If basketball were more like boxing, referees would’ve stopped Sunday’s A-1 championship game after the first round.
Williamsville South came out swinging and delivered Williamsville East a vicious combination in the game’s first eight minutes before winning its third straight girls basketball title, 74-56.
Give the Flames credit for hanging tough throughout the final three quarters. But Williamsville South’s 23-3 opening frame was essentially a knockout blow.
“They know that that’s a huge part of it, having that energy level,” Williamsville South coach Kristen Dolan said of how her team was able to get ahead so big so soon.
“We know what we can do as a team. When we’re all working together and making sure we can play our style of defense, at the offensive end then everyone can step up and contribute.”
“It was all heart,” said Brianna Neeley, who led Williamsville South with 21 points. “We just wanted it more. Way more.”
A runaway was an unexpected result given that the teams had split their regular season meetings and that Williamsville East’s star sophomore, Erica Martinsen, was coming off a 50-point game against Hamburg in the semifinals.
“I had a few girls ready for the challenge. She’s an unbelievable player and we knew it was going to be tough to stop her,” Dolan said. The key was to make sure “we focused on where she was on the floor and remained calm, yet trap and double-team when we could, and have our forwards in positions where we could be strong and rebound the ball.”
Williamsville South doubled East at halftime, 36-18. Martinsen led all players with 28 points and teammate Rachel Romanowski scored 17, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
“As long as you shut her down, you shut the team down,” Neeley said. “We did it once before and we did it tonight.”
Four other Billies joined Neeley in double-figures, with Zaria McCullough scoring 16, Lauren Lassiter scoring 12, Naomi DeBerry 11 and seventh-grader Amari DeBerry adding 10.
Williamsville South is now 19-3 on the season and has won 19 of its last 20 games after starting the year 0-2. That second loss came to rival Williamsville East, and South has rolled since then.
“At first we were kind of down about it,” Neeley said, “but then we were like, ‘we have to get our heads in the game, get back in the gym. We know we’re better than this and we can go far again this year.’ So that’s what we did. We went into the gym and worked harder. Now we’re on a winning streak.”
“I knew what these girls could do,” Dolan said of her mindset when the team was 0-2. “I was just trying to see what pieces go where in this big puzzle.”
South will face A-2 winner Lake Shore on Wednesday at Buffalo State for the right to represent Section VI in the Far West Regionals.