NIAGARA FALLS — Every year the Cataract Classic brings together great teams and great matchups, and every year it gives basketball fans something special.
On Saturday night, Bishop Timon-St. Jude hit big three after big three after big three to beat Williamsville North, 66-64, in overtime in what certainly will go down as one of the 14th annual event’s most memorable contests.
Senior Donte Williams hit the last of the big three-pointers for Timon, turning a two-point deficit into a 65-64 lead by swishing a shot from the right side while being fouled with 10 seconds left in overtime. He hit the free throw, and a three by Williamsville North’s Sterling Taplin missed at the buzzer.
“That was fun,” said Timon coach Joe Mihalics. “Great plays both ways – early in the year, very exciting. ... Donte stepped up at the end.”
North had a 64-62 lead in the final seconds when Timon freshman William Lamar penetrated and then kicked out to Williams.
“The play broke down, he drove and made a nice little read and kicked it to me,” said Williams. “I had it in the back of my mind that I was going to hit it. … It was awesome, we just hit big shots.”
“I kicked it to him, and I just knew he was going to make it,” said Lamar, a transfer who played for Maryvale last year.
The game-winning three was the final turn in a topsy-turvy contest in which the talented Williams, a fourth-team All-Western New York selection last year despite an injury-shortened season, traded highlights with two-time first-team All-WNY pick Taplin.
Taplin had three three-pointers among his 25 points. Williams scored 28 points, with his only three coming on his last shot.
Timon had a slim lead for much of the early going (28-25 at half) before North surged back late to go up by as many as six (54-48) with less than three minutes to play thanks to Taplin-assisted threes by Dylan Lambert (10 points) and Maceo Jack (11).
When Taplin hit an off-balance three with the shot clock running down to put North up, 57-52, with 43 seconds left, it appeared North would win its season opener.
But that three was answered by one from Lamar (13 points) to bring Timon within 57-55 with 29.7 seconds left.
“I just knew we needed a shot,” said Lamar. “I didn’t think about it, I just took it.”
After North hit a free throw for a 58-55 lead, Timon senior Kyler Hairston (11 points) swished a three from the right side with 10 seconds left to tie it.
“Time was running out, so I knew I had to shoot it,” he said.
Branden Kellam, a junior who transferred from Jamestown to Bishop Kearney in Rochester, had 11 points to help the Kings open their season with a 60-45 victory over Niagara Falls in the night’s finale.
“We turned the ball over too much,” said Falls coach Sal Constantino. “We’re not good enough to turn the ball over 20 times.”