Tonawanda News —
On almost any other night, Ben Stich would receive top billing for his performance Wednesday night when North Tonawanda and Tonawanda renewed their hoops rivalry at George H. Miller gym.
But NT's Joe Piotrowski's star shined just a bit brighter, as the senior scored 31 points to lead the Jacks to their second-straight win over Tonawanda, 63-49.
Piotrowski and Stich both put on a shooting exhibition for those that came out the night before Thanksgiving, each hitting six 3-pointers, respectively.
Jacks coach Ryan Mountain said his team expects a lot out of Piotrowski and the senior delivered in the opener.
"It's written on the back of our T-shirts: separation is in the preparation. Joe's busted his butt for eight long months," Mountain said. "His shot has been looking great, he's taking it hard to the hole and his mental discipline has improved immensely. … We're going to do the best we can to set him up to score, and he'll return the favor to the rest of his teammates."
Mountain was impressed with the Warriors. He said they played great, and despite the Jacks outscoring them 21-5 in the second quarter, Tonawanda never gave up.
"We knew Tonawanda would play well tonight. They're a good team and they'll win some games in their league and possibly win it. I believe that," Mountain said. "Stich is a great shooter, and we knew if his feet are set it's going down."
Tonawanda coach Henry Hughes said Stich did everything he could have asked of his senior leader, calling him the ultimate floor general.
"I thought Ben did an excellent job — offensively, defensively, he was all over the floor — I think he played a really good game," Hughes said. "I'm very proud of Ben. … He did an outstanding job."
The Warriors came storming out of the gates early, led by Stich who had nine of his 25 points in the first quarter. The point guard orchestrated a 10-0 run with his shooting, quickness on the defensive end and floor vision that gave his team an 18-11 lead after eight minutes.
NT forward Chris Woodard stopped the bleeding a bit when he threw down a monstrous slam dunk late in the quarter to jolt the Jacks back into the game.
Piotrowski took over from there. He shot 12 for 16 from the field in the game, went 6 for 9 from 3-point range and made his only free throw. He said his teammates were finding him and he was just knocking down open shots, which is what he has to do.
"I was very nervous coming in. I didn't want to lose my senior year in my last year of T-NT," Piotrowski said. "It was a close game last year and we were excited. We knew it was going to be a tough game. We got down in that first quarter and we didn't get nervous, we knew we were going to be fine. We continued to get open looks and we knocked them down."
The Warriors would cut the NT lead to single digits once or twice in the second half, but couldn't convert at the free throw line, finishing the game 9 for 24 from the charity stripe.
Hughes was happy with his team's effort, though, and said he liked how tough his team played for all four quarters.
"I thought, as a whole, we worked hard, but I think Tristan getting in foul trouble in the first half really swung the momentum, and it seemed like we really couldn't catch up," he said. "We missed a lot of free throws, that hurt us too. … I like our toughness, and that's what I want. I thought we played pretty well defensively. I don't think we'll see too many teams that shoot the ball like they do, have the size and the defensive intensity they have. I think we'll be all right."
NT point guard Nehemiah Stone finished the game with eight points and nine assists. He said it was a good team win.
"Joe hit some big shots and we moved the ball well," he said. "They got up first but we regrouped after the first quarter. We knew we were going to come back — we believed in each other and Joe hit some big shots."
Connor Pumm scored 14 points and Boling chipped in with nine for Tonawanda. Michael Awad finished with seven points and Mountain called his play down the stretch in the fourth quarter key in the victory.
The Jacks will be back in action on Dec. 6 in the first round of the Amherst Tournament against Clarence. The Warriors play the same night on the road against Starpoint.Follow @tonanewssports and sports editor @MattParrino on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.