It wasn’t easy but Erie Community College held off a feisty Niagara County Community College bunch Saturday in the NJCAA Division II Region III semifinals.
With three of their big men playing with four fouls, the Thunderwolves gave the nationally fifth-ranked Kats a scare before falling, 83-74, at the Flickinger Center.
God’s Gift Achiuwa, ECC’s Division I recruit, finished with 24 points to surpass 1,000 in his career as Tyshawn Edwards (Grover Cleveland) added 16 points and 11 boards. For NCCC, five players scored in double-figures led by Robby Seyler’s 15.
Though ECC has dominated this series, Saturday sure had the looks and sounds of a rivalry. At one point, Seyler needed to come out of the game with a bloody head. There were four ties, 10 lead changes and game-long chatter between coaches and officials all game.
The Thunderwolves showed grit. NCCC was far more than a mere nuisance along ECC's dream season. Each time it appeared the Kats would pull away, NCCC fought back. A.J. Roberts (Niagara Catholic), Christian Barczyowski (Alden) and Charles Shellman (Lockport) all played with four fouls over the final eight minutes — not an easy proposition against the hulking 6-foot-9 Achiuwa. ECC went 24 of 30 at the foul line.
By substituting new players into the game each defensive possession, Beilein kept it close. When Roberts drilled a three with 5:47 left — to the cheers of a loud Niagara contingent — NCCC pulled to within 66-65.
Eventually, the wheels fell off. With 1:35 to go, and his team ahead by six, Achiuwa drilled a three-point dagger from the top of the key to ice the win --- just his 10th trey of the season.
Maybe it wasn't pretty, but the Kats will take it. Next up is the regional final Sunday at 1 p.m.
Check out video Beilein, Achiuwa and ECC head coach Alex Nwora below:
ECC head coach Alex Nwora
NCCC head coach Bill Beilein
ECC's God's Gift Achiuwa