BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — It came down to the final second, but Niagara Falls found a way.
A James Robinson free throw with less than a second to play lifted the No. 3 Wolverines to a 53-52 victory over No. 1 Jamestown to claim the Section VI Class AA crown on Saturday at Buffalo State University.
It marks Falls’ (21-2) second sectional championship in three seasons, as they avenged their loss to Jamestown (19-4) in last year’s AA title game. Due to classification shifting for next season, this game could be the final time the Wolverines and Red Raiders will face off in Class AA.
“For the guys who played last year, it means a ton,” Niagara Falls coach Carlos Bradberry said. “The storied tradition is Jamestown and Niagara Falls, it’s what it always sort of comes down to. For those guys to get a win, especially in the last AA meeting, I think it means a little bit more.”
In a game full of runs, the emphasis fell on individuals making clutch plays down the stretch. For Niagara Falls, that player was Robinson.
With his team trailing 51-44 with a few minutes to play, the senior went on to score eight of his team’s final nine points to propel them to a championship. Robinson’s fadeaway 3-pointer with 1:55 to play tied the game at 51 a piece was preceded by an emphatic block on defense.
As both teams traded free throws in the final minute, Robinson was fouled while driving to the basket with just .3 seconds to play and given a free throw to win his team a title.
With a packed Buffalo State Sports Arena in an uproar, the senior, who finished with a game-high 19 points, drained it.
“I’m just thinking ‘I got to make this free throw,’ that’s the only thing going through my head,” Robinson said of his game-winner. “‘This has got to be the best shot I take the whole day. I got to make it.’ And I made it.”
“He did it last game against Health Sciences and he’s done it a couple times this year,” Bradberry said regarding Robinson’s performance in the clutch. “It just proves when the game’s on the line, he’s a guy who wants the ball. He relishes that opportunity and he’s making the best of that opportunity.”
Falls struggled to find consistency on offense out of the gate, going down 14-3 to the Red Raiders in the first quarter and they continued to trail at halftime, 31-23. Bradberry was well aware of his squad’s poor first half effort.
“I thought [the first half shot selection] was horrible,” Bradberry said. “They were just out-physical-ing us in the first half … At halftime, the only adjustment we made was telling our guys we have to be better defensively and make them earn every basket.”
The halftime talk worked, as Falls embarked on a 19-6 run that spanned much of the third quarter. Jamestown’s Jaydian Johnson opened the fourth quarter with 10 straight points and put his side ahead 50-43 midway through the frame, but Robinson’s stellar final minutes overturned the sophomore’s efforts. Johnson led the Red Raiders with 16 points.
For Robinson, who moved out of state and was not a member of the Falls team for the previous two seasons, the championship felt all that sweeter.
“That is very special to me,” Robinson said. “I love Niagara Falls High School.”
The Wolverines move on to face the winner of Fairport and Victor in the regional round of the New York State playoffs, which is slated for 7:30 p.m. on March 11 at Rush Henrietta High School.
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Adam Gorski is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team in 2022. You can find more of his work here.