BATAVIA – North Tonawanda boys' basketball coach Ryan Mountain has a box stashed in his office closet filled with various items commemorating the high points of one of the best seasons in the history of the Lumberjacks.
He and his players haven't looked at the stash though because the point was to not get stuck on accomplishments and keep doing good things on the court.
NT did a whole lot of that – winning a program record 20 games and snapping a long Section VI championship drought.
But the time has come for the Jacks to look at the memorabilia in the box.
It's much sooner than they had hoped as the state's top-ranked team in Irondequoit could do no wrong while NT simply struggled during Saturday night's Far West Regional Class A contest.
The Eagles' size and quickness proved to be too much for Lumberjacks to overcome in their first New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association appearance as the Section V champions ran away from the Jacks, 65-41, before a standing-room only crowd of more than 1,000 at Genesee Community College.
Irondequoit (23-1) had the size to match NT's but its athleticism proved to be the difference as it neutralized the Lumberjacks' 2-3 zone defense by finding holes in the defense and by crashing the boards as half of the Eagles' 40 rebounds came on the offensive end.
Gerald Drumgoole had game-highs of 21 points and 12 rebounds, including five on the offensive glass, while teammate Alex Goldsberry added 18 points and Jeremiah Zitz six offensive boards as the Eagles advanced to the Saturday morning's state semifinal contest against either III-Jamesville-DeWitt or II-Lansingburgh at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena in Binghamton.
"When you're playing the No. 1 team in New York State and they're playing their 'A' game they're going to be tough to beat," Mountain said. "They were very physical inside and they were fronting our post and they were playing one in behind. We didn't get the ball rotated quick enough and when we did they were excellent closing out. … That's probably the best basketball team we've played in two years."
North Tonawanda had a chance early but it got away from them rather quickly as the Jacks struggled with their shooting and made uncharacteristic turnovers.
NT trailed 6-4 early and 15-7 after eight minutes. The Eagles jetted away from them with a 17-2 run to open the second quarter in which most of the points either came inside or via free throws. Drumgoole scored nine of his 13 first-half points during the blitz. NT tried to make a game of it late in the frame as Trevor Book scored seven straight points. The Jacks went into halftime trailing 32-16.
A positive note for sure as NT believed it had one more charge left in it, entertaining thoughts of a rally similar to the one it mounted during the regular-season when it rallied from 18 down only to lose 52-50 at Section VI Class AA champion Niagara Falls.
The Eagles kept their foot on the gas, however, as the Jacks never found their shooting stroke (14 for 45 for the game, including 5 for 18 in the first half). Irondequoit extended its lead to 46-23 on a three-point play by Zach Stenglein (15 points) with under 4 minutes left in the third quarter. The Eagles led by as much as 63-31 down the stretch.
"I'd say they scored 40 percent of their points on offensive tips and rebounds," Mountain said. "They hit some open shots. … I think the biggest difference was when we'd get steals we couldn't convert them to easy points like we usually do."
Book finished with 11 points, while Alex Quinn added nine points and Vincent Tripi eight for North Tonawanda (20-5), which was whistled for 29 of the game's 43 fouls by the teams.
While there were some long faces once the final horn sounded, the Lumberjacks can look back fondly on what they accomplished during a season in which they beat the News' No. 1 Large School and two-time defending Class A champion in Williamsville South to secure their first sectional title since 1961 and also defeated two-time A-2 champion Amherst to earn a taste of the state tournament.
If they forget what they've done – all they have to do is look in the box.
"We've had great accomplishments this season," NT senior Rory Farkas said. "It's just great for our team to have that box and be able to look at the end of the ride."