By Matt Parrino
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — NIAGARA FALLS — On Thursday night the best of the best that Western New York hoops has to offer congregated at Niagara Falls High School for the annual PAL/ACE All Star Game. The night showcased every level of talent, from the freshman/sophomore game to the junior/senior showdown.
The Niagara Frontier League was represented well, as North Tonawanda’s Ian Gilhousen, Niagara-Wheatfield’s Jack Mulcahy and Niagara Falls’ Jermaine Crumpton played in their final high school game.
But it was the underclassmen that stole the show.
The East team outlasted the West, 95-91, in a triple overtime thriller that was a back and forth affair until the final horn sounded. NT’s Nehemiah Stone (sophomore) and Kenmore West freshman Terrel Ford turned in solid performances.
At one point in the fourth quarter, Stone led the break for the West squad and found none other than Ford in transition for an easy basket. Both youngsters are set to take over their respective teams next season as seniors Gilhousen and Blue Devils’ Quinton Campbell graduate.
“I was really impressed with that first game,” said Niagara Falls coach Sal Constantino. “Kids were making big shot after big shot and they were just answering each other every time down the court. I think there is some real good talent coming up they just have to keep focused and working hard.”
This season marks the seventh year that Niagara Falls hosted the All Star game, a tradition started by former University at Buffalo head coach Reggie Witherspoon when he coached at Sweet Home in the mid-90s.
Constantino said he takes a lot of pride in both the senior/junior and sophomore/freshman games because of the way the kids compete.
“It’s one of the things we pride ourselves on is that this isn’t a McDonald’s game,” he said. “The kids are trying to compete and win. There’s some really good talent coming up.”
West all star and Canisius sophomore Laterrance Reed couldn’t miss in the extra sessions. He made two long distance 3-balls in the finals seconds of the first and second OT to force an extra frame and finished with a game-high 27 points.
Canisius’ Adam Weir, the 2013 News’ Player of the Year, started slow but heated up in the second half of the junior/senior game to help lead the North squad to a 89-84 win over the South, which was led by Crumpton. The two are set to become teammates next season at Canisius College, which made their battle the main attraction.
The future teammates said they enjoy healthy competition whenever they’re pitted against each other on the court.
Crumpton said he thought Weir got the best of him on Thursday night, but Weir added that even when Jermaine isn’t scoring, he does everything else so well that he still ends up impacting the game.
Kenmore West coach Mike Meetze, who led the South team, said he appreciated the competitive nature of both All-Western New York talents.
“It’s funny because I didn’t have Jermaine pick Adam up right away, but then I look out there and they’re matched up on each other,” Meetze said. “Those two have that good competitive rivalry and they’re taking it to the next level. When they’re in games like this they want to prove who’s better, and that’s the neat thing about this. Kids who don’t normally play together get to play to prove something.”
Next season Crumpton and Weir figure to go at it on the practice floor at Canisius, and Crumpton said it should be fun because Weir is such a talented player.
On the court, Crumpton said the two go so well together because they each have complementary skills sets. Crumpton can bang inside and attack the basket off the dribble, while Weir is a sniper from outside and a threat to score every time he attacks the paint, Crumpton said.
Weir said it was said to play his final high school game, but he looks forward to his future.
“That’s it. It’s kind of a sad thing but it was a good way to end it,” he said. “It’s fun to come here and have all the best guys in Western New York together and playing in one game. It shows you how good you really are and it exposes your weaknesses. It’s always fun to play a game like this.”
Meetze said he enjoyed getting the chance to work with familiar faces that he’s used to seeing on the other sideline.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “You get the NFL guys like Jack and Ian — they’re not your rivals but they’re kids you’re always playing against. It’s nice to see them on your side. … A lot of the coaches in the league you get to develop a good relationship with. I like to think Sal is one of the guys I look up to and he asked me if I wanted to coach and, for me, it was a no-brainer. It’s all for the good of the kids and you want to see them play well and end their careers nice.”Contact sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.