North Tonawanda ends the Vikings season and look for their first sectional title since 1961
By: David Yarger
BUFFALO, NY- In front of a packed gym at Buffalo State College on Tuesday, the North Tonawanda Lumberjacks defeated the Grand Island Vikings 64-34. The Jacks dominated on all sides of the ball, putting pressure on defense and storming out of the gate offensively. Coach Ryan Mountain said the team tried to play as hard as it could on defense, and take away Grand Island’s best scorers.
That is exactly what happened.
NT started the game on a 7-0 run before Grand Island’s first bucket. The lead got as high as 16-2. The lone bright spot of the quarter for the Vikings was Garrett Robinson, who nailed a long 3-pointer before the buzzer sounded. Grand Island trailed after the first, 16-5.
Grand Island tried to creep closer but the Jacks defense refused to give in. NT went on a 9-0 run to extend the score, 27-9. Grand Island answered going on a small 7-2 run to end the half. Derek Callen’s 3 before the buzzer capped off the run and made the score 29-16 at halftime. NT kept their foot on the gas in the third quarter, starting the half with a 15-3 run to extend the lead, 44-19. At the end of the third quarter, the Jacks led 45-22.
Nothing changed in the fourth quarter, as Brandon Casterline and Patrick Milbrand nailed 3-pointers to extend the NT lead even further. The Jacks walked away with a 64-34 win. The Vikings ends their season with a record of 15-7. Despite, a disappointing loss, Coach Ron Krysztof said the season was a victory.
“A success; 100 percent,” he said. “We had a negative experience here but if you take a step back, obviously a very successful season, making it to Buff. State for the first time in eight years.”
Though the Vikings will graduate seven seniors from the program, Krysztof was positive when speaking about the future.
“It’s going to be interesting,” he said. “We still got (Cam) Sionko and (Liam) Carey. Then I like a couple of JV kids we have.”
Krysztof said the team might not be as deep next year, but it will have talent coming back. Derek Callen led the Vikings with 10 points while Sionko and JB Wilkes added 8 apiece. The departing seniors for Grand Island include Wilkes, Mario Wright, Ray Cleveland, Roman Cacciatore, Connor Buzby, Garrett Robinson and Devin Brandon.
For the Lumberjacks, the win puts them in their first sectional title game since 2015, where they lost to Williamsville South. They will be battling the Billies once again for the Class A1 crown.
Mountain said the team is excited to face the Billies.
“It’s going to be an up-and-down game,” he said. “There’s a lot of scorers on both sides, and we both have elite players in Trevor Book and Greg Dolan, and both teams have great supporting casts.”
Mountain said Will South average about 71 points per contest compared to the Jacks’ 68, while the Jacks give up an average of 49 points per game, compared to Will South’s 53. He called it as even as a matchup they could find for the finals.
In the win over Grand Island, Book and Rory Farkas led the way with 12 points apiece, while Casterline and Alex Quinn had 9 points apiece. Nine different Lumberjacks scored in the win. Mountain said that’s been the theme of the season.
“Strength in numbers has been our motto all year long and it was that again tonight,” he said. “Everyone contributed, but there’s some guys who might not have scored, but they bring a lot to the table, as well.”
The Jacks look to hoist their fifth sectional title, and first since 1961, when they return to Buff State to battle No. 1 Williamsville South at 7 p.m. Saturday, March 4.