Niagara Falls has been a clear No. 1 in The News large school poll all season, but basketball fans had been scratching their heads over Falls' two-point win at home over Kenmore West in December.
The Wolverines cleared things up Thursday night -- and their motivation came from not only this season but for next year.
Senior Marcus Feagin scored 26 points and the undefeated Wolverines rode an 18-7 third quarter to a 69-49 victory at West.
"All we've heard about is the two-point win against Kenmore West," said Niagara Falls coach Sal Constantino, whose team is now 12-0 overall and 8-0 in the Niagara Frontier League. "We really think we're the best team in the NFL. We're trying for next season to go to an independent schedule, and one of the things we had gotten back was that 'there's not that big a disparity in talent,' so we're hoping a game like tonight shows that yes, there is."
Some top Section VI basketball programs, most recently Niagara Falls and Maple Grove, have left their leagues to play independent schedules in recent seasons in an attempt to upgrade their level of competition. Falls played an independent schedule when it won the state Federation title in 2005.
This year, Falls' closest NFL game by far was its 54-52 home victory over West on Dec. 21.
"I was real anxious to play this game -- I was ready," said Feagin. "Everyone said that this was going to be a big game, and Kenmore West is very competitive, but in warmups we said, 'This is our game.' "
In the first half it appeared that it might be another close one as Kenmore West, which had won eight straight, traded baskets with Falls throughout the first half and took a 32-30 halftime lead.
But Falls took a 48-39 lead after three after increasing its defensive intensity while Feagin showed off a well-rounded game. The 6-foot-3 senior scored nine of his points and two of his three three-pointers in the pivotal third. He had just five threes on the season -- one of which was a half-court buzzer-beater at Canisius -- entering the game.
Six-foot-five senior Jordan Street added 13 points while 5-10 junior Taijay Williams had 11. Ryan Grandits, a 6-3 senior, scored 14 to lead West (8-3, 6-3).
"We just didn't do enough in the second half to make it a game," said first-year Kenmore West coach Michael Meetze. "And Falls was the Falls."
For a running blog of the game as well as video interviews, go to the Prep Talk blog at buffalonews.com