For everything Jordan Nwora did for his team on offense, it was a heads-up play he made on the other end of the floor that helped Amherst squeak past Lewiston-Porter, 51-49, in a Section VI Class A-2 semifinal Wednesday night at Buffalo State.
The promising sophomore made a steal deep under the Lew-Port basket with 16.1 seconds left, his team clinging to a two-point lead.
“He turned toward me and I just scraped him,” said Nwora. “I was surprised with the amount of time left on the board that he turned like that.”
Amherst missed four straight free throws in the game’s final 14.5 seconds, but its defense was able to hold Lew-Port after they took the ball out with 10.5 seconds left.
“Lew-Port never quit,” said Amherst coach Chris Kensy. “We seemed to get a little separation in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter they gave us everything that we could take. In our kids’ defense, we didn’t crumble, we missed a couple free throws, but Jordan Nwora had a huge steal at the end of the game and we had some nice, solid takes from T.C. Brown and Darien Lowe.”
Cheektowaga got past cross-town rival Maryvale, 73-53, in the other Class A-2 semifinal before an estimated 1,900.
In a Class B-2 semifinal, Cleveland Hill needed overtime to eliminate Salamanca, 59-55.
Amherst (17-3) will defend its Class A-2 title when it takes on the Warriors (15-5) at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Buffalo State. A title would be Cheektowaga’s first. Amherst won ECIC III this season with its only two losses in the division coming against Cheektowaga.
Brown and Lowe had 14 points each for Amherst. Nwora finished with eight, along with 10 rebounds. The Tigers almost let this one slip away, making just 8 of 18 free throw attempts.
Lew-Port (12-8) had four players in double figures led by Tyler Dietz with 12. Jernard Jackson added 11 while Zach Keegan and Craig Paige had 10 each.
The game was tied, 8-8, after the first quarter before the Tigers slowly started to pull away. They built a 12-point lead at halftime by crashing the offensive boards and using their size advantage. But Lew-Port was determined to make a game out of it, outscoring the Tigers 20-11 in the fourth.
In the other semifinal, Cheektowaga kept the pressure on and was able to answer any Maryvale runs.
“We knew we were going to be in for a war, but the way we matched up with them we felt pretty comfortable that we could do some things against them,” said coach Patrick Cullinan.
“We made some early shots and that was the key to us getting comfortable. The key is our defense and I thought we did a good job with that most of the night.”
Dom Welch poured in 28 points, with 13 rebounds, eight off the offensive glass. Zak Ciezki added 15 points, 12 boards and six assists.
Maryvale (12-8), got 17 points from Ed Smith and 15 from Logan Jung.
With the game’s outcome up for grabs, Jared Watkins found another gear.
The Cleveland Hill senior guard scored his team’s first seven points in overtime to spark the victory over Salamanca.
“My coach said that’s why you play the game, you live for those moments,” said Watkins, who finished the game with 13 points. “I just wanted to come through for my teammates. I know they have confidence in me and that helps me out. I seem to score most of my points in the fourth quarter, I don’t know what it is.”
The Eagles (15-4) will play East High in the Class B-2 title game on Saturday at noon, at Buffalo State. A title for Cleveland Hill would be the first in school’s history in boys basketball.
Cleveland Hill could have won this one in regulation. With 20.9 seconds left and the score tied 50-50, the Eagles won a scrum at halfcourt for the ball. They called a timeout to set up a play. But they wasted too much time with the ball at the top of the circle and were unable to get a shot off.
“Against any team like that you have to refocus and realize any game is not going to be won or lost on one possession,” said Cleveland Hill coach Jason Przybysz.
They flexed their muscles in overtime, however, holding the Warriors to a single field goal.
“With a four-minute overtime you go out there and reset yourself, said Przybysz. “And we did. We were able to play solid defense and get out in transition, made a few good shots and put a lot of pressure on Salamanca.”
Aaron Phillips, who has signed with St. Bonaventure for baseball, led the Eagles with 20 points and 23 rebounds.
Tyler Pawlowski joined Watkins with 13 points. Jermaine Hairston was the fourth scorer in double figures with 11 points and had nine boards.
Salamanca ended its season 14-6. Damion Taylor had 16 points followed by 6-foot-7 center Jared Fish with 12 points and Andy Crandall with 11.