … They're a good team and I knew that. I knew this was one of our biggest games of the season and we just didn't come to play."
Campbell picked up two fouls in the first three minutes and had to sit for the rest of the first quarter. He returned in the second, where he scored all of his six points, before getting pulled in the third quarter after arguing with and bumping an official. He didn't return to the game.
Mountain said Campbell was "a no-touch" in the game, referring to the message he sent his players of not wanting the senior to touch the ball.
The Jacks outscored the Blue Devils 21-7 in the third quarter and they were visibly frustrated. Joe Northrup was hit was a technical foul after bumping NT's Nehemiah Stone and was subbed out of the game — he never returned. The Jacks finished the quarter on a 12-0 run to put the game out of reach.
"You're going to have (these) nights, but I was a little more disappointed in the way we handled ourselves when we got down," Meetze said. "You really learn about the character of your team when things aren't going well. I was more disappointed in the way we carried ourselves. … The credit has to go to them tonight, though. They played great, had a great game plan and it worked real well."
Blue Devils forward Adam Fron scored a team-high 12 points and Noah Whalen chipped in with 10, including two 3-pointers. Chris Woodard scored 12 points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Jacks.
Mountain is hoping his team can continue the momentum it generated in the win and said it all started by getting beat up by Niagara Falls.
"It sounds funny, but the Falls had a lot to do with this win," he said. "That was the worst beating I've taken as a coach in the five years I've been here, and I didn't have a problem with it because that team most likely is going to win a state championship. I firmly believe that. There wasn't a better team in the state that was going to prepare us to play Kenmore West, and that's the way we looked at it."
Contact sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.