NIAGARA FALLS – What a way to start the season for Niagara Falls.
Junior Vinzell Wakins hit two game-tying free throws with 1.8 seconds left in regulation, and Jermaine Crumpton got the Wolverines started in overtime with a three-pointer as the Wolverines beat highly touted Rochester private school Bishop Kearney, 52-47, at the Cataract Classic.
In other games during the opening day of the tournament, Williamsville North beat Batavia, 51-32. Sweet Home opened the event with a 52-49 win in double overtime over Niagara-Wheatfield.
The tournament resumes at noon today with six games.
The marquee game of the opening night at Niagara Falls High School featured a Kearney team that includes a front line of 6-foot-10 senior and Syracuse recruit Chinonso Obokoh, 6-10 junior Godspower Ogide and 6-9 Thomas Bryant, who is one of the most highly regarded sophomores in the country.
Niagara Falls pestered Kearney with terrific man-to-man defense throughout a tightly-played game. Senior guard Jaleo Wilkins (four points) led the way on defense before fouling out late in regulation. In the overtime, Crumpton hit a three-pointer and Falls would add most of its remaining points from the line.
“I can’t take too many more games like this,” Niagara Falls coach Sal Constantino said. “I’m just really happy for the kids. We tried to take the four nonleague games we had and load up our schedule with challenges, and they were certainly a challenge.”
Crumpton had 18 points for Falls, while senior guard Ramir Burton had 16 – 13 of which came in the fourth quarter and overtime. Watkins had 13 points.
“I can’t say enough about the kids – they guarded the way they guarded,” said Constantino. “It was such a team effort. Vinzell Watkins came up big at the end with those clutch free throws. Jermaine hit big shots. Ramir at the foul line. JJ [Wilkins] was that antagonist on ‘D’ all night.”
Obokoh had 12 points, Ogide had eight and Bryant had seven points before fouling out in regulation. Antwoine Anderson had eight, all in the fourth quarter and overtime for Kearney.
Also in Friday’s Cataract Classic, Sterling Taplin was a first-team All-Western New York selection as a sophomore last year. He had a tremendous game in his debut as a junior, scoring 23 points in a highlight-filled game for Will North.
Taplin hit three three-pointers, put in a follow-slam dunk off a missed shot and set up his teammates several times as North used a 22-6 first quarter to roll to the victory.
Senior guard David Berkun had 13 points, including three three-pointers, two of which came off of passes after Taplin penetrated. Taplin also kicked out a pass for senior guard Justin Fillmore’s only points of the game, on a three.
“What I’m hoping people are going to see is that we have a superstar in Sterling – who is as good as you’re going to see in high school – but we’ve got four other kids on the floor who I can go and say, ‘When it’s your turn you have to produce,’” North coach Chuck Swierski said.
In Friday’s opener, sophomore Jordan Heine helped give Sweet Home a season-opening win on his first field goal of the game, a driving layup with four seconds left in the second overtime.
Sophomore Najee Peters and senior Khalid Barnes each had 13 points to lead Sweet Home.