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Lions boys hoops holds off Blue Devils to move into tie for first

Moziah Townsend helped lead Lockport to a win over Kenmore West, which moves the Lions into a first-place tie in the NFL. Photo by David Marino
There would be no late heroics this time around for the Kenmore West boys basketball team.

The Blue Devils, who just two days before pulled off a miraculous last-minute comeback to remain unbeaten in the Niagara Frontier League, could not catch up to preseason league favorite Lockport on Friday (Jan. 23) night.

The host Lions held on for a 55-49 win to move into a first-place tie with West, each now with one division loss. West also had a comeback to win in the first matchup between the two teams.

“It definitely has that significance but there’s also a lot of season left to go,” said Lockport head coach Dan Gilson, whose team improved to 10-3 overall (9-1 in the NFL). “I’m trying to have the kids understand that this is only one game and it doesn’t end here.”

But for now, Lockport is the team in the driver’s seat in the division, as it extended the NFL’s longest winning streak to six games, while West falls to 8-1 in the NFL and 9-3 overall.

“We knew we had to come in and get this big win because it would tie us for first and we did what we had to do. We practiced hard all week preparing,” said Moziah Townsend, who scored 13 points and was a catalyst for Lockport’s dominant effort on the boards with 14.

“We needed to get out to an early start and build a larger margin this time because last time they came back to beat us after we started out slow in the second half,” he added.

Kenmore West didn’t go down without making it interesting in the fourth quarter. Trailing virtually the entire way, the Blue Devils got as close as 38-34 a minute into the fourth and then late in the quarter, went on a 9-2 run to pull within five with 27 seconds left.

“I loved the second half energy and thought we played our style of basketball, but we didn’t come out as I had hoped,” Kenmore West head coach Mike Meetze said. “We knew Lockport would come out banging and they played an excellent game, executed when they needed to and destroyed us on the glass.”

It was on boards where the Lions were so dominant, but they also gave themselves a comfortable cushion in the third quarter by causing turnovers and scoring easy baskets at the other end of the floor.

Ryan Lawrence was the beneficiary of Lockport’s quick transition points, scoring three straight buckets, as part of a Lions’ 8-0 run to extend their lead to 46-34 midway through the third. Lawrence finished with a team-high 19 points. Assists were supplied by guards Dan Bronson, who finished with four, and Colin Dougherty, who added 15 points.

“Once we got past them in that half-court trap and what they were trying to do in the full court, we ended up with some great looks,” Gilson said. “Lawrence came through and the assists were made to him, too. Instead of simply getting it and scoring, the guys looked for him.”

Noah Whalen led Kenmore West with 20 points, just a few days after hitting the game-winning bucket, following stealing an in-bounds pass, in a thrilling win against North Tonawanda.

The Blue Devils are on the smaller side, but Meetze said his team had been playing bigger than their size until Friday. Charlie Sobieraski poured in 20 rebounds, to go along with 5 points, for Lockport. Lawrence added 11 and Dougherty, 6. Though, the Lions missed many put-back opportunities, helping to keep the game within reach for West.

“Tonight, size got us — you can’t not want to box out in a game like this,” Meetze said. “If anything, we were tight. They hit a couple of shots early. Lockport’s a good shooting team and they’re big. We had to check to a zone early because they were picking us apart with our man defense and not too may teams can do that to us.”

Also for Lockport, Bronson played lights out defense on West standout Alex Price, holding him to just three points.

“Dan doesn’t care about the points,” Gilson said. “All he does is say, ‘Coach, give me my assignment and I’ll take care of it.’ He’s done it every single game, he gets the other team’s best player and he works extremely hard. He takes pride in that stuff.”

There’s more for Lockport to prove in an evenly-matched NFL this season — with perennial-power Niagara Falls a very young team — and not much time before they have to do so. On Jan. 31, the Lions were slated to meet third-place North Tonawanda (9-4), which they only beat by two points the first time the two met.

“We knew we’d be one of the top teams so we just wanted to live up to what we were supposed to be and to do that, we have to play as a team,” Townsend said.

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