SANBORN - Standing at center court late Tuesday evening, Jamestown girls basketball coach Mark Nugent took a moment to survey what was going on around him inside the gym at Niagara County Community College.
Karisha Tapia and Peyton Butts were embraced in a jubilant hug, Olivia Nugent held close the Section 6 Class AA plaque - awarded to the squad just moments before - and a host of other Lady Red Raiders were smiling and laughing with friends, teammates and family.
For the first time since 2008, the Jamestown Lady Red Raiders are sectional champions.
At left, Karisha Tapia of Jamestown drives to the basket during Tuesday night’s Section 6 Class AA championship game against Niagara Wheatfield. At right, Haley Davis of the Lady Red Raiders puts up a shot. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Rob Tucker
And as the reality of what his team had accomplished set in, Nugent thought back to that moment, just a few short months before, when he had accepted the head coaching job.
"I had no idea; no idea (that we could get this far)," he said. "But I knew who these girls were, I knew their work ethic and I knew how passionate they were about basketball.
"I guess you could say I came into a good situation."
Tapia netted 21 of her game-high 26 points during the second and third periods, Anne Campion finished with 19 point, Rosa Velazquez chipped in with 18 more and top-seeded Jamestown came just three points shy of the century mark as it routed No. 6 Niagara Wheatfield, 97-63.
The victory propels Nugent's crew into the Far West Regionals, where they will square off against Section 5 champion and undefeated Gates-Chili. That contest, which will determine who advances to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association girls state basketball tournament, will be held at 3 p.m., on Saturday at Buffalo State University.
As has been their custom this postseason, on Tuesday the Lady Red Raiders got off to a blazing start and never looked back.
Campion, the main beneficiary of a full-court press that frustrated the Lady Falcons and created a number of early turnovers, sparked her squad in the opening frame as she tallied nine points - six points by converting layups off of steals and three more thanks to a trey from the left wing - during the Lady Red Raiders' opening 18-6 run.
The sophomore guard would finish with 13 during the quarter, helping Jamestown build 28-12 advantage heading into the second period.
Taking the reins over the next two quarters was Tapia and Velazquez, who scored a combined 16 of their team's 25 points in the third and 19 of 27 in the third.
"Those three (Campion, Velazquez and Tapia) have been outstanding every game, all season long," Nugent said. "It was fun to watch them tonight."
The lead ballooned to as many as 22 points at times during the second as Tapia and Velazquez traded baskets. Velazquez hit a runner to kick things off, Tapia followed with a steal and a layup; Velazquez connected on a jumper from the elbow and then Tapia answered with a trey from the left wing. By the midway point of the frame, Jamestown led, 46-24.
Another deep triple by Tapia - she hit 5 of 12 from the arc during the game - two minutes later made the score 50-28, and by the break it was 53-33.
And if Niagara Wheatfield was harboring any dreams of a second-half comeback, Jamestown quickly dashed those hopes in the third.
Together Tapia and Velazquez combined for 19 points during a 23-10 run that spanned five minutes that pushed the lead to an insurmountable 78-43. During the run, Jamestown connected for five triples (two by Tapia, two by Velazquez and one Campion).
"I just think that our press started to get to (Niagara Wheatfield) a little bit," Nugent said of Jamestown's open looks from distance. "We got open shots, hit them and were successful with it."
When it was all said and done in the third quarter, the Lady Red Raiders had essentially clinched the contest - and a title - by ballooning its edge to 35 points, 80-45.
In addition to her 29 points, Tapia dished out six assists and made five steals. Velazquez added seven rebounds and seven assists, and Chrisanna Green hauled in a team-high 11 boards (seven offensive) to go with her five points.
All told, Jamestown had four different players reach double-figures, and a fifth, Dazjah Coleman, came just shy with nine points.
"I'm very happy again, with everybody," Nugent finished. "Like I said last game, you could highlight all 13 kids. They all played hard, worked hard and had great games."
Jamestown will need a team-wide effort on Saturday when they take on Gates-Chili, which has gone a perfect 22-0 this season.
"I was able to check them out a little bit online and it looks like they're very good," Nugent said. "They've got a point guard that scores 20 a game, and two others that (are right around that number) so they're going to be tough."
NIAGARA WHEATFIELD (63)
Smith 5 6 16, Moore 0 0 0, Klettke 0 0 0, Richard 0 1 1, Carrier 0 0 0, Elnicki 1 0 2, Moranto 0 0 0, Pawlak 6 6 21, Jackson 1 0 2, Campbell 1 0 2, Czaja 7 5 19. Totals 21 18 63.
Pollino 1 2 4, Campion 8 0 19, Butts 0 1 1, Nugent 2 5 10, Green 1 3 5, Pannes 0 0 0, Davis 1 0 2, Velazquez 8 0 18, Butman 0 1 1, Tapia 10 1 26, Coleman 3 2 9, Tucker 0 0 0, Williams 0 2 2. Totals 34 12 97.
Niagara Wheatfield 12 21 12 18 - 63
Jamestown 28 25 27 17 - 97