By Kevin Prise
NEWFANE — From the opening tip, the Barker boys basketball team asserted itself as the dominant group in Friday night's Niagara-Orleans league opener at Newfane.
The Raiders shot better, rebounded better and broke into transition faster, en route to a 30-14 advantage at halftime. Barker never looked back, as coach Dave Carson's veteran squad cruised to a 60-31 victory over Newfane.
Barker is now 1-0 in league play, while Newfane falls to 0-1.
The Raiders opened the second half with a 22-1 spurt that pushed the Barker lead to 52-15, putting the game out of reach. Carson was particularly impressed with his team's play during this stretch, pointing to the uncanny clutch shooting of junior Chris Sweeney as a factor that helped turn the tide on Friday night.
"No matter what the situation in the game, Chris Sweeney is a timely shooter," Carson said. "He hits threes at the right time. When Barker makes a run, he's usually a big part of the run."
Indeed, midway through the third quarter with Barker leading 39-15, Sweeney drained back-to-back threes that gave the Raiders a 30-point advantage. The junior swished the first one from the corner, and drained the second head-on before providing a one-two punch of intense fist pumps.
Sweeney finished the game with 14 points, second only to senior Jacob Haight, who continues to be his reliable self with a 23-point effort. Junior Mitch Luckman added eight, and senior Bryce Moeller added seven.
After falling behind 52-15, Newfane rallied with a 10-0 run that brought the margin to 27 points with just under six minutes remaining. Just as the Newfane student section began to come to life, Sweeney quieted the Blue Zone with another swish three-pointer and transition layup that made the score 57-25, removing any lingering doubts about the outcome.
Senior Josh Kneeland led Newfane with 13 points in the losing cause, while junior Sam Watkins added eight.
For Carson, Haight, Sweeney and the rest of the Barker squad, it was certainly a strong start to a promising 2013-14 winter campaign.
"It's nice to start off with a win on Newfane's home court," Carson said. "They're always traditionally a good team, and it's a good feeling for our kids."
Roy-Hart 52, Wilson 51
MIDDLEPORT — Before the season, members of the Roy-Hart boys basketball team expressed a belief that getting the ball to star senior Alex Stoddard would be critical to the Rams' success in the Niagara-Orleans League this season.
The sentiment rang true on Friday evening. Stoddard paced the Rams with 25 points, and Roy-Hart eked out a one-point victory over Wilson in the league opener for both teams at Roy-Hart HS. No other Roy-Hart player reached double digits, as Stoddard provided just enough offense to help the Rams improve to 1-0 in league play.
Wilson is now 0-1 in the league.
"Alex Stoddard made some clutch free throws for us down the stretch," Roy-Hart veteran head coach Mark Rydza said afterwards. "He had eight points in the fourth, and he made a couple of big shots too."
Roy-Hart jumped out to a 16-8 lead after the first quarter and held onto a 25-23 edge at the half, before using a strong third quarter to build a 39-32 advantage.
But the Lakemen displayed no quit, pulling to within five points with 90 seconds remaining, and to within a point in the final few seconds. After Roy-Hart missed a free throw with two seconds left, Wilson was able to get off a 25-foot chance for the win at the buzzer.
Fortunately for Rydza and company, the ball rattled out of the basket, and Roy-Hart walked away with the victory.
Sophomore Andy Xapsos had nine points for Roy-Hart, while senior Austin Heschke added seven.
Wilson was led by junior Kyle Bradley, who had 20 points on the evening. Junior Evan Shank added 17.
Barker 40, Newfane 37
BARKER — Sophomore Caitlyn Mason led the Lady Raiders with 13 points, as Barker opened up its Niagara-Orleans League slate with a narrow victory over Newfane on Friday evening.
Coach Jeff Costello's Barker squad built a 26-15 advantage at the break, before the Lady Panthers made a spirited rally midway through the second half. Brooke Horning led Newfane with 15 points, and Claire Puff added eight, as the Lady Panthers pulled to within seven points after three quarters and tied the game at 34-all in the latter stages of the fourth quarter.
But the Lady Raiders came up big down the stretch, as Mason and senior Olivia Denny combined to nail three free throws in the final minute that gave Barker a bit of a comfort zone, Costello said.
Denny totaled 11 points for Barker, while senior Julia Atwater added six points and 14 rebounds. Mason also had nine rebounds and three assists to aid the Lady Raider cause.
Barker improves to 1-0 in league play, 2-0 overall, while Newfane drops to 0-1 in the league.
The Lady Raiders return to action Wednesday evening, traveling to Tonawanda for a non-league contest.