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High School Boys Basketball: Williamsville North, Taplin get back at Frontier

AJ Licata, pictured here in a win over West Seneca West, and Frontier fell short in a loss to Williamsville North. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

Williamsville North felt like it owed Frontier one from last season. North head coach Chuck Swierski said to actually make that two.

Frontier sank a pair of final second winning shots when the two teams met last season, but this time North wouldn’t let the Falcons get close enough to pull off more late-game heroics. Led by one of Western New York’s best in junior Sterling Taplin, the Spartans pulled away in the third quarter on their way to a 57-40 win in a physical ECIC Division I contest Tuesday (Jan. 8) at Frontier.

“The last thing I said to the team before they took the floor was let’s not make this a game where they can win it at the buzzer,” Swierski said. “We played tough ‘D’ and it wasn’t exactly a pretty game but we’ll take it.”

Taplin erupted for 18 of his 22 points in the second half and finished as the game’s lone double-digit scorer, though it was North’s intense pressure as a team on the defensive end that may have made the biggest difference. Sophomore big man George Attea added eight points and David Berkun, seven.

The 6-foot-1 Taplin was the catalyst for North’s 22-9 run through the third, quickly scoring the first five points of the quarter, after the team took a seven-point lead into halftime. Taplin finished just short of a triple-double and knocked down three shots from beyond the arc.

“They’re talented and they put more pressure on us defensively than any other team so far this year,” Frontier head coach Gary Domzalski said. “Taplin makes everyone around him better. He draws people to the ball.”

The Falcons had their offensive opportunities with 38 team rebounds but shot only 23 percent. Seniors Tyger German and Kevin Marcinkowski and sophomore Jay Bergmann each finished with seven points in the loss.

“A coach always preaches, ‘when you’re not shooting well, you better be playing better defense.’ We must not have played well enough defensively,” said Domzalski, whose team is 5-3.

Besides being swept by the Falcons last season, North had not won at Frontier over the last three seasons. Both teams managed to make it to the Class AA semifinals in 2011-12 after Frontier took second in the division and North, third.

“This is always a tough place for us to play,” Swierski said. “We’ve played unselfish. Sterling is a really good player but we’ve got others around him. It’s not just a one-horse show.”

This year, North is one of ECIC I’s top teams, already upsetting Jamestown but losing to Clarence. Frontier now slips to fourth after having also lost to Clarence. A game at Jamestown is next for the Falcons on Friday (Jan. 11).

“I knew Clarence, North and Jamestown would be hard to beat this year and so far we’re 0-2 against them,” said Domzalski, although he pointed out that he’s got no complaints about his team’s effort. “Our kids play their butts off. They’re banging and diving for loose balls. They play hard.”

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