YOUNGSTOWN – Roddy Gayle’s weekend was supposed to go a little something like this.
-- Take the court at Lewiston-Porter.
-- Give the crowd reasons to cheer.
-- Help his Lancers punch their ticket to Championship Week at Buffalo State.
-- Head to Columbus, Ohio, on an unofficial visit to Ohio State on Sunday and take in the Buckeyes versus Michigan game.
-- Return home with perhaps another scholarship offer from a major Division I program to add to all the others in his possession.
If the sophomore guard and four-star prospect returns to his Niagara County home with another offer, that means only one of the aforementioned items won’t receive a check mark by it.
Unfortunately for Gayle, the missing piece is the one that probably would have made his weekend complete.
Lewiston-Porter’s reign as Section VI Class A champion is over.
It ended Saturday afternoon with a Class A-2 quarterfinal loss to South Park as the No. 6 seeded Sparks beat the third-seeded Lancers in comeback fashion, 83-71.
In a fast-paced, entertaining game, Gayle did a fine job serving as Lew-Port’s facilitator on offense, as per usual. He finished with 22 points to go with numerous assists and roughly 10 rebounds.
Although his shot refused to drop for him at times, he still commanded the South Park defense’s attention when he drove to the basket. In those instances, he kicked it out to open teammates – the correct play.
It just wasn’t enough to produce victory for Lew-Port (12-9), and sometimes that happens.
Two seniors who helped South Park’s football team win the Section VI title last fall delivered in another big spot for their school. Senior Anthony Mack, who has shown a knack for coming up huge in the postseason during his four basketball seasons, led the way with 30 points, 11 assists and six steals. Jayson Armstead added 22 points and 12 rebounds as South Park (13-9) reached the semifinals for the third time in four years.
“I couldn’t go out like last year in the (quarterfinal) round. It’s my senior year, so I had to take control,” said Mack, who sank 14-of-16 shots from the free-throw line and hit the 3-pointer that gave the Sparks the lead for good with 3 minutes, 10 seconds left.
South Park outscored the hosts 29-14 in the final quarter to overcome a 57-54 deficit.
“It’s disappointing … but it’s kind of the way our season has gone,” Lew-Port coach Matt Bradshaw said. “They scored 12 points in the first quarter, and then they end up with 80 something so defensively we struggle and a lot of it has to do with rebounding.”
South Park owned the glass in this one with Armstead lead the charge.
That means for the first time in his scholastic career, Gayle won’t be among the game-changing talents entertaining the masses at Championship Week at Buffalo State.
Gayle had a coming out party of sorts at the mecca for Section VI basketball last season, producing offense and shutting down the opponent’s best player to help the Lancers post three wins and end a decades-long championship drought. He also helped Niagara Falls as an eighth grader win the Class AA title there.
“This feeling right now hurts,” Gayle said. “I’m going to do whatever I can (during the offseason) to not be in this position again.”
While Gayle clearly is Lew-Port’s best player, he may not have been at his physical best down during the final month. Gayle missed two weeks of practice and three games after banging heads with a Middle Early College player in a Jan. 22 loss. In that 38-point performance, he showcased all the skills that make such a coveted prospect.
Since returning from the injury, he still produced his share of highlight-reel moments. But he averaged 21 points per in his final six games. He averaged 28 per game before the concussion.
“He’s given everything he has; He never disappoints me,” Bradshaw said. “He plays a solid game. He gets his teammates involved. This is a team game. It’s a team loss. I didn’t do the greatest of jobs and it all starts with me.”
Also, it’s tough returning from any injury that forces an athlete to be inactive for any length of time.
“It was kind of difficult you know coming back from taking the time off, so I had to adjust to taking the time off for the concussion and the ankle injury (earlier in the season),” Gayle said. “I will definitely do whatever I can to become a better player.”
The great ones usually do.
Story topics: Prep Talk