Seven weeks ago, the Jamestown Red Raiders led Williamsville North by 15 points with four minutes remaining, but lost. It was admittedly one of the most gut-wrenching setbacks of Coach Ben Drake's 16-year career.
Since then, the Red Raiders have been scratching and clawing to stay at or near the top of the Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division 1 basketball heap.
All that effort paid off Monday night.
Jamestown’s Zack Panebianco drives past Williamsville North’s Sterling Taplin during Monday night’s ECIC Division 1 game. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
Junior Zack Panebianco poured in 31 points; senior Quinn Lee Yaw added 15 points, including three dunks, and 14 rebounds; and sophomore Zacc Kinsey chipped in a career-high 10 points, six assists and five rebounds to send Jamestown to a 67-54 victory over the Spartans before a near-capacity crowd at McElrath Gymnasium.
The win raised the Red Raiders' record to 13-4 overall and 9-2 in the division, with one league game remaining Thursday at home against West Seneca West.
Williamsville North, meanwhile (12-4, 8-2) is a heavy favorite in its two remaining division games, as is Clarence (13-3, 8-2), which means that a three-way tie for league title is an almost certainty. Seedings for the upcoming Section 6 playoffs will be announced Saturday, but, for now, the Red Raiders can be satisfied with achieving the first of their season's goals.
''That was just a huge win,'' Drake said.
Jamestown used a strong start to begin each half - a 12-2 run to end the first quarter and a 10-1 surge at the start of the third - and that was enough to avenge a 61-60 loss to the Spartans in December.
In both instances, it was Panebianco and Lee Yaw who spearheaded the rallies.
Panebianco, who has scored 30 points or more in three of his last four games, matched Williamsville North star guard Sterling Taplin (24 points) basket for basket. And it was Panebianco's momentum-changing 3-pointer with 3:04 remaining in the game from in front of the Jamestown bench that effectively halted a furious Spartans' comeback and allowed Drake to take a deep breath and the Red Raiders to take a step toward a share of the league championship.
''Zack, man, what can you say about him? He's playing as well as anybody in Western New York,'' Drake said. ''There were times he made some unbelievable plays tonight.''
The trey, though, was the biggest.
''Zack's always willing to take the big shot, and he's ice,'' Drake said. ''When the game is on the line, he wants the ball in his hands and continually comes through for us.''
Lee Yaw, meanwhile, played like his feet were on fire, skying for rebounds, hitting perimeter shots and throwing down dunks, two of which came on back-to-back possessions to spearhead the third-quarter run that ultimately led to a 49-30 advantage heading into the final period.
''Quinn played great tonight,'' Drake said. '' ... He was just a man possessed. We had a nice talk in school (on Monday) and I just think mentally he came ready to play.''
While Panebianco and Lee Yaw were the headliners, Kinsey and junior Stephen Carlson had strong games.
Kinsey ran the point a good share of the time and did a nice job defensively against Taplin, one of Western New York's best players.
''Zacc has really come a long way,'' Drake said. ''It's really nice to have another player to handle the ball and he also made some plays.''
Carlson, meanwhile, finished with nine points, but six of them came in the fourth quarter, including a baseline jumper after Williamsville North had closed to within 10 points, 52-42, with 4:36 left.
''One of the most positive things of the night was during a timeout,'' Drake said. ''Steve looked at me and said he could take his man. That's what we need is someone else to step up and say, 'Give me the ball and I'll make a play.' That was a huge possession because (Williamsville North) had all the momentum.''
Speaking of momentum, Jamestown would appear to have plenty of it heading into Thursday's regular-season finale and beyond.
''We're playing good basketball,'' Drake said. ''I wouldn't want to play us right now. You always want to be playing your best basketball at the end of the season. I think we definitely are.''
While disappointed with the outcome, Williamsville North coach Chuck Swierski said ''There's worse things than this loss, honestly.'
See JHS, Page B3
''It's good if it helps us re-focus,'' he said. ''We haven't had a close game in a long time. I'm not ashamed of this loss at all.''
NOTES: Panebianco shot 9-of-22 from the field, including 4-of-12 from the arc; Lee Yaw connected on 7-of-12 shots from the floor, had three steals, took two charges and blocked one shot; and Carlson made four of the five shots he took. ... As a team, the Red Raiders connected on 25-of-52 attempts from the field compared to 20-of-48 for the Spartans. ... Jamestown also held a 33-20 rebounding edge. ... Jamestown also claimed the junior varsity game, 43-36. ... James Rojas had 10 points and David Diaz grabbed 17 rebounds for the Red Raiders (13-4, 10-1).
WILLIAMSVILLE NORTH (54)
Attea 2 0 4, Hill 1 0 2, Hughes 0 1 1, Jack 1 2 4, Kreuz 2 0 4, Lambert 4 2 13, Majewski 1 0 2, Taplin 9 4 24, Totals 20 9 54.
Kinsey 4 2 10, Colwell 0 0 0, Park 0 0 0, Panebianco 9 9 31, Larson 1 0 2, Hoaglund 0 0 0, Carlson 4 1 9, Lee Yaw 7 1 15, Totals 25 13 67.
3-point goals-Lambert 3, Taplin 2, Panebianco 4.
Williamsville North10 11 9 24 - 54
Jamestown20 12 17 18 - 67
Jayvees: Jamestown 43, Willliamsville North 36