[We posted the videos afterwards: for the best-of-the-best highlights, go to 9:25, 9:30 and 9:42 p.m. Scroll to the bottom to see the scorebooks for both teams. And, of course, check out my story from Thursday's paper, which includes video interviews.]
We are live from St. Mary's for Day Two of the Monsignor Martin-ECIC Challenge, site of the Game of the Year between co-No. 1 large schools Niagara Falls and Nichols. Tip-off time is 8:30 p.m.
I'll have updates when I can. With the late tipoff and an early deadline, my time will be limited later on and the details might not be, well, detailed. But we'll get you the info as soon as we can.
7:21 p.m. There are plenty of good seats available at the moment, but the front parking lot was full when I arrived just before 7 p.m. Holland leads Christian Central, 32-16, at halftime of their game. Niagara Catholic beat Cheektowaga in tonight's opener by double digits, 59-42.
7:27 p.m. St. Mary's coach/athletic director Dan Gill just told me that 350 tickets were sold during the day for tonight's game.
8:18 p.m. We're pretty full here for the marquee game. Holland continued to get the better of Christian Central and won, 52-38.
8:27 p.m. The pregame announcements and introductions are underway. "This is the game we've all been waiting for." Nice.
8:28 p.m. Starting for Falls: Davon Marshall, C.J. Cox, Jordan Street and Marcus Feagin. For Nichols, Will Regan, Ron Canestro, Conner Vandegriff, Andrew MacKinnon and Stan Wier.
8:30 p.m. My prediction is Falls by one.
Falls gets the first basket from Street.
Three from Wier, steal in the backcourt by Canestro (happens every game), Vandegriff finish off Wier pass.
8:34 p.m. Some nice action early on -- Nichols has taken an 8-6 lead, prompting a timeout by Falls coach Giulio Colangelo with 4:19 left in the first quarter. Falls had jumped to a 6-1 lead. Vandegriff just scored an easy fast-break basket for Nichols off a Falls miss.
Nice find of Regan by MacKinnon for a 10-6 Nichols lead.
Carson jumper is answered by Vandegriff and it's 12-8 Nichols.
8:38 p.m. Nichols up, 12-11, with 1:51 left in first after a three-pointer by Marshall (my bad on him being out of frame).
8:40 p.m. Wier hits a deep three to put Nichols up, 17-15, with 36.9 seconds left in the first and coach Greg Plumb calls a timeout. Falls scored on a great Stokes baseline drive and a very nice transition finish by Marshall.
8:42 p.m. We are at the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER with Nichols leading Niagara Falls, 17-15.
It's 19-15 after Regan fights off a couple of defenders in the lane.
8:51 p.m. Great stuff, as expected, as Maurice Respress scores on a scoop to the hoop and follows by getting the shooter's thud-roll for a 20-19 Falls lead (it would be its last of the game). A quick Canestro to MacKinnon to Vandegriff play put Nichols on top, 21-20; with 4:55 left in the second Stokes went to the line.
8:51 p.m. Tied at 21-21 after Stokes hits one of two.
8:55 p.m. A Falls timeout after eight straight points by Nichols, which has a 29-21 lead with 3:04 left in the second.
Regan scored inside, Canestro finished a fast break (above) ...
... then Regan scored on a nice move in the lane on an inbounds play, followed by Canestro again in transition (above), thanks to a Regan outlet, and Falls calls the timeout.
9:02 p.m. We are at HALFTIME and Nichols leads Niagara Falls, 34-21. That's a 13-0 run to end the half.
Two baskets by Wier finished the half-ending run, first in the post ...
... and then from three-point range with 10 seconds left in the half.
Nichols is the team that is looking good in transition, scoring several baskets off of Falls misses. They're also doing well inside, with Regan grabbing key rebounds and finishing off moves in the lane.
Falls is very patient at the top of the key, working the shot clock and running plays with various effectiveness. Early on, Falls knocked down some threes as the teams went back and forth, but they've obviously been cold to close out the half.
Just a take-it-or-leave-it observation: Falls body language was not great heading to halftime. The slow walk reminded me of the last time I saw the team, which was in its state championship loss to Newburgh.
