By Mary Jo Monnin
NEWS SPORTS REPORTER
It was the perfect start to the end of the season.
Last weekend’s 31st Lockport Kiwanis Shootout exceeded expectations and provided just what the Lockport girls basketball team was looking for in a playoff tuneup. Lockport split with its Monsignor Martin Association challengers, losing to Cardinal O’Hara, 49-47, on Friday and beating Sacred Heart in the final seconds, 47-43, on Saturday.
“We didn’t play well at all on Friday. We stunk up the place and still had a chance to beat the best team in Western New York,” said Lady Lions coach Bill Shaw, “Then we turn around the next night and beat a damn good Sacred Heart team. Both of those games give us a lot of confidence going into the playoffs.”
Lockport is among the favorites to win titles as the 38th Section VI Girls Basketball Tournament tips off tonight with early-round games in Class B. Here’s a look at how each class could unfold:
Favorite: No. 2 seed Lockport has won three out of the last four AA titles, and enters the postseason as winner of the Niagara Frontier League. Jamestown won ECIC I this season, helping them earn the No. 1 seed. The Red Raiders have plenty of scoring power with Anne Campion (16.8 ppg), Karisha Tapia (13.5) and Rosa Velazquez (10.6 ppg.)
Alexis Cheatham is deadly from the outside for Lockport, averaging 18.9 ppg., followed by Sara Franco’s 13.4 ppg.
Challengers: Lancaster, finalists against Lockport a year ago, have one of the best players in the tournament in Sarah Saba (19.6 ppg), who is coming off a 33-point game against Clarence.
Sleepers: Is this the year Niagara Falls puts it together? Victoria Pryor (15.3 ppg) and Toni Polk (10.2 ppg) think so. Williamsville North handed Jamestown its only league loss this season. Senior Natalie Galus, a recent 1,000-point scorer, will keep Frontier close. Orchard Park could surprise if three-point shooters Noelle Poloncarz (40 threes) and Shaye Swiatek (33 threes) get hot.
Best matchup before NCCC: It would have to be Lockport and Lancaster in the semifinals at Sweet Home. The game would be a rematch of last year entertaining sectional final, won by Lockport, 57-54.
“I think there’s a lot of teams [who could win it],” said Shaw. “It may not come down to Jamestown and Lockport, it could come down to two other teams, In past years maybe you’ve penciled in certain teams to make the final. This year I think there are some teams that could make some noise if they get hot at the right time.”
Favorite: No. 1 seed Hamburg went 10-0 while winning ECIC II. The Bulldogs offense doesn’t revolve around a player or two, they are just a group that oozes “team.” The mainstays are senior Taylor Wolf, junior Jill Ford and junior Leah Jones.
Challengers: This title has gone through Grand Island an impressive four years in a row. Looking to carry them to a fifth is Cassie Oursler, who has been asked to do a lot in her senior year. She led the Niagara Frontier League in scoring at 21.3 ppg.
Sleepers: Williamsville East’s Sabrina Lipowski led ECIC II in scoring at 14.7 ppg.
Best matchup before NCCC: Does McKinley have what it takes to end Grand Island’s run in a possible semifinal? The Macks’ Daesha Thomas goes for 19.8 ppg., with nice support from Mone Gaymon (13.7).
Favorite: No. 1 seed Iroquois is led by senior Lauren Jensen, who was second in scoring in ECIC II at 14.3 ppg. Colleen Wirth, injured last year, is averaging 13 ppg. Senior Jenny Colvin needs seven three-pointers to break the school record of 113 held since 2001 by Eva Cunningham. Colvin leads Section VI with 45. She’s had at least one three in 24 straight games. Colvin has signed with UB for soccer.
The Chiefs have two wins over Class AA teams – beating Lancaster in their season opener, 59-58, and Kenmore West in the Matt Colpoys Memorial, 51-34.
Challengers: Pioneer is the two-time defending A-2 champions as Jacque Law and Shannon Rogers look to make it three. Lake Shore joins the hunt with Melanie Linsmair dropping in 11.0 ppg., and Miranda Aiken having a big year.
Sleepers: Starpoint has a 30-point win over Tonawanda and beat Iroquois in its season finale. The Spartans lost only to Wilson by six points. Among the promising young players for first-year coach Megan Rumschik are freshman and leading scorer Erica Bradley (12.7 ppg) and sophomore Jenna Faulkner.
Best matchup before NCCC: Starpoint, winners of its last five, and Lake Shore could meet in one half of the bracket while Iroquois and Pioneer clash in the other.
Favorite: No. 1 Olean repeating as B-1 champ looks pretty likely. The Huskies have a veteran lineup. Their 15-3 record includes an 11-game winning streak before it was snapped by Class AA Orchard Park in the season finale. The Huskies, winners of the overall Class B title in four of the last five years, are senior laden. Seniors Sara Ziegler (11.8 ppg), Maggie Moore (11.2), Emily Bantleman (10.2) and Kayla Pearl, along with sophomore Rachel Painter, have big-game experience.
