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Younger Brown steps up as Salamanca heads to States

Photos by Shawn Turri

Salamanca coach Adam Bennett had one immediate thought when Wayne High capped a 7-0 run to tie the game with just under a minute to play in the NYSPHSAA Class B Far West Regional at Buffalo State on Saturday afternoon.

“Get the ball to Lucus Brown.”

It was understandable. Lucus Brown, a senior guard, is the state’s fourth-leading scorer at 25 points a game, the all-time leader in Salamanca history, one of the best players in Section VI. He had carried the Warriors to that point, and you figured Bennett would choose to put the ball in his hands.

So, with the score knotted, 50-50, Brown took over. Not the star scorer, but his brother. Junior Avery Brown, who averages 8.8 points a game, hit a pull-up jumper in the lane to make it 52-50. After Wayne scored to tie the game again with 22.3 seconds to play, it again was time to get Brown the ball. 

Again, wrong brother. As Bennett said later, you can’t make this stuff up. Salamanca screened for Lucus, but they reversed the ball to Avery at the left baseline. He drove, was knocked to the floor, and awarded two free throws. Avery sank both to restore the Warriors to a 54-52 lead.

Salamanca held on from there. Cory Holleran stole a cross-court inbounds pass, Jacob Herrick made two free throws, and the Warriors survived, 56-52, earning their second trip to the state semifinals in the last two seasons. 

“This is the toughest group of kids I’ve ever been around in my life,” Bennett said, “and really it starts with nothing to do with basketball. We’ve had guys that have gone through a lot. Two have lost parents this year.

“Other players have gone through some tough moments in their lives,” he said. “This is a basketball game and it’s important, but it’s not the biggest thing to ever happen to them. They’re tougher far beyond that, so in these moments they can call on that toughness, and I’m  so incredibly proud to be their coach.”

None is tougher than Lucus Brown, who has been sensational over the years at Buffalo State. He scored 24 points on Saturday, including six straight as the Warriors were building their lead in the middle of the fourth quarter. 

But as Bennett said, it’s a team effort for Salamanca. Sophomore forward Payton Bradley, who missed the first month of the season with an ankle injury, equaled his career high with seven points — all in the game’s final 10 minutes. 

Then there was Avery Brown, who looked like the elite scorer when he confidently buried that go-ahead jumper in the lane, and when he nailed the clinching free throws with 7.9 seconds to play in the fourth.

Actually, he was a tiny bit nervous. 

“A little bit,” he said. “But the reps in practice, they helped a lot. We practice free throws day in and day out in practice, so we thrive on pressure and it just makes us better. We push each other. We thrive on that a lot.”Avery and Lucus have been pushing each other since they were little kids. Lucus has a knack for the big moments. He made a circus catch for a touchdown in Salamanca’s sectional football championship win last fall. 

The football team lost in the Far West Regionals. Virtually every key player on the hoop squad also played on the football team. They were determined to get past this round in basketball and back to the states next weekend.

“Oh, it’s really huge, making it to Glens Falls,” said Lucus Brown. “Just being there and working hard to earn it and go back there. Our priority is defense and rebounding. That’s what we have to do when we go back to Glens Falls. We didn’t get the result we wanted two years ago.

“The job’s not finished.”

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