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St. Mary’s, Nardin reach Class B MMA girls basketball final

Size and strength around the basket proved pivotal on Wednesday night as St. Mary’s of Lancaster and Nardin each punched tickets to the Monsignor Martin Association girls basketball Class B title game.

St. Mary’s cruised to a 40-26 win over Buffalo Seminary, while the Nardin Gators used a third quarter surge to take down Niagara Catholic, 53-42, and set up a meeting back at Villa Maria College for the Class B finals at 2 p.m. Sunday.

St. Mary’s started the game on a 7-0 run and never trailed against Buffalo Seminary, which picked up its only Monsignor Martin Association win Sunday against Christian Central Academy in the tournament’s first round.

Wednesday night, however, the Hawks struggled with St. Mary’s interior game. Freshman Caroline Zanghi led the Lancers with 12 points despite getting into foul trouble early in the first half.

“I wasn’t as strong as I wanted to be, and I should have wheeled it and passed out on double teams,” Zanghi said. “I got two fouls early on and I was really mad at myself, but I came back out” in the second half “and I was pretty confident.”

Both teams were off the mark shooting in the first half, but even without Zanghi in the post the Lancers’ lead continued to grow. St. Mary’s (10-13) allowed just three points in the second quarter and took a 20-7 lead into the half.

“We played them earlier in the year and I thought we put together a better performance then,” St. Mary’s head coach Jason Kline said. “I thought we had a good game plan, we just missed a lot of shots early on.”

Buffalo Seminary’s game plan was to control Zanghi and Katelyn Kowalewski (seven points) inside and protect the perimeter with the zone. “Our defense was great. We did what we wanted to do,” said Seminary coach Eva Cunningham. “We just needed to go down and score and we didn’t today.”

Junior Grace Gallagher led Buffalo Seminary (7-14) with 11 points.

In the second game, Nardin owned a five-point lead at the half and pulled away on the strength of a 13-2 run to start the second half. Freshman forward Judy Spira led the Gators (5-13, 3-5 MMA) with 14 points, using her 6-foot-1 frame to dominate the boards.

Nardin overcame a slow start. Senior Melissa Whisker (18 points, three steals) led the Patriots’ defensive effort early, forcing turnovers by the young Gators.

“I think we really just had to slow down our game and get focused,” Spira said. “Once we started running our plays it came together as we were getting open down low.”

Nardin took its first lead early in the second quarter and carried a 26-19 advantage into the half.

“Once in a while we just hit that lull,” Patriots coach Josh Puzan said. “They did start to make some outside shots, and a lot of finishing around the basket killed us.”

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