Lamar and the Sanders twins have seen it all for NF
At the end of the 2013-14 Niagara Falls High School basketball season, it was tough to judge which direction the Wolverines were heading. The team had just finished 7-13, the program’s worst record since the opening of the new high school in 2000. However, the program has a storied past. The progression of the program and success of the team were both in question; the answer then, was nowhere but up.
Since 2014, the Wolverines have been to three straight sectional title games, winning two. Charles Lamar, Devin Sanders and Tyler Sanders have experienced all four years of the program’s best and worst of times. Coming off a win vs. Lancaster to secure the trio’s second Section VI Class AA title, the three players agreed three title appearances and two championships were hard to imagine but not out of the equation after the 2014 season.
“Freshman year, it was really rough,” Lamar said. “We said, obviously we’re gonna get better as a team. That year we didn’t have anybody with varsity experience.”
“Our ninth-grade year, it was tough – I’m not gonna lie,” Devin said. “We didn’t make it to Buff State and – for Niagara Falls – that’s not good. But, making it three years straight is amazing. Each year we’ve consistently been getting better and better.”
Coach Sal Constantino praised the three players’ growth, and said he was happy for their accomplishments.
“They were with us when we were 7-13,” Constantino said. “And for them to be in three championship games and to win two, I think it’s special for them. More than anything, their growth is just to see their maturity, their character and everything. There’s never a kid that gave me a hard time.”
All three agreed this year’s win was most exciting, because they had to go through adversity to get the wins. In January, the Wolverines lost four of their nine games. The slump was deemed a learning process.
“This year, we went through a lot of adversity, and the team was able to pull through. So, I feel like this year was better than any year,” Tyler said.
“During that time, we had a lot of soul-searching,” Devin said. “We just had to come together as a team and figure stuff out.”
“We had to find ourselves,” Lamar said. “We had to figure out what was best for the team going forward.”
Lamar said his favorite moment from high school came in the win vs. Lancaster, and it was thanks to Tyler.
“Tyler threw me the craziest alley-oop. And I’ve had many dunks in my high school career, but I had never caught an ‘oop in a game,” Lamar said. “Tyler, being my teammate for the last four years, when he threw me that, it was like ‘about time.’ ”
When the three look back, they will be able to recognize their accomplishments and how they added to the history of Niagara Falls basketball.
The 2017 title was the 18th in program history. The three recognized the past history, and said they were excited they had their own piece in adding to it.
“We came from a school where NBA players have come from, like Jonny Flynn,” Lamar said. “We’re not going to be compared to them, but I will look back and say we held it down for our city. In 10 years, we were winners of the school, too. It wasn’t just Jonny and them; we won too. It’s like a family of winners.”
“It’s a culture over here just to win,” Tyler said. “Hopefully, looking back 10 years from now, we think about how well we’ve done and where we’ve came from; where it all started.”
“We just had a lot of fun,” Devin said. “Especially growing together, it’s a real good bonding experience for all of us. So, I’ll look back on that the most.”
The trio’s journey had a tough ending vs. Fairport in the Far West Regional game, but Constantino reiterated how proud he was.
“I just told those guys, they make me really proud. They are exactly what I’d like this program to be known for. Not just on the court, but off the court also,” he said.
The three will be able to walk away with two sectional titles in three appearances, a Niagara Frontier League championship and two appearances to the Far West Regional game.