By Scott Kindberg
Jamestown High School boys basketball coach Ben Drake remembers it like it was yesterday.
With the re-dedication of the the newly renovated McElrath Gymnasium planned for Saturday, The Post-Journal takes a look back at some of the more memorable high school basketball game at the facility, which opened in 1986. Pictured are some of the players who helped create those memories. Clockwise from top left are Carlos Rivera, Nikki Frederickson, Erinne Cunningham, Justin Johnson and Maceo Wofford.
P-J file photos
Even if it was 27 years ago.
For on a December night in 1986, Drake, then a freshman, played in the first game at the brand-new McElrath Gymnasium, helping the Red Raiders down DeSales, 83-50, in the junior varsity game.
And then he sat in the stands and watched the varsity nearly pull off a miracle comeback in the nightcap.
''I remember vividly that first game in that gym,'' he recalled Sunday night. ''Just the atmosphere. It was a large crowd and a good game, and it hasn't changed (since). It's still a great atmosphere for high school basketball.''
Trailing by 19 points at halftime, Jamestown had a chance to tie the game, but a last-second shot from the top of the key bounced off the back of the rim, preserving DeSales' 73-71 victory.
A lot of basketball has been played in that venue since, and both the boys and girls programs have had incredible success there. With the re-dedication of the newly renovated ''Mac'' scheduled for Saturday night, including honoring members of the ''Wall of Fame,'' it seems only appropriate to look back at five of the most memorable games since 1986. Excerpts from those games were taken from articles in The Post-Journal's archives.
FEB. 21, 2008
RIVERSIDE VS. JAMESTOWN
SECTION 6 CLASS AA QUARTERFINAL
At 5-foot-5 and 130 pounds, Carlos Rivera isn't going to impress anyone with his size.
As for his heart?
Well, that's an entirely different story.
Rivera hit the second of two free throws with 4.4 seconds remaining Friday night to break a tie, and he stole the subsequent inbounds pass to lift the Jamestown Red Raiders to a stunning, 62-61, come-from-behind victory over turnover-plagued Riverside in a Section 6 Class AA quarterfinal basketball game at a rowdy McElrath Gymnasium.
The win vaults the fourth-seeded Red Raiders (14-8), winners of six straight and nine of their last 11, into the semifinals against Frontier, a 73-57 winner over Kenmore West. That game will be played at 7:45 p.m., Thursday at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.
''We've had great wins in my 10 years,'' said Jamestown coach Ben Drake, dripping wet after getting doused with water in a jubilant Red Raiders' locker room, ''but this ranks right up there among the best.''
Trailing by 11 points with under a minute to go in the third quarter and by five with less than two minutes remaining in the game, the Red Raiders found a way to knock the Frontiers out of the sectional playoffs for the second time in three years.
Leading the way was Rivera, whose game-winning free throw was set up when he was fouled driving to the basket in the closing seconds.
''Carlos is ice,'' Drake said. ''He does not get rattled, he plays with a ton of confidence, and he's just one of the most heady players I've coached. He rarely makes mistakes on the floor, he's always in the right spot and he always seems to be one step ahead.''
That was especially the case during the frantic final minutes, during which the Red Raiders refused to let Riverside (16-6), the No. 5 seed, put them away.
In fact, after Justin Stokes scored with just under two minutes left to put the Frontiers in front, 61-56, Jamestown didn't allow the Buffalo school another point the rest of the way.
''The bottom line was we had the game,'' said Riverside coach Ron Killinger, who saw his team fall to Jamestown in the Class AA semifinals in 2006 at Niagara University. '' ... We wanted this one, especially after two years ago.''
Rivera, who finished with 16 points and four steals, had plenty of help.
Joe Spencer had seven of his 13 points in the fourth quarter, senior Marcus McAffee had 13 points, six assists and eight steals, Ben Cecchini had 10 points and eight rebounds and Jordan White chipped in with nine points.
Feb. 11, 1999
HAMBURG VS. JAMESTOWN
WOFFORD NETS 53
Maceo Wofford saved his best for last.
Playing in his final regular-season home game, the senior point guard poured in a school-record 53 points to lift the Jamestown Red Raiders to an 88-62 victory over Hamburg in an Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division 1 basketball game before a standing-room-only crowd at McElrath Gymnasium.
"It feels great because I worked hard to get where I am,'' Wofford said. ''My family is proud of me and my teammates are proud of me. It feels great to be known as one of the elite athletes in Western New York.''
See MEMORIES, Page C4
No one can dispute that.
Check out the numbers: 19 of 31 from the field, 14 of 18 from the foul line, 14 rebounds, six assists and eight steals.
And it was his final shot with 3:28 remaining, a jumper form the wing with a Hamburg player draped all over him, that kissed off the glass and through the net, pushing him past Justin Johnson, who set the previous record of 51 in February 1994.
When the ball fell through the net, Wofford raised his arms in triumph and a broad smile creased his face. Only when he arrived at the foul line to complete the three-point play did the unthinkable happen.
After four years, Wofford finally lost his composure.
Bent over at the waist, he began to cry.
''When I made the bucket, I put my arms up in joy,'' Wofford said. ''When I went to the foul line, tears started coming down my cheek. Right then, I knew I wasn't going to the make the foul shot. My mind was just blank.''
