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NT basketball captures its biggest win yet in advancing to regionals for the first time

On a night in which Section VI paid homage to the late Archie O'Bryan, one of the coaching great's disciples guided the North Tonawanda to perhaps its biggest boys basketball win in school history.

The Lumberjacks of coach Ryan Mountain are heading to the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association tournament for the first time.

NT (20-4) punched its ticket to the Far West Regionals by defeating Amherst, 58-51, in the overall Section VI Class A final Tuesday night before an estimated crowd of 2,000 at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.

Junior Trevor Book scored 19 of his team-high 25 points in the first half as the Class A-1 champions seized the lead for good during an 18-10 second quarter after battling the Class A-2 champions to a 15-15 stalemate through eight minutes.

The combination of Book's accurate shooting along with the team's ability to score in transition enabled an NT crew that dropped a regular-season meeting to the Tigers to win the rematch.

"This just feels amazing," said Book, who also leads NT in steals and ranks second in rebounding. "It's like nothing I've ever felt before."

North Tonawanda returns to action at 6 p.m. Saturday night at Rush-Henrietta High School, where it will play the Section V champion. The winner of that game advances to the final four on St. Patrick's Day weekend in Binghamton.

Three days after the Jacks stunned two-time defending Class A champion and News No. 1 Large School Williamsville South, they took out the third-ranked Tigers (20-4).

"Amazing things happen when nobody cares who gets the credit," Mountain said.

Well, almost nobody.

Prior to the start of nightcap to the championship doubleheader, there was a short tribute to Archie O'Bryan, who passed away last fall due to an illness at age 64. His sons Erik, Todd and Michael – who drew the officiating assignment for the Class A final, his widow Pam and other family members gathered at center court for the ceremony.

Archie O'Bryan won 275 games, eight divisional titles and a Section VI championship while at Iroquois. He later joined his son Erik, during the latter's coaching tenure at NT.

It was during that time when Mountain was tabbed to serve as an assistant and junior varsity coach. Archie and Mountain had plenty of chats during their time coaching together.

"Archie O'Bryan affected this game because he gave me the confidence to coach varsity basketball," Mountain said. "A lot of private conversations we had, he said I had the 'it factor.'"

Book and his teammates had that 'it factor' Tuesday in taking down an Amherst team whose only local losses prior to Tuesday came against ranked large schools Williamsville South and Bishop Timon-St. Jude.

The unranked Lumberjacks' active 2-3 zone defense along with Book's shooting put the Tigers in an inescapable hole.

Book scored eight points during the second quarter with a layup sparking a run that enabled NT to turn a 22-19 lead with 3:43 left in the period to a 38-25 advantage just 81 seconds into the third quarter.

"We walked in together and I said 'Trevor, this is why you worked thousands of hours the past two offseasons, to shine on this grand stage," Mountain said. "He did tonight."

So too did Book's teammate Vincent Tripi. His two three-pointers in the third quarter and ability to find open teammates for baskets enabled the Jacks to take a somewhat comfortable 49-34 lead into the final period.

Amherst (20-4), which lost in the overall Class A final last year, pulled within 53-45 on a Will Alfieri steal and Jordan Barr layup with 2:19 left. The Tigers stole the ball in NT's end after the inbounds but failed to turn that into points. Alex Quinn's layup a minute later pretty much sealed the deal for NT.

Marcellus Cooper scored 25 points to lead Amherst.

The Lumberjacks are scheduled to receive a day off Wednesday. Thursday, they start preparing for the next biggest game in their history.

"We knew from a while ago that we were going to do big things when we got up to the varsity level," Tripi said. "It's great to be able to accomplish those dreams."

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