WILSON -- Ethan Baker has done a lot of things right during his four seasons as a member of the Wilson boys basketball team, and the 6-foot-4 junior forward now has a record to show for his efforts.
Baker earned that individual badge of honor in a Feb. 6 win over Niagara-Orleans League rival and neighbor Newfane when he became the Lakemen's all-time scoring leader, breaking the 23-year-old record previously held by current Wilson assistant Jeff Dinse, who scored 1,066 during his career.
"It was a special honor to break it, and I feel very privileged to do it, especially at a school like Wilson," said Baker, whose career total stood at 1,087 points after Tuesday night's 54-50 loss at Medina -- a loss that pretty much ended the Lakemen's hope of winning the league championship. "We've had so many great players. To have the highest point total is a pretty big honor."
But there are bigger honors Baker still wants to achieve, goals that have been close but slipped through the hands of him and his teammates the past two seasons. Baker wants a championship patch. One will do, but like any competitor one usually isn't enough, unless you don't have one in your possession.
Baker and his Wilson teammates may feel disappointed their N-O title quest was derailed at Medina, which with one loss remained a half game ahead of a one-loss Akron team. Those two teams have dealt the Lakemen their three league losses. But Wilson, which still has two league games left -- including one against Akron on Thursday -- still has a nice prize within its grasp. It's something more treasured than any league title.
Section VI championship winners also receive patches (and a giant plaque) for their efforts. They also get the chance to earn more patches in the state tournament, something league champions do not unless they win a sectional championship. The Lakemen's sectional title quest begins next week; the seeding for the Section VI tournament will be announced Saturday.
Wilson has been close to earning its first sectional boys basketball championship in recent years. So close, that regardless of all the good plays Baker has made during his career, it's the few he hasn't made -- the tiny mistakes that are often the difference between winning and losing in matchups between even teams -- that continue to motivate him.
Wilson is 1-2 in its three appearances at the Buffalo State Sports Arena, the home of the sectional semifinals and finals, the last two seasons. The Lakemen lost by three points in last year's Class B-2 final to City Honors, a member of the rugged Buffalo Public Schools' Yale Cup League that has sent league members McKinley and East to state semifinals the past two years.
Wilson and Akron -- now Class B-2 after being a B-1 school last season -- reached sectional finals last year, but no Niagara-Orleans League team has won a Section VI championship since Newfane in 1980.
In 2007, Baker almost helped Wilson pull off a Buff State miracle during a 73-71 loss in the semifinals to Falconer. He scored 22 points in that defeat, a game that seemed like it would be quite sound until the Lakemen almost erased a 16-point deficit in the final 3:16.
While basketball is a team sport in which one player can sometimes make a difference depending on matchups, the defeats continue to serve as motivation to Baker and his teammates.
"It bothers me, and then I look back at the games I've had personally and I just think to myself I could've done something [more], we could've beaten those teams," said Baker, who has averaged 18.3 points per game in those Buffalo State appearances. "It [left] a sour taste in my mouth."
Perhaps, Baker is being a little too hard on himself.
Odds are the Lakemen don't sniff Buff State without his presence on the court, as it's difficult to guard a player who can rebound, drive well to his right and left, and spot up and shoot the three.
"Over the last three years, he's really been a staple of our success," Wilson coach Brett Sippel said.
Wilson (12-5, 9-3) appears to be stronger this season than the past two, so another run to Buff State is a possibility, even with Akron in the same bracket.
Baker's scoring average (19 points per game) is slightly higher than last year's (18.0). And there are players on the Lakemen who have the ability to make defenses pay for paying too much attention to Baker.
Sophomore phenom Brennan Moxham is averaging 13 points and five assists a game, and wowed the Buff State faithful last year running the point. Senior James Dysard and junior Collin Okoniewski each average 10 to 11 points per game, while junior John Vincent scores about nine points per game.
"I think this is definitely the most talented group I've ever been a part of, but we've been working together as a team," Baker said. "We don't worry about who's scoring how many points. We just want to win. . . . That's what it's all about."