But he left the crowd of more than 2,000 with plenty to remember.
Jumpers, drives to the basket and a thunderous, two-handed dunk were all part of Wofford's repertoire against a Hamburg team that was set on stopping him at all costs.
It didn't matter.
FEB. 17, 1994
FREDONIA VS. JAMESTOWN
JOHNSON POURS IN 51
Electricity filled the air Friday night at a jam-packed gym at Jamestown High School.
And Justin Johnson was plugged in.
The 6-foot-8 senior poured in a school-record 51 points - breaking his old mark by a point - and the red-hot Red Raiders (15-2), before an estimated crowd of 2,300, downed the Fredonia Hillbillies (14-6), 89-77, in a non-league game that more than lived up to it's hyped-up advanced billing.
Johnson, who scored 49 points against Fredonia two months ago, continued his dominance against the Hillbillies last night, connecting on 19-of-26 shots and all 11 of his free throws, while grabbing 13 rebounds and dishing out five assists.
''All his accomplishments are just phenomenal, just like the ballgame tonight,'' Jamestown coach Ron Frederes said. ''There's not enough adjectives to describe him. He did it again tonight.
Johnson, in tandem with 6-4 senior Tom Bailey (24 points, 12 rebounds), was unstoppable inside as the Red Raiders, who shot an amazing 35 of 47 from the field (74 percent), regularly fed the big men underneath.
And in the third quarter, Johnson and Bailey delivered a staggering blow to the Hillbillies, transforming a 42-41 Jamestown halftime lead into a 68-56 advantage after three quarters.
Johnson poured in 18 points in the period, including 12 in a row at one point, while Bailey added six as the duo thoroughly dominated play.
Meanwhile, Fredonia's Mike Heary (33 points, five rebounds), who scored 21 points in the first half, was held scoreless in the third quarter as Bailey and junior Don Dalrymple - playing a diamond-and-one - did a fine job of shadowing the senior standout.
''He's just a terrific inside player,'' Heary said of Johnson. ''He makes the catch on the lob pass. ... He's getting hung on and everything and then he turns around with a soft touch. He's killed us in two games.''
Two months earlier, Johnson scored 49 points in an 87-74 road loss to Fredonia.
DEC. 8, 2007
JAMESTOWN VS. EAST AURORA
Following two runaway victories to open the season, the Jamestown girls basketball team received its first test Saturday night.
With an impressive fourth-quarter surge, the Lady Red Raiders passed the test with flying colors.
After trailing for most of the first three quarters against a talented and experienced East Aurora team, the Lady Red Raiders broke out for 33 points during the final eight minutes to turn an eight-point deficit into a nine-point victory, defeating the Lady Blue Devils, 83-74, to win the United Way Tip-Off Tournament.
''This was the best test we could get,'' Jamestown coach Ken Ricker said of East Aurora, the defending Class B state champions. ''They are certainly one of the top few programs in Western New York. It was a wonderful game. The whole game, whether we won or lost, I felt that way.
East Aurora coach Chris Koselny echoed those sentiments. Despite the loss, he felt his team benefitted from playing a top program.
''Our girls know what this is,'' Koselny said. ''Every non-league game we schedule we try to play the toughest opponents we can. It's all stepping stones to try to get where we want to be in February and March. We gained from this. We gained a lot from coming here.''
Jamestown was led for the third straight game by Nikki Frederickson, who finished with 33 points after scoring just six in the first half. The senior has scored 120 points in three games this year and is now just 40 points away from setting the school's girls basketball scoring mark.
DEC. 22, 2007
NAZARETH VS. JAMESTOWN
Erinne Cunningham etched her name in the school record book yet again as the Jamestown Lady Red Raiders (7-0, 3-0) topped previously unbeaten Nazareth, 75-64, in non-league girls basketball on Saturday evening.
Cunningham drilled seven 3-pointers en route to 23 points to tie Diana DePane's school record. DePane set the record in 2005 at West Seneca West. For the game, Cunningham was 7-of-15 from the arc.
''She is the total package,'' said Jamestown coach Ken Ricker. ''She worked all summer on her 3-point shot.''
The teams went back and forth over the course of the entire game. The Lady Lasers outscored the Lady Red Raiders, 18-17, in the first quarter and managed to stretch the lead to eight with less than two minutes remaining in the first half. However, the Lady Red Raiders went on a 10-0 run, capped by freshman Ashley Frederickson's trey at the buzzer to give Jamestown its first lead of the game, 33-31.
''We went into half up two and we felt pretty good about ourselves,'' Ricker said. ''We came out in the third quarter and Nikki (Frederickson) was really, really active.''
Frederickson completely dominated the third period with 12 of her 24 points, extending Jamestown's lead to nine points entering the final period.
Nazareth wasn't quite finished, though. The Lady Lasers managed to cut the lead all the way down to two with three minutes to go before Liketia McAffee ensured Jamestown's 45th consecutive regular-season victory. The junior guard stole the ball and converted a layup before hitting a 3-pointer in transition after another Nazareth turnover. Maggie Dalton hit a pull-up jumper to push the lead to nine and end any remaining hope of a Lady Laser comeback.