NIAGARA FALLS – In most games, Niagara Falls won’t have the height advantage on its foes.
It's used to it.
To counter that the Wolverines try to play fast, physical and come up with ways of making their opponents miserable.
They may have stumbled on another method: just make Moran Montgomery angry.
The 6-foot-2 Montgomery erupted for 18 points and six rebounds and played physical defense against Aquinas counterparts who towered over him as Niagara Falls closed the Battle of the Border five-game showcase with an 83-63 rout of the Little Irish.
Montgomery was one of five Wolverines to score in double figures. Jalen Bradberry had 20 points to lead the winners, while Willie Lightfoot added 19 to go along with 12 assists as the News’ second-ranked large school used a 48-point second half to secure their 10th straight win.
Falls, the defending Section VI Class AA champion, received quite the boost from Montgomery, who kept 6-10 Tyler Warner (14 points) and 6-5 Steve Mahar (four points) from exploiting his team’s lack of height.
“It’s just somewhere where I’m needed to be,” said Montgomery. “I’m much shorter than them but it was just the hustle. Whoever hustles more, it shows out.”
“He does little things maybe some of our talented guys aren’t willing to do at times and those are the plays that win games down the road especially when sectionals come around,” Wolverines coach Sal Constantino said.
Before the Aquinas game, Constantino said the coaches challenged Montgomery to play physical.
“Tonight he certainly did when he had to,” Constantino said. ”He wasn’t allowing a catch around the basket. He was making that guy fight for every inch of the court that he got.”
With Falls (14-2) more than holding its own inside, Lightfoot and company forced the Little Irish (5-10) into playing a fast-paced game.
Trailing 22-16, the Wolverines seized control for good with a 19-6 blitz during the final 6 minutes of the second quarter. Faybion Prather started it with a layup. Roughly 15 seconds later, Montgomery scored in transition after a steal by Lightfoot. Josiah Harris’ three gave the Wolverines a 23-22 lead – an advantage that kept growing. Bradberry’s putback made it 35-28 at halftime.
Montgomery and Lightfoot combined for 16 of Falls’ 23 third-quarter points. Lightfoot’s three with 4:43 left in the frame made it 45-38 and sparked another run that enabled the Wolverines to extend the lead into double-digits.
“We won by 40 last night (against Kenmore West), but I didn’t think we played well,” Constantino said. “Tonight we answered the challenge. We played at our tempo, which we knew was going to be the difference. If we played a half-court game we were going to be in a lot of trouble. I thought Willie did a really good job pushing tempo. He really changed the game without scoring a basket at times just with how he pushed the ball and got an assist.”
Falls starts a three-game week Tuesday at North Tonawanda. The Wolverines finish with a big nonleaguer next Saturday against Canisius in the final game of the two-day Centercourt Classic at Villa Maria College.