Tonawanda News — The Kenmore West boys basketball team pulled off its biggest win of the season last Friday night — a 56-53 upset of No. 3 seed Williamsville North — earning the school’s first trip to the Section VI Class AA semifinals in 22 years, and the first trip to Buffalo State since the Final Four moved to the Sports Arena.
And as a reward, the Blue Devils (14-6) get No. 2 seed Niagara Falls at 7:45 tonight.
The Wolverines (16-3) beat No. 6-seed Ken West by a combined 58 points in two Niagara Frontier League meetings during the regular season, thus Blue Devils coach Mike Meetze said there are pros and cons to playing a familiar foe like the Falls.
“Playing the Falls is kind of a double-edged sword,” he said. “The good thing is that we’re familiar with the players and when we talked about scouting and game planning you know how good (Niagara Falls) really is. When I say (Jermaine) Crumpton’s name, they know he averages 20 points, versus only seeing a team on film.”
The tough part of drawing the Wolverines is how dominant they have been against Ken West this season.
“They’ve kind of owned us,” Meetze said. “I like to think out of the eight quarters, we played with them for two out of the eight. We know that’s not going to get it done. If you want to have a shot at beating them you have to play our type of game and you can’t let the Falls be the Falls for all four quarters, or it will be a very long night.”
Since Meetze inserted freshman Terell Ford into the starting lineup, the difference in the team’s play has been unmistakable. Meetze always knew how talented the youngster was, but the impact he’s having at such an early stage in his varsity career has opened a lot of eyes.
Ford scored 17 points against the Spartans in the quarterfinals, and Meetze said after that game that without his contributions in the first half the Blue Devils would have been in trouble.
The entire team has started to buy into Meetze’s message and it took hitting rough waters late in the season to figure out a way to right the ship.
“We had that rough stretch where we lost a few games pretty badly. People from the outside kind of wrote us off,” Meetze said. “I told them I was the most proud the last two playoff games how guys on the bench were high-fiving and excited for guys going in. Everybody was into the game and that’s what this is all about. Because it’s not an individual sport.
“For a lot of the season we kind of played a lot like individuals. Basketball is beautiful when you’re making passes and playing as a team, and that’s what I’ve really liked the last two, three, four games.”
Niagara Falls’ mission every time it takes the floor is no secret: the Wolverines want to defend and make teams pay in a transition game, Meetze said.
Meetze knows his Blue Devils must handle the Falls’ pressure because it likes to play a very physical style of full court defense.
“They’re going to dare you to cut on them or to take them (off the dribble),” Meetze said. “They play outstanding denial man to man defense. You need guards to want to be guards in a game like that. If you don’t have a kid that wants the ball in his hands and is going to make good passes, you play into their hands.”
The key to the game for the Blue Devils will be protecting the ball and taking good shots, Meetze said. He also wants his guys to try to slow down the Falls in transition, but not too much because both teams like to play an up tempo style.
“You have to play for 32 minutes — 31:50 is not going to cut it,” Meetze said.
The winner between Ken West and Niagara Falls will face the winner of Jamestown and Clarence for the Class AA title on Saturday night.Contact sports editor Matt Parrino at 693-1000 ext. 4117 and find Tonawanda News sports on Twitter @tonanewssports.