It was a big weekend for college sports teams in Niagara County, but a University at Buffalo individual performer tops this week’s College Power 10:
1. UB’s Jake Gunning. The sophomore from Bethlehem, Pa., became the first UB wrestler to win an individual title at the Mid-American Conference championships since 2011. He’s the first UB heavyweight to win a MAC title since 2006. Gunning, seeded fifth at 285 pounds, defeated Eastern Michigan’s Gage Hutchison, 3-2, in the final. He earned a trip to the NCAA Division I championship meet in St. Louis starting March 16. Gunning routed the top seed, Ohio’s Zack Parker, 9-1, in the semifinals.
Two other UB wrestlers also are going to the NCAAs. Bryan Lantry earned an NCAA berth for a second straight year after losing the 133-pound final in overtime, 4-2, to Missouri’s John Erneste. Kyle Akins earned a berth by placing fourth at 125 pounds.
2. Niagara CCC basketball. The Thunderwolves qualified for the National Junior College Athletic Association Division II championship tournament for the first time since 1979. Niagara County CC defeated Genesee CC in overtime, 81-80, to claim the Region III title.
The Thunderwolves are in their eighth season under coach Bill Beilein, nephew of Michigan coach John Beilein. They rallied from a 20-point first-half deficit to win. Brooklyn sophomore Jamal Pollydore and Buffalo freshman Donel Cathcart (Cardinal O’Hara) each scored 15 points. The NJCAA tournament is March 21-25 in Danville, Ill.
3. Niagara hockey. The Purple Eagles went 3-23-2 in Atlantic Hockey Conference play this season. They finished last out of 11 teams. But Niagara won two of three games against sixth-place Rochester Institute of Technology to claim a first-round playoff victory. Niagara advances to a quarterfinal series against top-seeded Canisius starting Friday. Niagara sandwiched 5-4 and 4-1 wins around a 5-0 loss to eliminate RIT. The opening win was the most remarkable, as Niagara scored three third-period goals to erase a 4-2 deficit. Johnny Curran scored with 57 seconds left to tie it, and Sam Rennaker scored short-handed with 21 seconds left to win it.
4. UB’s Mason Miller. The sophomore from Westerville, Ohio, was named most outstanding swimmer of the MAC championship meet in Carbondale, Ill. He won three individual golds, claiming the 50 and 100 freestyles and the 100 butterfly. Miller was defending champ in the 50 free and 100 fly. UB’s men placed third in the meet.
5. UB men’s basketball. The Bulls came through in a big way in the last week of the regular season. UB earned a first-round bye in the Mid-American Conference Tournament by scoring a big win at second-place Ohio, then defeating Bowling Green at home. UB claimed the No. 3 seed and plays a quarterfinal game Thursday in Cleveland.
6. Niagara baseball. The Purple Eagles upset 12th-ranked Virginia. 8-5. It was the first loss of the season for the Cavaliers (10-1). Niagara (5-4) got a two-run double in the first inning from Joel Trophy to take a 4-0 lead. Peter Battaglia (Williamsville North) hit a two-run double to right center in the sixth to put Niagara up, 8-1. Reliever Matt McCuen (Sweet Home) got last two outs - a strikeout and fly out - with bases loaded bottom of the ninth. Pitcher Alex McKinnon earned his first collegiate win.
7. Erie CC’s Dan Streer. The sophomore from Elma finished second in singles and third in all-events at the NJCAA championship at Airport Lanes. Streer was the top region bowler and earned All-America status. Erie’s Tom Kress was ninth in all-events, about 28 pins shy of All-America status.
8. Medaille men’s basketball. The Mavericks closed a great season with an 89-82 loss to Susquehanna in the first round of the NCAA Division III tournament in Selinsgrove, Pa. Mike Hollenbeck, a junior forward from Ontario, N.Y., scored 34 points for Medaille. Meghale Ford added 19 and Johnathan Belton 17.
9. Daemen men’s basketball. The Wildcats (19-9) reached the semifinals of the Division II East Coast Conference tournament before losing to top-seeded and eventual champion St. Thomas Aquinas, 85-66. Senior forward Arif Mehmetaj made second-team all-ECC and senior guard Supreme Hannah made third team.
10. Niagara CCC women’s basketball. The Thunderwolves finished 26-5 with an 80-68 loss to top-ranked Monroe CC in the Region III championship game. Alliyah Gillespie led Niagara CCC with 22 points.