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Published: February 20, 2009 11:25 pm   

BOYS BASKETBALL: GI batters Tonawanda

By David J. Hill
Niagara Gazette

TONAWANDA — Grand Island will be looking toward its big men to lead them on a lengthy run through the sectional basketball tournament, which begins next week.

In their regular-season finale Friday night at Tonawanda, those big guys showed they’re ready to make some noise. Junior Jonas Stalyga poured in 24 points — including a dozen in the third quarter — and senior Alex Neutz added 14 to pace GI to a convincing 65-38 non-league win.

The Vikings were 16-of-20 from the free throw line in the win. Kyle Schroeder led Tonawanda with nine points.

“Jonas, Alex and Greg (Feathers) work very well together,” said Vikings coach Greg Ross, a THS graduate. “They look for each other, and they know how to draw the defense to them. Those three have been playing together for the last couple years, so they know where each other is going to be.”

Grand Island (16-4 overall) dominated from the start, holding the Warriors to just five points in the first quarter. The Warriors kept their composure while penetrating the Vikings’ press defense, but, as has been the young team’s trouble much of the season, Tonawanda had difficulty finishing at the basket.

“I think they intimidated us a little bit at the start. We didn’t take the ball strong to the hoop,” Warriors coach Hank Hughes said. “They’re just a phenomenal team. That’s a team that we aspire to try to be somewhat like.”

By halftime, GI had built up a 33-15 lead, and extended it to nearly 30 by the end of the third quarter.

Grand Island rolls into the postseason with some solid momentum, but Ross said the postseason provides teams a brand new slate.

“Last year we were carrying some pretty good momentum and lost to Starpoint,” the coach said. “You never can tell in the sectionals. You’ve got to play hard or you’re going to go home.”

For Tonawanda, Hughes hopes to build off of a core of underclassmen, led by freshman Jesse Lalka (four points) and sophomore Steve Stich (two), who have progressed well this season.

“We’re still pretty young. I think we’ve got a real strong nucleus,” Hughes said. “Hopefully we can build off the end of this season here, and I think we’ve made pretty decent strides.”

Contact reporter David J. Hill at 693-1000, ext. 115.