9:10 p.m. Two minutes counting down on the scoreboard clock.
9:12 p.m. Game back on.
C.J. Cox hits a three right off the start to make it a 10-point game.
Marshall follows by hitting a floater on the baseline as Falls comes out with much better energy than it left the court with.
Some nice hustle and a nice block by Vandegriff, who then followed with ...
... a three-point play in the lane.
9:21 p.m. Timeout Nichols with 4:17 left in the third quarter; Nichols leads, 37-30. Last basket was a three-pointer by Stokes (above), which answered the three-point play by Vandergriff.
9:25 p.m. With 2:48 left in the third, Nichols has a 39-30 lead after a sweet fast break. The great play started with Wier stealing the ball and heaving it to midcourt to Regan, who touch-passed the ball ahead for MacKinnon for a layup and the nine-point lead.
Nice pass from Regan on a nice cut by Canestro for a layup.
This time it is the other way around as Canestro sends Regan in to the basket and he uses the rim nicely to shield off for the finish and a 43-31 Nichols lead.
At a point where it looks like Nichols may run away with things, Respress makes a couple of nice plays. Here he has a block on defense to send Carson in for a layup.
9:30 p.m. Respress made an outstanding steal on a double-team, then somehow dribbled through traffic and finished off the layup on the other side of the rim while being fouled.
Respress missed the free throw, but Niagara Falls got the rebound and called a timeout with Nichols leading, 43-38, with 41.8 seconds left in the third.
Carson with a big shot as his three-pointer cuts the lead to 43-41.
9:33 p.m. At the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER, Nichols leads Niagara Falls, 44-41. The last point was a Weir free throw on a one-for-two trip; that followed the big three-pointer by Mike Carson from Falls. The Falls fans have been charged up since Respress' big play. How about one more quarter? Great stuff. The iPhone is filling up with highlights.
Regan makes it 47-41.
A sweet baseline jumper by Marshall is answered by Canestro, whose three-pointer nestled in the hoop for a 50-43 lead.
9:39 p.m. Nichols takes a timeout with 6:16 left in the game and it leads, 50-43. On a previous play, Falls had several chances on the other end on the offensive glass but couldn't get it to go down.
9:42 p.m. Nichols leads, 52-45, with 4:54 left after a one-handed hammer jam by Regan. After Stokes hung in the air for a hoop on one end, Nichols had a tremendous transition as MacKinnon found Canestro, who passed to Vandegriff, who fed Regan -- all four seniors with a touch and the ball never hit the floor.
A sweet basket by Marshall, who went in off a scramble and scored while being fouled; he added the free throw to bring Falls within 54-48.
9:46 p.m. Niagara Falls' Colangelo calls a timeout with 3:53 left in the game and Nichols up, 56-48, after two free throws by Regan.
Vandegriff's transition finish answers a drive by Marshall and Nichols is up, 64-50, with about two minutes left.
9:43 p.m. A lot of this full gym heads for the exits with Nichols up, 64-50, with 1:13 left. Not many updates as we're finishing off our story for the paper.
Regan heads to the bench and Nichols runs the clock out.
10 p.m. SORRY for the delay. Writing, interviewing, scrambling. The FINAL SCORE: Nichols 68, Niagara Falls 53.
10:59 p.m. Catching my breath for just a little bit. A great game, as expected. The third quarter was fantastic. Nichols was the better team.
As for my prediction? What can I say: Usually I'm a big I'll-believe-it-when-I-see-it person when it comes to high school sports, especially when it comes to Niagara Falls basketball. A top-notch performance by Nichols. Player of the Year Regan comes up big in the fourth and was too much to handle for most of the game; great decisions with the ball by Canestro; heady performance by MacKinnon at the point (one turnover).
Some fun video from the game later. Lots of fun highlights, particularly in that third quarter.
Here's a new feature we're experimenting with -- take a look at the game according to the scorebook.
That's Niagara Falls on the left and Nichols on the right. Just click on them to blow 'em up.
taggedBasketball | Niagara Falls | Nichols