Niagara-Wheatfield’s Melissa Smith nailed what proved to be the winning basket with 1:30 left in the contest, then the Falcons turned up the defensive pressure to make stops down the stretch to advance to the Section VI Class AA final with a 50-47 upset over defending champion Lockport on Friday.
The Falcons took the lead early in the fourth before the Lady Lions rallied, then took the lead for good on a Smith three-pointer.
Lockport, The Buffalo News’ No. 1-ranked large school, had three possessions in the final 17 seconds but couldn’t convert. Rachel Pawlak scored a game-high 25 points for Niagara-Wheatfield, while Smith added 18.
It’s been a week of satisfying wins for Niagara-Wheatfield. They were outscored by Lockport by a combined 49 points in two earlier games this season. Lockport beat the Falcons, 74-52, in mid-December and 61-34 back in January.
On Tuesday, Niagara-Wheatfield shocked Lancaster, 55-43, in the quarterfinals.
“We were able to defend Alexis Cheatham well with Smith and Rachel,” Falcons coach Diane Fegatilli said. “We came up with some big defensive plays at the end and were able to pull it out.”
Cheatham finished with 20 points, including four three-pointers, and Sara Franco added 18 for Lockport. Frontier nearly knocked off Lockport in the quarterfinals until the Lady Lions hit a runner and two free throws in the final seconds of a 38-34 win.
Elsewhere, in the New York State Association of Independent Schools, Immaculata advanced to the final against defending champion and No. 1 seeded Heckley after defeating Fieldston of the Bronx, 48-38. The final is at 1 p.m. Sunday.
The Bears jumped on Fieldston early by shooting a sizzling 65 percent in the first half. Immaculata was not deterred by Fieldston’s huge frontline which featured two players standing 6-foot-3.
“We doubled down on their big kids and at one point we were up by 15 points,” Bears assistant coach Joe Badaszewski said.
Taylor Heinold led the Bears with with 16 points, while Jordan Heinold finished with 13 points and 17 rebounds. RayAnn Call added eight assists.
In boys basketball today, the much anticipated Class AA rubber match between No. 1 Jamestown and No. 2 Niagara Falls will be held at 8:15 tonight at Buffalo State. Jamestown won in 2011 and Niagara Falls captured the title in 2012.
HOCKEY: In the CISAA final, Nichols goalie Anthony Tiradassi had 33 saves but the Vikings couldn’t put away St. Andrews College (Ont.), which beat Nichols, 2-1, in overtime in Game One. Nick Smith scored the lone goal for Nichols.