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NT Takes Top Position Of NFL With Win Over Grand Island

To the North Tonawanda Lumberjacks, Friday the 13th is just another date on the calendar. At least that’s what it seemed as the wood-choppers held off the Grand Island Vikings to move to the top of the Niagara Frontier League standings, 63-51, in front of a packed house at the Lumberyard, due to a second-half scoring frenzy led by junior guard Trevor Book (19 points, 7 rebounds.) Considering that this was the only matchup between the two teams in the regular season (due to C-SAT becoming the ninth member), NT head coach Ryan Mountain stated that the Lumberyard faithful gave his team the extra boost down the stretch in a matchup between teams that were tied for first place before opening tip. “We were fortunate to have this game on our home court and I really believe that truly was the difference,” he said. “We had a great crowd and a great turnout from the student body and that really made a difference down the stretch.”

The Lumberjacks fed off the crowd’s energy right from the opening tip as contributions from seniors Jordan Fox, Brandon Casterline and Patrick Milbrand gave them an 8-0 lead over the first 5:30 of the game. After Mario Wright and Cam Sionko (team-high 14 points) scored a pair of lay-ups for the Vikings, the Lumberjacks jumped out to a 17-6 lead with another run sparked by Alex Quinn’s three-pointer and drive to the basket. The Vikings ended the opening quarter on a positive note, however, as Liam Carey (10 points) converted three free-throws to cut the deficit to 17-9.

In the second quarter, Grand Island swung the momentum to their advantage. Thanks to senior forward JB Wilkes, who scored 6 of his 10 points in the frame, the Vikings went on a 10-3 run in the final five-and-a-half minutes of the half and caused NT’s offense to slow down after their hot start. A free-throw from Book, however, stopped their momentum and gave NT a 25-22 lead at the half. Another notable moment of the game came halfway through the third quarter when the Vikings tied the game up at 32 apiece after a second-chance opportunity from Wilkes. But, the Vikings were the victim of the saying, “Hand down, man down” as Book was left wide-open at the top of the three-point line to give NT a 35-32 lead, and ultimately, the momentum for the final ten minutes of the game.

“Momentum is a loose word but that changed the play (of the game),” said Grand Island head coach Ron Krystof after the loss. “He’s the best player on their team and we just let him come up and take a pull-up three. We fought hard but they executed better than we did. We had a few chances and we didn’t execute down the stretch.” The Vikings wouldn’t go down without a fight, however, as they scored 17 points in the final frame, most notably four three-pointers from Sionko. “Hand it to Grand Island, they just kept swinging and never stopped,” added Mountain. “We were fortunate to get out of here with a victory. It really came down to us being the deeper team and that gave us more energy down the stretch to really play with poise against their pressure defense.”

In the victory, the Lumberjacks also had notable contributions from Casterline, who finished with 13 points and forward Alex Johnson, who added 9 points off the bench. The Lumberjacks (9-2, 6-1 NFL) will have a tough week ahead as they visit Kenmore West on January 17 and Niagara Falls on January 20. In the loss, Wright also finished with 10 points and veteran forward Connor Buzby added a three-pointer and great defensive presence. The Vikings (10-3, 5-2 NFL) will look to return to their winning ways when they host Lew-Port on January 17.

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