By Owen O'Brien
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — Tonawanda boys basketball coach Hank Hughes preached defense throughout the week of practice and his team received the message, judging by its 40-25 victory in the Class B-1 pre-quarterfinals on Wednesday night.
The Warriors (10-9) held Burgard (14-4) to only 10 points in the second half, including three points on one field goal in the third quarter.
The 25 points allowed was the second fewest by Tonawanda all season.
“The 2-3 zone worked amazing,” senior Clayton Hess said. “They couldn’t hit very many shots and we boxed them out and didn’t let them get any second chance points or offensive rebounds.”
Hess led the Warriors with 13 points, while Nick Pullo and Ben Stich each added nine points.
The run-first style of the Bulldogs was something both players and coaches knew had to be avoided in order to have a chance to advance to the quarterfinals.
Hess described the Bulldogs’ attack as “very good, athletic and fast.” Getting back quickly on defense proved to be the key for Tonawanda.
“We definitely wanted to slow down the pace,” Hughes said. “We didn’t want to get into a running match with them. We thought we could press them a little bit and get them to turn the ball over. We wanted to force them to shoot outside jumpers from deep and that’s what we did.”
The first five minutes of the second half was scoreless. The two teams combined for only three field goals in the quarter — two coming from Tonawanda’s Pullo.
All nine of Pullo’s points came in the second half.
Burgard pulled the game to within six with five minutes remaining until a 10-2 Tonawanda run put the game out of reach.
The Warriors will need to put up more than 40 when they face the No. 1 team in the state — the Olean Huskies.
Of the Huskies 19 victories, 17 have been by double-digits, including 10 victories by at least 40 points.
“We are going to have to come back tomorrow, hit the gym at 10 a.m. and start working on (Olean),” Hess said. “They are a very good team who must be the No. 1 team in the state for a reason. They are fast, good and big but if we stick as a team, box out and play like we did tonight, but score a little more and box out a little more, I think we will be OK.”
Tonawanda and Olean will meet Friday night in the quarterfinals. Game time is set for 7 p.m.