BUFFALO - The Jamestown Red Raiders are Section 6 Class AA basketball champions again.
Sparked by a stingy 2-3 zone defense and balanced scoring, the top-seeded Red Raiders captured their third Section 6 Class AA championship in four years and the 11th in school history Saturday night by knocking off No. 2 Niagara Falls, 46-39, before a large crowd at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.
Sophomore Branden Kellam scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, senior Tommy Campion had 13 points and sophomore Zack Panebianco chipped in 12 as Jamestown (19-2) avenged last year's sectional final loss to the Wolverines (17-4) to earn a berth in the Far West Regional. That game, against a to-be-determined opponent, is scheduled for 8:45 p.m., next Saturday at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester.
Jamestown coach Ben Drake hugs senior Tommy Campion after the Red Raiders defeated Niagara Falls for the Section 6 Class AA championship on Saturday night. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
"It feels awesome,'' Red Raiders coach Ben Drake said, "especially the way last year's game went. We outplayed them for 28 minutes last year (in the sectional final) and a lot of the same guys are back, so we've been waiting for this game.''
As it turned out, it was worth the wait for Drake's crew.
After surviving a barrage of 3-point field goals early - Niagara Falls (17-4) had five in the first quarter - the Red Raiders' zone was air-tight. All told, they limited the Wolverines, the 16th-ranked team in the state, to just 12 field goals, including only four inside the arc.
''The kids did a great job of executing our defensive game plan tonight,'' Drake said. ''We haven't played a lot of it ... so I thought it was one of those things (Niagara Falls) wasn't expecting. We've been working on it a lot in practice and we were just awesome in it tonight. ... We just executed so well.''
So even though Jamestown, ranked No. 26 in this week's state poll, trailed, 15-11 after the first quarter, it allowed only 24 points the rest of the game.
''Niagara Falls is a great team,'' said Campion, who has been part of three sectional title teams, ''and they're at their best when they are running, getting to the basket and getting offensive rebounds. ... They got hot in the first quarter and we knew that wasn't going to continue. ... We knew we were going to get back in it and take control of the game.''
By halftime, the Red Raiders had seized the lead, 25-20, after allowing just two Wolverines' field goals in the second quarter.
''We were really concentrating on not letting them get the ball into the lane, and protecting the paint,'' Drake said. ''We were just so good at helping each other out and not allowing them into the gaps. We made them earn their points.''
In the third quarter, Jamestown expanded its lead to as many as nine points, 31-22, but Niagara Falls closed the period on an 8-2 run, trimming the deficit to 33-30.
Unlike last year, however, Jamestown didn't wilt.
A 7-2 run to start the quarter- Campion had three points, while Panebianco and junior Quinn Lee Yaw had two apiece - pushed the lead to 40-32 with 3:32 remaining.
''We called a timeout and (Drake) said we were in exactly the same spot last year and we blew it,'' Campion said. ''We knew if we played defense and didn't turn the ball over we'd be all right.''
This time Jamestown executed down the stretch as Niagara Falls never got closer than four points the rest of the way. Panebianco sealed the outcome by nailing four straight free throws in the final 29 seconds. He was 8-of-8 from the charity stripe for the game.
''It's a dream come true,'' said Campion, who now has 1,125 career points. ''This is what we wanted since the end of last year.''
Now it's on to Rochester and another berth in the Far West Regional.
''There are still four (Section 5) teams left,'' Drake said. ''At this point, we need to have a good week of practice, because we can't be satisfied with just being Section 6 champs. We're one game away from going back to the Final Four. Anything can happen at this point.''
NOTES: Canisius-bound senior Jermaine Crumpton led the Wolverines with 15 points, while Stefan Caffee added 10. ... Niagara Falls shot 12-of-37 from the floor, including 8-of-21 from the arc, while Jamestown was 15-of-43 and 1-of-5. ... A big difference was at the foul line where the Red Raiders connected on 15-of-19 - Panebianco was 8-of-8 - while Niagara Falls was 7-of-10. ... Jamestown also took care of the ball, turning the ball over just eight times, compared to 17 for the Wolverines.
NIAGARA FALLS (39)
Burton 2 4 6, Wilkes 2 1 6, Crumpton 4 4 15, Ralands 1 0 2, Caffee 3 2 10, Totals 12 7 39.
Campion 3 6 13, Panebianco 2 8 12, Kellam 6 1 13, Lee Yaw 3 0 6, Carlson 0 0 0, McBride 1 0 2, Colwell 0 0 0, Totals 15 15 46.
3-point goals-Burton 2, Wilkes, Crumpton 3, Caffee 2., Campion.
Niagara Falls15 5 10 9 - 39
Jamestown11 14 8 13 - 46