Williamsville North’s perfect season has reached its logical destination.
The undefeated Spartans (22-0) advanced to the Class AA finals in Section VI girls basketball on Friday night by defeating Clarence, 61-34, in the second part of a doubleheader played at Sweet Home High School.
In the other semifinal, No. 2 Orchard Park knocked off Lockport, 61-41. The winners will meet Wednesday night at 8 p.m. at Buffalo State in the AA final.
For a while, Williamsville North’s perfect season seemed to be in a little jeopardy. The Spartans worked hard for every basket they got in the first 12 minutes, and they didn’t get that many. Clarence was playing exactly the type of tempo it wanted.
“That was coach’s stupidity, basically,” Spartans coach Bill Shaw said. “I’m thinking the last couple of days that we should pressure them, but our quarter defense is so good that I thought we’d be fine. We were a little sloppy in the first quarter.”
With the score tied 12-12 midway through the second quarter, Williamsville North started pressing. That made all the difference.
“We knew they struggled a little bit with their guard play,” Shaw said. “We don’t press a lot because we’re not deep. They did a great job tonight.”
The full-court pressure led to turnovers and easy baskets. In a relative blink – less than three minutes – Williamsville North had scored 12 straight points. It was 28-16 Spartans by halftime. Clarence had only one basket in the third quarter, and the drama was gone.
Ericka Taplin had another big game for Williamsville North, finishing with 28 points. She showed a smooth all-around game, scoring from inside and out.
“That’s who she is,” Shaw said. “She’s right up there with Erica Martinsen of Williamsville East as the best players in the area. … They are both outstanding players.”
No Clarence player had more than eight points, the total by Carly Reynolds.
In the first game of the night, Sam Fischer of Orchard Park was just too good. She managed to get the ball down low consistently, and knew what to do with it from there. She finished with 26 points to lead the Quakers.
“I call her Gumby, although she doesn’t really like it too much,” coach Gary Janas said about Fischer. “She’s got the longest arms and legs, and she stretches out, and she knows what to do with it when you throw her the ball.”
Fischer added, “It was great how the guards were able to get me the ball. They just perfected that inside pass.”
The first quarter of the opener featured a couple of runs. Lockport jumped out to a 5-1 lead after 3½ minutes of play, thanks in part to a three-pointer by Margretta Dry. But Orchard Park answered with seven straight points of its own to get the lead back. After another Dry three-pointer, the Quakers scored the last four points of the quarter to take a 12-8 lead.
From there, Orchard Park had an 8-0 run early in the second quarter. Fischer had six of those points. As it turned out, Lockport never recovered from that burst. Neither team could do much scoring in the third quarter, with Orchard Park scoring the last four points of the period to get the lead to 35-23. Lockport had one last gasp in the fourth quarter, using a 9-2 run to get its deficit within 10. But Fischer hit a layup and Jaimee Glendenning scored on a drive to the hoop, and the Quakers were out of danger.
Dry led the Lions with 19 points.
So it’s on to the AA finals for Orchard Park, which is something of a surprise to Janas.
“At the beginning of the season, I thought .500 would have been a great season,” he said. “We lost a lot of talent after last season. They might not be the most talented team around, but no one is going to work harder.”