Before Sterling Taplin headed to the Williamsville North locker room early Saturday evening, he was handed a souvenir, of sorts.
As he glanced at the poster board - it was inscribed ''Taplin Who?'' - he smiled slightly and then handed it to Spartans' assistant coach Bill Gorman.
Here's guessing the near-capacity crowd at McElrath Gymnasium knows who the 6-foot-1 junior guard is now, if it didn't already.
Tommy Campion of Jamestown, right, tries to drive past Williamsville North’s Sterling Taplin during Saturday night’s ECIC Division 1 boys basketball game at the McElrath Gymnasium. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
Taplin, a returning all-Western New York first-teamer, scored 21 points to go along with seven rebounds and four assists to lift Williamsville North to a convincing, 63-49, victory over Jamestown in an Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division 1 basketball game.
The victory raised the Spartans' record to 7-1 overall and 3-1 in the division; ended their nine-year losing streak at ''The Mac''; and snapped Jamestown's 23-game home win streak that dated to February 2010.
''I told them I didn't know if I've ever been more proud of a team than I am tonight,'' Williamsville North head coach Chuck Swierski said.
In addition to Taplin's often-spectacular play, Swierski received 12 points and seven rebounds from George Attea; nine points from Maceo Jack and David Berkun; and seven points and 11 rebounds from point guard Aman Washington, who was a difference maker after sitting out Thursday night's 77-76 loss to Clarence because of illness.
''Sterling does all sorts of amazing things on a nightly basis,'' Swierski said, ''but we had some other guys step up.''
And it didn't take them long.
Five different Spartans scored in the first quarter when they led by as many as 10 points, forcing the Red Raiders (6-1, 2-1) into catchup mode the rest of the way. And although Jamestown did pull ahead briefly in the second quarter, Williamsville North scored the last five points of the first half and led, 30-25, at intermission.
''We took a couple hits and we went back at them,'' Swierski said.
A 9-2 run to start the third quarter improved the Spartans' lead to 39-28 and the hosts never got closer than four points the rest of the way.
''It's been a long time since we've gotten our butts kicked like that,'' said Jamestown coach Ben Drake, who was denied his 250th career win. ''They were the much better team tonight in just about every phase of the game.''
The Red Raiders, who came in ranked No. 10 in the Class AA state poll, never put it together on the offensive end - they managed just one assist - and failed repeatedly to convert from close range.
''As bad as we played tonight,'' Drake said, ''we could have won that game if we had finished around the basket. We had just so many (layups) and putbacks that we had around the basket that we didn't convert. We're not going to beat good teams leaving those points on the floor like that.''
Senior Tommy Campion led Jamestown with 16 points and sophomore Zack Panebianco chipped in with 14, but the Red Raiders shot just 19-of-52 from the floor, 3-of-16 from the arc and 8-of-16 from the foul line.
''There are definitely some things that we need to figure out and move forward in order to beat a good team like that down the road,'' Drake said.
For good measure, Williamsville North, ranked 22nd in the state, put the game out of reach with a 9-0 run late in the fourth quarter, highlighted by Taplin's 3-pointer and his court-length drive and layup from which highlight reels are made.
''We had no answer for him,'' Drake said. ''In the first half, I thought we did a decent job on him, but it was other guys who were hustling more than we were and beating us to the ball. From the opening tip, I thought they just wanted it more than we did.''
As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Taplin pounded the ball into the hardwood with exaggerated emphasis and then looked in the direction of the Jamestown student section as the final buzzer sounded. After all, it was in that sea of people from which the ''Taplin Who?'' sign originated.
''That's just my personality,'' a smiling Taplin said afterward.
Added Swierski: ''I'm glad people were able to see our team and Sterling play, because I think we're a pretty good team and he's a pretty good player.''
Jamestown will get another shot at the Spartans when it travels to Williamsville North on Jan. 29.
NOTES: Sophomore Branden Kellam grabbed 12 rebounds and junior Quinn Lee Yaw had seven boards for the Red Raiders, who were outrebounded 34-30. ... Jamestown is right back in action Monday when it travels to Lancaster. ... In the junior varsity game, the Red Raiders prevailed, 61-50, to run its record to 5-0. Zacc Kinsey had 18 points, Ben Larson 17 and Derek Foe 14 for the winners.
WILLIAMSVILLE NORTH (63)
Attea 4 4 12, Berkun 3 0 9, Davis 1 0 2, Jack 4 0 9, Majewski 1 0 3, Taplin 9 2 21, Washington 2 2 7, Totals 24 8 63.
Campion 7 1 16, Frank 0 0 0, Colwell 1 0 2 Panebianco 5 2 14, Carlson 0 1 1, Kellam 4 1 9, McBride 0 0 0, Hoaglund 0 0 0, Lee Yaw 4 3 7, Totals 19 8 49.
3-point goals-Berkun 3, Jack, Majeweski, Taplin, Washington, Campion, Panebianco 2.
Williamsville North16 14 14 19 - 63
Jamestown9 16 14 11 - 49
Jayvees: Jamestown 61, Williamsville North 50