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Lancers Repeat at Five Guys Tourney

By Frank Wolf                    Cover Photo Credit: Lynn Christensen

Teammates coming together as a single unit is the hope of every coach at every level. Players that put aside personal agendas for the good of the team is essential to the process. That’s the message coaches deliver at the beginning of each season and continue to hammer into the minds and hearts of their players until the very last game.

One Coach that had a front row seat to watch his message received and better yet put in motion was Paul Rath from St. Mary’s of Lancaster. His visiting Lancers took down the Spartans 55-42 to win the Five Guys Invitational Tournament Wednesday night held at Williamsville North. It was the second straight year St. Mary’s has won this Tourney.

“We’ve been coming here for years now and couldn’t win to save our life, now, back-to-back wins, it’s pretty special” Rath said following the big win. “That’s the best we’ve played defensively all year, by far. They did a great job.”

The Lancers led for all but 40 seconds in this game and although North drew within four points late in the 3rd quarter, St. Mary’s was in control for most of the game. Tournament MVP Eric Brown finished with 13 rebounds in the win, while Daquan Hunt and Christian Szablewski finished with 17 each.

Hunt was named to the All-Tournament team and battled through illness throughout the day. “I woke up not feeling too good, I got some juices in me and just did what I could” Hunt said. The senior forward knocked down 2 important buckets in the final minutes of the game Wednesday that helped seal the deal for St. Mary’s. “I feel as a senior and a captain, I need to be a leader. I had to go out there and play good despite how I was feeling”

“St. Mary’s brought the pressure up tonight and we didn’t respond well” Spartans head coach Chuck Swierski said. Now in his 13th year at Williamsville North, he’s seen his share of good players come through the program. “We’re 2-0 in the division so I’m happy about that. We play good team ball, we had some problems finishing tonight, we played hard and we were tough on the boards. We just struggled to make our baskets.”

Sr. Jairius Huggins led the Spartans with 14 points and was dominant on the offensive boards all night. “I just didn’t shoot well, missed too many opportunities” the forward said after the loss. “It was a bit chippy. They were long, really good but we were in there. Shots just didn’t fall.” Huggins earned praise from his head coach afterwards “I’m really proud of Jairus, the past two weeks he’s really asserted himself out there. He deserves the accolades he’s been getting. We hope he continues to play better, we need him” Swierski said.

North fell into trouble in the 3rd quarter especially. They dropped just 1 bucket in the first 5 minutes to start the 2nd half and allowed St. Mary’s to pull ahead by as many as 10. However after a couple time-out’s North was able to slow the pace down and find a groove. They came back to outscore the Lancers 13-12 in the 3rd quarter.

In the 4th however the Spartans ran out of gas and the Lancers pulled away. “We were tired at the end, they are a really good team, good players. Shots weren’t falling for us” Sr. Anthony Maniscalco of Will North said. “We’re starting to get better. We’ll be good once we get into it.”

Coach Swierski agreed. “We need to find ourselves and once we do we’ll be successful. I have to remind them that it is a long season.”

The Lancers are 4-1 overall and hope to continue the momentum. “the league is awfully tough this year we have Niagara Catholic on the 3rd. The season won’t get any easier. Tonight though, we did a lot of the little things right, great team defense, rebounding, I’m really happy the way we played” coach Rath said.

Will East Topples Emerson

The Williamsville East Flames defeated the Emerson Eagles in the Consolation game at the Five Guys Invitational 80-61. Drew Butler led Will East with 26 points while Tyrek Edwards dropped 36 for the Eagles. Both players were named to the All-Tournament team.

East had control from the start, leading 16-12 after the first quarter and 36-25 at the half. “We’re still a young team. I’m in my first year here and we are all trying to learn from each other” Emerson head coach Randal Rakowski said. “We have to get back to the fundamentals of basketball. Not always easy but if we want to be competitive that’s what has to happen. We play hard.”

East is having a tough season but enjoyed the win nonetheless. “It’s been rough” coach R.J. Killinger said after the win. “Overall, it was a good team effort tonight. What I was most happy about was seeing our starters getting up and cheering on our guys that we had in at the end.”

Sr center Ali Khadra knocked down two shots in the final minutes and Jr guard Brian Suk drained a three in the dying seconds. Players that do not see the floor often that were able to contribute is always nice to see and pumps up a team. “They practice just as hard and put in as much effort as anybody so it’s really good to see them rewarded like that, I was happy for them” Butler said after the win.

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