By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News —
TOWN OF TONAWANDA — Kenmore West guard Alex Price knew he needed to step up Thursday night as his Blue Devils were in the middle of a close contest against Sweet Home on the opening night of the Ken-Ton tournament.
So as great players tend to do, Price took over the game at the mid-way point of the third quarter with his team down 39-38, and led the Blue Devils to a 62-46 win over the Panthers. Price scored the final eight points of the third as part of a 12-0 run to close out the quarter, the final bucket coming on a half-court buzzer beater as time expired to extend the Blue Devils (4-2, 3-0 NFL) lead to 11 before they cruised to victory in the fourth.
"It was a great win," said Price, who added that he knew the half court heave was going in from the moment it left his hands. "We played terrible in the first and second quarter, but we had a great talk in the locker room and came out with great intensity in the third quarter. We wanted to win and we wanted it bad."
Price finished with 21 points — 10 coming in the game-deciding third quarter — and knew that his team needed him to provide a spark when Sweet Home refused to go away.
Ken West coach Mike Meetze said Price's magic doesn't surprise him anymore. He knew how special the junior was when he came in and played well in his first varsity game as a sophomore.
"We knew last year when we brought him up and he was playing in a varsity game," he said. "If he's not the franchise player he's one of the top two on this team. We go as he goes. We need his points and his experience, and he's probably the best competitor on my team. He never quits, always wants to win and he's calling guys out in time outs. I love it."
The Blue Devils' top attraction is big man Quinton Campbell, who on an off night offensively finished with 15 points, 18 rebounds and four blocks.
Meetze said Campbell can impact a game even if he struggles because of the way he draws so much attention. That opens up the floor for the rest of his team, which frees up others to take advantage of open looks.
"He was very disappointed with his offensive game tonight, but I told him it's about more than scoring," Meetze said. "He was the presence they had to defend. He was getting under their skin a bit because he was getting rebounds and they couldn't get it away from him. Once he understands that he's the defensive focus, he allows other people to do their job easier."
The Panthers took the lead in the third quarter after Campbell turned the ball over on an outlet pass, which led to a 3-pointer from Sweet Home's Michael Torrillo, who finished with a team-high 12 points. The Blue Devils turned up their defense in the fourth quarter and held Sweet Home to only seven points. The Panthers were one of only three remaining undefeated teams heading into Thursday.
Meetze said he was happy to get a win, but that holiday tournaments are tough on coaches because basketball isn't the main focus when the players are on break.
"Christmas tournaments are tough," he said. "I mean they're fun for everybody and the families, but kids (thrive in a routine). It's not the same routine — it's a 5 o'clock game, the gym is empty and there's no music. It's just a different vibe and I bet there's not one coach that would tell you they like these. I'd rather play a league game."
Kenmore East 69, Cardinal O'Hara 53
The Kenmore East boys basketball team went into Thursday night's game with Cardinal O'Hara desperate for a win from the opening possession. The Bulldogs opened with a 12-0 run andnever looked back, besting O'Hara 69-53.
Bulldogs forward Deion Brown went off, scoring 28 points including six 3-pointers.
"All my shots were falling. It was easy," Brown said. "I came down the court and they just kept going down, so I kept pulling and shooting. ... It feels great to get the first win. The locker room was rocking after the game."
Ken East has played in several tight games early this season and coach Jay Robbins said it was nice to get a win, even though the team was outscored 38-36 in the second half.
"We got out to a good start and made our shots. When you get that far ahead early it makes things that much easier on you," he said. "I wasn't very happy with the second half. With that being said though, it sure is better to win instead of losing again."
The Bulldogs had three players in double figures and nine players scored at least a basket in the win. Pat Schroeder scored 14 points and Michael Crawford added 10.
Donel Cathcart led a second-half rally for O'Hara, scoring 15 of his team-high 17 points in the final 16 minutes. Keith Carter scored 14 and Zack Glowacki totalled 10 in the loss for the Hawks.
The Bulldogs will host the cross-town rival Blue Devils at 6:30 tonight in the championship game of the Ken-Ton tournament. The teams will square off three times this season, with two NFL league games still to come.Contact Sports Editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.