Park has no prob­lem with Falls

Nnagbo leads way with dou­ble-dou­ble

The Buffalo News - - SPORTS - By Miguel Ro­driguez NEWS SPORTS RE­PORTER

NI­A­GARA FALLS – So twothirds of the tow­er­ing big men that made Park such a hand­ful last sea­son are now gone.

Big deal. The Pi­o­neers still have a pretty good size ad­van­tage with just 6-foot-8 se­nior Quentin Nnagbo pa­trolling the paint.

He as­serted his will Fri­day night for de­fend­ing New York State Fed­er­a­tion Class A cham­pion Park. So too did good-old re­li­able Noah Hutchins, as the Pi­o­neers im­proved to 2-0 on young boys bas­ket­ball sea­son by de­feat­ing host Ni­a­gara Falls, 6955, dur­ing the open­ing night of the Cataract City Clas­sic.

Sopho­more Keon­jay Carter (17 points), Hutchins (11 points, 10 as­sists) and the Pi­o­neers de­fense shined in this clash cham­pi­ons. Park also played with more poise and sharp­ness than the Wolver­ines, the de­fend­ing Sec­tion VI Class AA cham­pi­ons.

But Nnagbo showed the Pi­o­neers can still cause problems for the op­po­si­tion in the paint sim­ply be­cause it’s hard to guard a strong, ath­letic and de­ter­mined cen­ter. Nnagbo poured

Bas­ket­ball

in 17 points, grabbed 14 re­bounds and had three blocks.

Nearly half of his points came dur­ing the Pi­o­neers’ 19-point sec­ond quar­ter, which en­abled them to seize control for good against a young, tal­ented Falls crew that will have bet­ter days than it did Fri­day be­fore a packed crowd at Wolvarena that in­cluded Cani­sius Col­lege coach Reg­gie Witherspoon.

“We played as a team and I did what I had to do to make my team bet­ter,” said Nnagbo, an All-West­ern New York hon­or­able men­tion pick last year.

Falls trailed 19-15 early in the sec­ond quar­ter when the Pi­o­neers took ad­van­tage of misses and turnovers to push the lead to 3623 at half­time. Nnagbo had eight points in the quar­ter, while Carter had four. Nnagbo added five more points in the third quar­ter, in­clud­ing a two-handed jam that made it 46-27 with just over 2 min­utes left.

“I think he’s gain­ing con­fi­dence,” Pi­o­neers coach Rich Ja­cob said. “‘Q’ worked very hard in the off­sea­son. He knows how he can con­trib­ute and I think he’s as­sumed a lead­er­ship role for us.”

“He’s al­ways been a huge piece of the team,” said Hutchins, the re­turn­ing first team All-WNY point guard. “He’s a pres­ence in the paint. When he’s not in the game, it’s a lit­tle tough.”

Park led by as much as 21 twice, the fi­nal time with just un­der 2 min­utes re­main­ing.

Sopho­more Jalen Brad­berry led Ni­a­gara Falls with 20 points in his Wolver­ines de­but.

The fourth team All-West­ern New York se­lec­tion helped the now de­funct Ni­a­gara Catholic win the Man­hat­tan Cup Class B cham­pi­onship last year.

Falls (0-1) had a 10-6 lead just 2:27 into the game af­ter back-to­back treys from Josiah Harris and Mo­ran Mont­gomery and a Brad­berry put­back. The Pi­o­neers re­sponded by scor­ing 11 of the fi­nal 12 points to end the first quar­ter. Hutchins started the blitz with two straight bas­kets. A Jai’Den Dun tip-in put­back gave the Pi­o­neers the lead for good. A three­p­ointer from Carter and steal and layup by sopho­more Desmond Davis be­fore the end of the quar­ter gave Park a 17-11 lead.

What sparked the turn­around? Talk­ing on de­fense.

“We were look­ing to re­cover to the shoot­ers,” Ja­cob said. “Against a good run­ning team like that, that has shoot­ing weapons, when you re­cover you can’t re­cover to the paint. You have to re­cover wide to the shoot­ers and there has to be a good deal of com­mu­ni­ca­tion, early talk. We learned very quickly that we weren’t ex­e­cut­ing our plan.”

Once the Pi­o­neers did, it was tough sled­ding for Ni­a­gara Falls, which hopes this game winds up be­ing a learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence that can ben­e­fit it down the road. The les­son: Park kept its com­po­sure when it trailed, while Falls didn’t once it fell be­hind.

“We made a run at them early and like a good team they didn’t let that bother them,” Falls coach Sal Con­stantino said. “They made a run at us and ... we started tak­ing bad shots. We started to try to make ev­ery sin­gle play, They de­stroyed us on the boards. We were one shot and done and they were in tran­si­tion. It’s an eye opener for me and I hope it was for the guys.”

The Cataract City Clas­sic con­tin­ues Satur­day at Wolvarena with a six-game lineup that be­gins at noon with Sweet Home fac­ing Lewis­ton-Porter and ends at 7:30 p.m. with Ni­a­gara Falls fac­ing Bishop Ti­mon-St. Jude.

Harry Scull Jr./Buf­falo News

Park de­fender Keon­jay Carter tries to block the shot of Ni­a­gara Falls for­ward Jalen Brad­berry.

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