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Never In Doubt: Salamanca Boys Roll To Easy Win

Salamanca’s Jacob Herrick drives between two Akron defenders during Thursday’s Section VI Class B1 semifinal game at the Buffalo State Sports Arena. P-J photo by Tim Frank

BUFFALO — With 1:28 left on the clock, up 57-46, Jaxson Ross took a 3-pointer in front of his Salamanca Warriors bench. As the ball fell through the net, he backtracked into a sea of teammates to celebrate the trey.

But it wasn’t just those three points that Salamanca could celebrate on Thursday. After the final 88 seconds ticked off the clock, the Warriors earned a trip to the Section VI championship game for a third straight year.

The Warriors came out firing and blew out Akron early with a 22-5 first quarter en route to a 62-48 victory in a Class B1 semifinal game at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.

“It feels amazing, actually,” Salamanca senior leading scorer Lucus Brown said of earning another trip to the sectional championship game. “Being a senior for the Salamanca Warriors program, it means a lot. I’ve improved in this program by a lot, and I just want to continue to make a journey, make a run out of this season to get another blue patch with my guys.”

A year ago, when Salamanca last took the floor at Buffalo State, the Warriors fell behind early and could not climb all the way back. The Warriors eventually fell to the Fredonia Hillbillies, 58-54.

Salamanca’s Jaxson Ross shoots a 3-pointer in front of his bench during Thursday’s Section VI Class B1 semifinal game against Akron at Buffalo State Sports Arena. P-J photo by Tim Frank

It didn’t take long to see that this Salamanca team would not suffer the same fate.

Salamanca (17-5, 1-seed) scored seven of the game’s first nine points in less than three minutes, from three different players, before an Akron timeout. Less than two minutes later, the Salamanca lead ballooned to 13-2, just beyond the halfway point of the first quarter.

“We came out hot. Our whole philosophy was energy, right from the start,” Brown said.

Akron (18-4, 4-seed) called another timeout, but it did not make much of a difference. After a 3-pointer for the Tigers shortly after the timeout, the Warriors responded with a 9-0 run to close the opening quarter. Salamanca led 22-5 after the first period and maintained a double-digit lead for the entire second quarter. The Warriors led 34-14 at halftime and the result was never in doubt the rest of the way.

“One of our core principles as a program is we want to take our stuff to the other team. We don’t ever want to react to what they are doing to us. We want to try to force them to react to what we’re doing to them,” Salamanca head coach Adam Bennett said.

Maddox Isaac drives to the basket for a layup. P-J photo by Tim Frank

Basketball is a game of runs, but Thursday, Akron’s first run did not come until the second half. By that point, the damage had already been done. The Tigers never got back to within single digits after the 9-0 Warriors’ run to close the first quarter.

Brown led the Warriors with 23 points, including 8 in the opening quarter. Maddox Isaac added 6 points in the first quarter as well.

Brown was double-teamed nearly the entire night, which led to balanced scoring from his teammates in support of the program’s star senior, Brown, who has averaged more than 20 points per game in all three seasons the Warriors have earned a trip to the sectional title game.

“Teams dial in on me. I know I’m going to get double-teamed. I just drive to get my teammates open and that spaces it out for me,” Brown said.

Six Warriors scored, but five of the six scorers had at least 9 points. Isaac finished with 10 points, while Ross, Cory Holleran, and Jacob Herrick each had 9.

The last time Salamanca played a game at Buffalo State, it was Fredonia that came out on top. The Warriors then followed up another loss to Fredonia this season in similar fashion, at Fredonia High School, by eliminating the Hillbillies last Saturday at Salamanca High School, 53-36, in the Class B1 Quarterfinals.

Bennett said after the loss to Fredonia this season, “Honestly, that’s the best thing that can happen to us. We’ve been going for a long time playing well, and we’re going to find out how quickly we learn from adversity like this.”

Lesson learned.

Referencing that conversation earlier in the year, Bennett said he has learned, “We’ve got some tough kids.” He called the past six practices “the best six practices in eight years I’ve ever seen as the head coach here.”

Bennett said that as a group, his team talks about life lessons and how you learn about who you are through adversity, like his team faced at Fredonia earlier this season and against Fredonia on the same Buffalo State floor a year ago in the title game. “You learn more from losses than you do from wins,” Bennett said. “These guys have responded in a great way. We’ve got to continue to respond, continue to remember what happened that night and let that fuel us as we move forward.”

Salamanca now advances to the Section VI, Class B1 championship on Saturday, at 1:45 p.m., back at Buffalo State. Brown, a senior, will be going for his second sectional championship patch in three years.

“It’s a championship game and if we lose, we’ve got some guys that have their careers end,” Bennett said. “… All of them have been a part of these moments, in this great stretch of basketball that they’ve earned. We’re going to fight as hard as we can to keep that stretch of basketball going, no matter who we play, no matter where we play, no matter what the situation.”

Even as dominant of a victory as the Warriors had on Thursday, after being the top-ranked team in all of Class B throughout the majority of the season, it all comes down to one more game to be a sectional champion again.

“We want it more this season, so we’ve got to get it,” Brown said.

ARKON (48)

BlGerstung 2 0 6, Hill 1 2 4, Romesser 3 0 9, Lamont 2 6 11, BeGerstung 0 4 4, Boston 0 0 0, Leach 0 0 0, Patterson 0 0 0, Bentley 1 0 2, Abrams 2 0 4, Haak 0 0 0, Brooks 3 0 6, Jonathan 1 0 2. Totals 15 12 48.

SALAMANCA (62)

Herrick 4 0 9, Bradley 0 0 0, Isaac 5 0 10, Gillman 0 0 0, Crouse 0 0 0, ABrown 1 0 2, Ross 3 0 9, LBrown 10 3 23, Holleran 3 2 9, Winship 0 0 0, Trietley 0 0 0, Whitcomb 0 0 0, Austin 0 0 0. Totals 26 5 62.

3-point goals–Gerst 2, Romesser 3, Lamont, Herrick, Ross 3, Holleran.

Akron 5 9 17 17 — 48

Salamanca 22 12 13 15 — 62

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