Barker Raider cagers have a special title season
Led by a quartet of multi-year starters, Barker enjoyed its best basketball season in over 35 years as the Raiders captured the Niagara-Orleans League championship in route to compiling a perfect 18-0 regular season record.
Senior forward Jacob Haight, a four-year starter, headed that veteran group which also included senior guard Mitch Luckman, a three year starter, along with senior center Bryce Moeller and junior guard Christopher Sweeney, both two year starters.
“To go 18-0 is something special and is a great compliment to our kids and to win the league was absolutely special,” said Barker Coach Dave Carson. “It really was a special season.”
Haight, who became Barker’s career scoring leader during the season, scored total of 361 points (18.0 average) and grabbed off 200 rebounds (10.0 ave.). He also had 85 steals, 84 assists and 37 blocks.
Luckman had 289 points (14.4 ave.), 143 assists, 85 rebounds and 42 steals; Moeller 193 points (9.6 ave.), 144 rebounds, 76 blocks, 26 steals and 25 assists and Sweeney 194 points (9.7 ave.), 87 rebounds, 45 steals and 30 assists.
Senior Hayden Gooding rounded out the starting quintet for Barker which also got steady efforts from a number of role players including seniors Tyler Dent and Jarid Worthington and juniors Joshua Mead, Tristan Payne, Tanner Gregorio, Thomas Callaghan and Sean Benoit.
“Everyone knew their role and really filled them well,” said Carson.
Barker clinched at least a tie for the school’s first title since 1978 with a narrow 42-39 win over visiting Medina, which was the Raiders closest call during the N-O campaign.
Barker then locked up the N-O championship with a 64-34 win over Wilson and capped off the perfect 14-0 league season with road victories at Roy-Hart (83-46) and Albion (81-52).
“This group played together collectively as a unit, as a team. They really enjoyed it when that good pass or dish off led to a basket. They were just very unselfish and that was what got us the title and the 18-0 regular season,” said Carson. “In order to make a run like that you have to play as a team. This group just had such a good grasp of what was going on at both ends of the court. During timeouts we really fed off each other for information. They really have a heat understanding of the game.”
The title was the first since Barker shared the Genesee Region League Division 2 title in 1978 with Pavilion. And it was Barker’s first N-O championship since 1945 when the Raiders topped Wilson 33-16 in a playoff after the teams finished the regular season with identical 13-1 records.
“These kids have seen the other side when Barker wasn’t as good and was getting beat by 30 points,” said Carson. “They know that so they definitely had some fire this year. They were driven all season. They were a very confident group and they just knew this was supposed to happen. And they’ve been very successful in other sports so that helped with their confidence. It was an exciting group.”
Barker made it 19-0 by defeating Portville 77-38 in the quarterfinals of the Section VI Class C1 playoffs. However, the Raiders undefeated season and quest for the school’s first sectional title since 1972 was ended in the semifinal round by a 62-48 loss to Silver Creek.
Though they have met several times in the earlier rounds, it was the first semifinal round meeting between the schools since 1962 when Silver Creek downed Barker by a nearly identical score of 67-48 as George Carter, who went on to star at St. Bonaventure, led the Knights with 26 points.
“The season didn’t end like we would have liked but it was still a very special season,” Said Carson. “Winning the league and going 18-0 is something this group will have for the rest of their lives. It was a special season and to do it with a really nice group of kids made it very special.”