Challengers: No. 2 East Aurora won ECIC III as Erin Nason poured in 12.1 ppg. No. 3 Tonawanda has either won or shared the ECIC IV title the last two years. The Warriors’ Joanna McCarthy averages a double-double and play-making guard Alanna Herne has the knack for finding the open person.
Sleepers: Maryvale 6-foot-1 center Clara Rosten led ECIC III in scoring at 20.0 ppg. Springville has a solid shooter in junior Tia Woodarek (12.1 ppg.). No. 4 Dunkirk knows how to fill it up as it boasts the top two scorers in CCAA I in Khee Nance (18.4 ppg) and Lacey Clark (16.4 ppg).
Best matchup before NCCC: East Aurora and Tonawanda could make for an interesting semifinal at Sweet Home as both teams look to make a mark in the postseason.
Favorite: No. 1 seed Wilson has won this title two of the last three years. The Lakewomen (16-1) look to build on a regular season in which the lone loss came to Holy Angels. They won the Niagara-Orleans League with a 14-0 record putting them at 54-2 the last four years. Senior Jamie Curry added to her single season records for threes with 47 and assists with 103.
Challengers: Buffalo Arts (16-2) and Medina (12-6) are the only other teams in this bracket of 11 with winning records.
Sleepers: Southwestern, which beat Wilson in last year’s final, is a No. 4 seed with a 7-10 record.
Best matchup before NCCC: Southwestern and Fredonia, two teams that battle it out in the tough CCAA I, meet for a third time this season on Saturday in the quarters.
Favorite: No. 2 Randolph has its sights set on a return trip to the Class C state finals where it lost a 43-42 heartbreaker last year to Hoosic Valley of Section II. Mckenna Maycock is a veteran player as a sophomore. She has scored 445 points this season bringing her career total to 1,513. Her 26.5 ppg., is second in Section VI. Mandy Finch provides senior leadership and joins Maycock as a team captain. This team can be explosive, putting up 106 points against Gowanda.
“We’re getting deeper and deeper as time goes on. I’ve got a lot of young kids who are good shooters,” said coach Shawn Huntington. “They’re not afraid, I had an eighth-grader hit a three in overtime to beat Frewsburg.”
Challengers: Holland is the No. 1 seed. A sectional title would be its first. It’s had its most success starting a trio of guards: sisters Abby and Olivia Schmidt and Korey Lavrey. Holland beat East Aurora and split with Tonawanda, both Class B-1 teams.
Sleepers: Halee George of No. 4 Allegany-Limestone has done a nice job in the paint this year averaging 14.4 point. No. 5 Salamanca won Class C-1 last year.
Best matchup before Jamestown: Tapestry Charter won’t go quietly if it meets Randolph in the semis. Tapestry has three players who average in double figures led by Mount St. Mary transfer Adila Gathers (16.8 ppg.), Kayla Walker (12 ppg.) and Shaquana Owens (11.5 ppg.).
Favorite: This class has the only undefeated team among the 75 teams broken into eight classes. Chautauqua Lake may be young, but that didn’t stop the Thunderbirds from going 18-0. The CCAA III champions are led by three sophomores: Jenna Einink, who led the league in scoring 18.1 ppg., Courtney Hewes and Ashton Albanesius.
Challengers: No. 2 Frewsburg (16-2) losts only to Randolph, 73-69, and Cardinal O’Hara, 58-51. The Bears will go as far as Shawna Raymond can take them. Her 20.8 ppg., ranks her among the top 10 in the section. She was CCAA II’s Player of the Year last season.
Sleepers: No. 3 Olmsted and No. 6 Health Sciences are unknowns to the Southern Tier teams in this bracket and could surprise.
Best matchup before NCCC: No. 4 Maple Grove, led by Lauren Nickerson 11.6 ppg.) hosts No. 5 Silver Creek, led by Jordan Brooks (21.1), on Saturday.
Favorite: A title for No. 1 seed Clymer would be its third in four years. Six-foot center Dani Reinwald (22.0 ppg.) and Jo-Linda Rhodes (12.1) are ready to help the Pirates win this nine-team bracket.
Challenger: No. 2 seed Sherman boasts the leading scorer in Section VI. Senior Elle Reed has been a terror all season, averaging 32.6 ppg. Her 586 points includes a school record 79 three-pointers. She is the Wildcats’ all-time leading scorer with 1,627. Sherman finished 16-2 with its only loses to Clymer.
Sleepers: No. 3 Ellicottville presents matchup problems for most teams as it starts three 6-footers: Janae Hamilton (25.8 ppg.), Grace Hall and Madison Szpaicher. No. 4 Pine Valley and No. 5 Panama join the mix as both played undefeated Chautauqua Lake tough.
Best matchup before NCCC: Sherman and Ellicottville could meet in the semis. The Wildcats beat them three times, but each game was close including the most recent, 48-42.