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  • Writer's picturetgardner1167

Niagara Catholic Holds Off Clarence To Start Public Vs. Private Challenge

The Niagara Catholic High School boys basketball team used its defensive press to take the lead and then held off the pressure of Clarence’s sharp-shooters.

The Patriots used the press to build big leads against the Red Devils and held off a number of comeback tries by the Red Devils. In the end, NC held on for an exciting 70-67 win in the first game of the ADPRO Public Vs. Private Challenge at St. Mary’s High School in Lancaster.

“We just needed to pick up the intensity and get better on defense,” Niagara Catholic guard Mehki Starks said. “We need to get better but we did that we had to do to get a win.”

The Patriots led for most of the competitive game but Clarence had an answer for most of NC’s spurts. However in the end, the Red Devils were never able to get control of the game.

“When you fight back that many times, it’s hard to get over the hump trying to come back so much,” Clarence coach Doug Ratka said. “We battled, but we need to learn to battle like that for 32 minutes and not just in spurts.”

NC led by as many as 12 in the third quarter but Clarence and its big-time shooters came storming back and tied the game early in the fourth. Niagara Catholic took the lead for good with 3:42 left in the fourth on a bucket by Haakim Siner. After a Red Devils turnover, Starks added another hoop 25 seconds later.

“They shot the ball very well,” Niagara Catholic head coach Giulio Colangelo said. “They were able to slow us down a little bit in the fourth quarter, which we struggle with a little bit. But in the end, we were able to get some defensive pressure and get some key baskets.”

Niagara Catholic led by three in the dying seconds of the game when Mehki came up with the play of the game, stealing a pass with nine seconds left. The Red Devils got one more chance but a rushed 3-pointer was off the mark as the buzzer sounded.

“It was time to play good defense and we were just trying to get a big steal,” Starks said.

Quenelle Burch, Avion Harris and Jaemon Turner scored 14 points each for Niagara Catholic (4-1). Steve Kabayiza had 14 points, while Joe Olivieri tossed in 13 points, Jack Putney scored 12 and River Reinhardt added 11 for the Red Devils (1-2).

“Overall, we won but we have to get better,” Colangelo said. “We love coming here every year, it’s great to play here and get better. We’re a small school and it’s always good to get a win against a good team.”

In the second game of the tournament, Cardinal O’Hara got off to a strong start and went on to a 62-42 win over Niagara-Wheatfield. Justin Hemphill scored a game-best 22 points for the Hawks (2-1). Davon Ware scored 16 for the Falcons (3-2).

Park made it a clean sweep on Day 1 for the private schools with an 80-57 win over Lackawanna in the nightcap. Daniel Scott led the Pioneers (4-0) with 15 points. Noah Grabar poured in a game-high 26 points for the Steelers (2-3).

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