WILSON -- It was a very entertaining night at Wilson's Richard J. Zipp Athletic Center as I took in Akron's 60-51 win over the host Lakemen.
Akron entered the fourth quarter trailing, 44-40, then went on a 16-0 run to take control of the game and clinch the Niagara-Orleans title. It was a very nice performance from a team that deserves its place near the top of the zany small school poll.
J.C. Tretter gets a lot of attention as the big man in the middle, and deservedly so. But brothers Trevor and Alec Short are just as big a part of Akron's success. They certainly were tonight: Trevor had several key plays in the fourth, Alec knocked down shots, Tretter cleaned the glass.
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The fourth quarter began with Trevor Short knocking down a very wide-open three of a well-executed inbounds play to bring Akron within one, then he neatly reached in and stole the ball from Ethan Baker to set up the go-ahead possession. Tretter boomed his way to the basket by lowering his shoulder on a drive (which I thought was an offensive foul) and it gave Akron a lead (45-44) it wouldn't give up.
Wilson folks were fired up at the call but that was as fired up as they'd be the rest of the game.
Alec Short sunk an open three (48-44), a Baker three went in-and-out for Wilson and Tretter rebounded. A few plays later, Trevor Short was at it again, making an alert steal at midcourt before going in for a layup while being fouled. The free throw made it 51-44 with 3:31 left.
Great ball movement led to a Trevor Short three-pointer and a 54-44 lead with 2:15 left. Alec Short added two free throws, then Trevor added two, then Alec with another two and it was 60-48 in the final minute.
Senior Bobby Stone gives Akron a great complement to Tretter -- he's 6-5 and has a very nice, high release of a short-range jumper that I saw swish a few times.
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Wilson had a solid first three quarters, making enough plays to answer those from Akron in a game filled with some fun end-to-end action.
The Lakemen offered what I expected, savvy scoring inside and out from Baker, activity from Odane Todd and Moxham has really grown into a very nice point guard -- very aware of where to move the ball while able to knock down the open jumper. Colon Okoniewski, a long, 6-3 junior, was a nice weapon in the lane as well.
The slickest play of the night came when junior John Vincent came in for Moxham after he went down for a short time with an ankle issue -- Vincent, trying to fast-break his way through traffic, right-hand dribbled behind his back and then picked it up with his right hand again. Very nice.
Unfortunately the play ended in a turnover, so it's almost like it didn't count. Kind of like when I put the ball through a coworker's legs during our weekly pickup game (just like Shaq did to Dwight Howard in the All-Star Game) but I blew the lefty layup. I have had several restless nights of sleep since.
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I had never been to Wilson's athletic center before, and it was very impressive -- along with a great crowd on hand.
The huge, well-lit, pristinely painted gym has black-and-orange banners painted on the walls for the school's titles as well as its all-academic honors.
My favorite part was the full-color giant posters for each sport -- they are photos of current Wilson athletes (the boys basketball one is of standout sophomore point Brennan Moxham) and it really gives the gym a big-time collegiate feel. I asked Wilson athletic director Charlie Jufer about it and he said they replace them year-to-year, and sell them back to the student-athlete after their career is over. Talk about a win-win, great decoration, great keepsake when it's all over.
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The halftime show was outstanding! Jufer brings out the crate full of basketballs, and anyone pays a dollar to get a chance at a half-court shot to win a free pizza. I can't remember a better halftime show at a high school hoops game.
The very first half-court heave? BANG! Goes right in. Great shot by Lockport varsity player Andrew Granchelli, who is eating well tonight.
(I neglected to write down the sponsor, so if anyone knows who's serving up the free pizza in the name of good 'ol fashioned high school hoops fun up north, please provide it in the comments section. Having just returned from covering auto racing, I know how important sponsors are to everything 🙂 ).
Medina's Levi Pace gave it a heave and his shot hit the front rim. He dug in his pocket for another buck and back-rimmed it. If he had another buck, I'm guessing he would have nailed it.
There was also some great PA work during the game (detailed info after each score/foul) as well as some fun commentary during the half-court shot contest.
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Here are tonight's scores.
Nice win for Olean at Pioneer, which again gets a monster night from Lucas Haskell (31, four threes).
As always, if you were at a game tonight, let us know what you saw.