Jacks take this round of T-NT hoops
This round goes to the Jacks.
Joe Piotrowski had 13 points as North Tonawanda topped Tonawanda 48-43 in boys basketball action that took place at the Alumni-Student Activity Center on Dec.7.
Their first win of the season for the Jacks, NT also took the ‘W’ after falling to its cross-canal rival the last two years.
“We lost T-NT basketball the last two years, so it’s exciting to come out and get a win on our home floor,” Piotrowski said. “I thought they played great defense, though. Pressuring our point guards up the court. That made us go faster than we wanted to.”
Clayton Hess gave one of the gutsiest performances of his varsity career. On the court exactly one week after suffering a high-ankle sprain in the opener against CCA, Hess was back in action.
Though obviously slowed by the injury, he toughed it out as he led Tonawanda with 12 points. Just getting point guard Ben Stich Back and Hess being unable to practice all week, the Warriors were clearly not as crisp as usual.
Passes were off and shooting was cold. The more shots that failed to fall true the more the tension built in each Warrior. When they weren’t pressing shots, the Warriors simply weren’t shooting at all as they passed far too much in the fourth while precious time slipped away.
After the game Warriors coach Hank Hughes was caught in a somewhat hard to explain middle ground.
Hughes didn’t doubt for one second the heart, effort and desire his team brought to the court. But at the same time their inability to bury chances proved costly in the end.
“I’m not upset with their effort by any means,” he said. “They’re just cold. They’ve got to shoot a little big better. Some other guys have to step up and start making some shots too.”
The Warriors kept it close. A slick steak and a bucket by Nick Pullo with 1:54 to play in the third tied the game at 30-30. A minute later Ben Stich hit a three-pointer from the top of the arch to put Tonawanda up 33-32.
But this was Piotrowski’s night, as he sank the next five points for the Jacks, including a three at the buzzer that put NT up 37-33 at the end of the third quarter.
With 1:30 left in the game, Piotrowski executed what NT coach Ryan Mountain called the “play of the game” when he dove on a loose ball that was tipped into the backcourt.
Stich and Pullo would each hit a three in the fourth, but it wasn’t enough.
The Jacks, who were without senior Ian Gilhousen, received a tremendous defensive effort from Michael Awad, whose help-side defense down low kept Hess and 6-foot-4 Connor Pumm from dominating in the paint.
“Our goal at the beginning of the game was to shut down number five (Stich) and number 20 (Hess) and I thought we did a very good job of that,” Awad said. “I think it was a great team win.”
Nehemiah Stone kicked in with eight points, four rebounds and four assists off the bench. Stone also hit a couple free throws to extend the lead to 47-40.
The Warriors girls basketball team will try to even the score on the hardwood for Tonawanda when they host the Jacks in the Tonawanda Holiday Tournament on Dec.27 at 7 p.m. Tonawanda won last year’s match up.