Weekly Feature

2018-03-08 / Sports

Legends hoops falls to Will North in playoffs


The Lancaster boys basketball team saw its season come to an end in the quarterfinal round of the Section VI, Class AA playoffs Feb. 23 against Williamsville North, 54-48.

The game was close early on as the Legends trailed 25-20 at half. But the Spartans continued to build the lead as the game went on. They started to run away with it in the third quarter, taking a 19-point lead. Lancaster worked that deficit down to 46-36 by the start of the fourth quarter.

The Legends kept getting closer and closer until they were only down two points late in the game. But some turnovers and suddenly going cold on offense allowed North to take control again and put the game away. Jakob Jerebko was the lone scorer in double digits with 19 points.

“It was mostly turnovers that hurt us,” Lancaster coach John Otto said. “They went into a press against us, which we really struggled with earlier in the year. We practiced it, but not with the intensity they had in the game. We started going through stuff that we practiced better. We were moving without the ball quickly, which opened some lanes for us to get the ball to the right people. The numbers were in our favor. We got some three-on-twos and two-on-ones. We switched to man-to-man defense. We were holding them from scoring with that. We started with a 2-3 zone and they were able to move real well and get easy baskets. Our energy went up when we switched to man-to-man.”

The loss was a disappointment for a team that had a goal of making it to at least the semifinals at Buffalo State college. However, there were some pleasant surprises. Tyler Sokolowski and Ryan Mansell both played a bigger role than what was expected before the season.

“I think we underachieved a little bit,” Otto said. “We wanted to get back to Buff State for the fourth year in a row. Internally, we did have talent. Tyler Sokolowski surprised us, we didn’t expect him to do as well as he did on offense. Ryan Mansell played a big role on offense, which we didn’t really expect. I really thought we would get to Buff State. We lost two close games to North in the regular season, once in overtime at their place. I thought it was a good draw. I expected a little bit more I guess.”

The team will now bid farewell to five seniors. Moving on will be Alec Tamburri, John Rogowski, Kyle Backert, Mansell and Sokolowski. They all provided some type of value for the Legends this season.

“Alec Tamburri was a two-year varsity player,” Otto said. “He went through a really rough year last year, personally. This year he had a few injuries. He had to sit out part of the season. He was able to come back and finish the season. John Rogowski was a football player, who played for us. He didn’t see a lot of time early, but as the season moved on, he brought some toughness for us and ended up in the starting lineup. Kyle Backert was a great stopper for us on defense. In the Will North game, when it was within four points, he got a huge steal for us. He did stuff like that all year. He was a defensive-minded guy. Ryan Mansell turned out to be a leader on the team. He was actually voted as a captain this year. Sokolowski was better than we thought. We knew he would be a starter, but didn’t expect as much offense as he put up there.”

While the team is losing plenty of valuable players, they do have plenty to look forward to next season. The JV team had a strong season, and there are some returning varsity players who were impressive this season. Gianluca Fulciniti started a bunch of games as a sophomore. Jakob Jerebko was the team’s leading scorer as a junior. Meanwhile, Joe Harrington saw time on varsity as an eighth-grader.

“I’m very excited for next year,” Otto said. “The JV team did very well. They improved throughout the year. We had a lot of talent on that level, and we were pretty young on varsity. Gianluca Fulciniti started most games for us, but he was a sophomore. Jakob Jerebko was a junior and one of our leading scorers, so he’ll be back for next year. He’s only going to improve. We also have eighth-grader Joe Harrington, who saw some significant time.”

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