Why is the Niagara Falls boys basketball team so good? Because there's always another great player coming along.
Junior Jonathan Flynn scored 29 often-spectacular points, but it was sophomore Rashon Tabb who had 18 points on six three-pointers to help Niagara Falls to a 68-59 victory over Fairport in the Class AA Far West Regionals Saturday.
A spirited Buffalo State Sports Arena crowd estimated at 3,000 watched defending state Federation champion Niagara Falls earn its third straight trip to Glens Falls by prevailing in a highlight-followed-by-highlight fourth quarter.
"We knew coming in they would try some gimmick defense to try and contain me," said Flynn, who also had seven rebounds and eight assists as he battled double teams the entire game. "We just told Rashon Tabb and Anthony Marshall [the senior hit three threes and 11 points, all in the first half] to be ready to catch and shoot. And they stepped up.
"It just shows how good our program is. Good programs have people coming out of the woodwork and stepping up. It's me, and then Rashon Tabb after that, and we'll have someone else after that."
Falls took a 53-49 lead with 5:05 left to play when Flynn took a Kendall Davis pass as he slashed down the lane for a layup.
On Niagara Falls' next possession, 6-foot-7 senior Tyrell Lynch had his shot from the post carom high off the rim, but the 6-foot junior Flynn came out of nowhere from the right side, leaped into the air and stunningly slammed in the rebound with two hands for a 55-49 Falls lead.
Fairport, which had cut a nine-point Falls lead to two in the last minute of the third quarter, came right back again. Sophomore Kyle Downey (15 points), with older brother and Canisius College senior standout Kevin watching from a few rows off the court, drilled a three-pointer from the left side to bring Fairport to within 55-52.
That's where Tabb, who hit 6 of 7 threes, did what he had done all game. He swished a three from the right corner for a 58-52 lead with 3:10 left.
"They were doubling (Flynn) and I was wide open," said Tabb. "So I kept shooting."
After a missed Downey three, Flynn grabbed a pass from Tabb at the foul line, charged down the lane and hit a shot while hanging in the air for a 60-52 lead with 2:30 left. Falls had at least a six-point lead the rest of the way as Flynn went 6 for 6 from the line.
Niagara Falls (20-4) will return to the Glens Falls Civic Center to play in the state public school semifinals Saturday at 2:15 p.m. The Wolverines play the winner of Saturday night's regional between Section VIII (Nassau County) champion Uniondale (18-3) and Section XI (Suffolk County) Copaigue (22-1).
"I didn't expect this," said Falls coach Dan Bazzani, whose Wolverines led after the first quarter (18-15) and at halftime (29-27). "Especially at the start of the year. We lost five of seven [players from last year's team] and I wasn't sure how far this team could go."
Fairport's season ended at 21-2, with both losses to Niagara Falls. Half the arena -- perhaps more -- was dressed in Fairport red and loudly supported their Red Raiders as the school sought its first trip to Glens Falls. Standout guard Corey McAdam, a 6-2 senior, led Fairport with 18 points. Cory Magee, a 6-7 senior who signed with Canisius, scored 12 points but none in the fourth quarter.
Lynch, a senior who had eight rebounds, was taken away from the Niagara Falls locker room on a stretcher following the game. He was taken by ambulance to Women and Children's Hospital, was treated for dehydration and remained overnight for precautionary measures but is said to be fine.