Lew-Port and Starpoint have been shut out from boys basketball sectional titles since the 1970s, well before high schools adopted the three-point line.
They aren’t teams traditionally found playing for a berth in a sectional final, but they met Monday at SUNY Buffalo State and delivered a classic that sent Lew-Port to Saturday’s Class A-2 final.
After recovering from a 15-point first-half deficit, Starpoint took its first lead of the game with three minutes to go and led by four points in the final minute. But four late missed free throws opened the door for Lew-Port, and point guard Jernard Jackson didn’t miss.
The wiry, 5-foot-9 senior drove the ball to his favorite spot on the right and pulled up for a mid-range jumper that hit nothing but net with eight seconds to play. Starpoint couldn’t answer, and Lancer fans rushed the floor after the 68-67 win.
“From the moment they missed the free throws, I knew what I was going to do,” Jackson said. “When the shot went up, my heart stopped for a second.”
And when it swished, “everything was just great from there,” he said. “I felt like Kobe Bryant at the moment.”
Lancers coach Matt Bradshaw held off taking a time-out when he saw the rebound come to Jackson, who scored a game-high 29 points.
“Whenever the ball is in Jernard’s hands for the last shot, it’s always a good feeling,” Bradshaw said. “Once I saw they were going to let Jernard have the ball in bounds, I was fine with that. We just spread the floor, get Jernard the lane and give him some room to create because … that’s as good as any play I’m going to draw up.
“He hit that exact same shot against North Tonawanda with 20 seconds to go, so that is a shot he’s comfortable with and he has done it before.”
The win sent Lew-Port to Saturday’s final against Amherst, where the Lancers can win their first title since 1978. Amherst beat Maryvale in the other semifinal, 64-45.
Jackson was the best player on the floor in Monday’s game, grabbing rebounds and distributing while hitting a big shot every time Lew-Port needed one. But he couldn’t have done it without Dawson Bailey, who scored 24 points and hit four three-pointers, including a 60-footer at the end of the first half.
Starpoint had dominant forwards in 6-foot-4 Christian Nodine and 6-foot-5 Brock Kroening, but Lew-Port confused them early and kept them in check with a box-and-1 until late in the game. Each still got his points – Nodine scored 26 and Kroening had 19 – but early turnovers and missed chances allowed Lew-Port to surge ahead 26-11 in the second quarter and the late missed free throws let to their demise.
“We were up by four in the last minute and just didn’t close it out,” Starpoint coach Ben Scaffidi said. “We were in position to win it and didn’t get it done.”
In Amherst’s win, coach Chris Kensy beat his father Mark’s Maryvale squad for the first time in a playoff game. Amherst led 32-19 at halftime in improving to 21-1.