Tonawanda News —
Coming off four wins in six days earlier in the week, the North Tonawanda boys basketball team was looking to keep momentum going Friday night and make a little history in the process.
NT point guard Nehemiah Stone scored a game-high 17 points, had five rebounds, four assists and four steals to lead the Lumberjacks to a season sweep of Niagara Falls as they knocked off the Wolverines, 59-53. It's NT's fifth win over the Falls since 2000 and only the second time this century NT has won two in one season over NF (2009).
"Our quote of the night was, 'The only place that success comes before work is in the dictionary.' I thought that was the difference," said NT coach Ryan Mountain. "I thought the Falls played extremely hard, but we played just a bit harder."
Stone was the catalyst for the Jacks, controlling the pace of the game and making the right decisions with the ball in transition, as NT dealt with the Falls' full-court press for most of the game.
NT led for almost all of the game and seemed poised to pull away several times in the second half. Holding only a 26-19 lead at halftime, the Jacks stretched it to 10 on the strength of a 8-2 run orchestrated by Stone and junior Chris Woodard, who finished with 11 points and seven rebounds, at the midway point of the third quarter.
The Falls hung around into the fourth, but NT started the final frame with an 8-0 run before extending its lead to 54-40 with just about five minutes to go. The outcome seemed certain but the Wolverines refused to quit and answered the Jacks with an 11-2 run to close within five points at 56-51.
A stretch of nine straight missed free throws by the Jacks, which would have put the game out of reach, gave the Falls a chance in the final minute. NT's Mike Awad broke the streak by sinking one of two from the line before NF's Charles Lamar, who netted a team-high 13 points, was able to convert near the basket to make the score 57-53 with 6.2 seconds remaining.
The Wolverines then fouled Stone, who sank both of his free throws to put the game out of reach for the Falls.
"It feels good. I wanted to win last year (against the Falls) but it still feels good," said Stone, whose Jacks lost all three meetings against the Wolverines last season. "I wanted to pass this game and I was looking to pass, but they were giving me driving angles, so I figured why not and I ended up scoring. … I think we've played better (this season) and I think we will play better against (Ken) West next Tuesday."
The Jacks have now won five straight games, and Mountain said that his team is better than it was before winter break.
"We want to practice, plan and prepare like we just lost our last game. After losing to West and Lockport (in December) we were disappointed, but not discouraged," Mountain said. "It actually made us hungrier. We chose not to take any time off over Christmas. We came here and worked and just assessed where we needed to get better. The results are obvious. We're a better team than we were before the break. In a sense it's like we had a second training camp."
Niagara Falls held Jacks leading scorer Joe Piotrowski to only five points, but Awad reached double figures, netting 12 points and grabbing five rebounds.
The Jacks travel to Kenmore next Tuesday in a pivotal NFL showdown with the Ken West Blue Devils. Tip is scheduled for 6:30 p.m.Follow @tonanewssports and sports editor @MattParrino on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.