Orchard Park’s girls basketball team came into the season with just one goal in mind, and that was to make it to Buffalo State for a chance at a Section VI Class AA title.
As sophomores on the varsity team two years ago, current seniors Sam Fischer, Jenna Probst, Lauren Miller and Emily Henrich witnessed eventual state semifinalist Williamsville North end OP's season with a 16-point loss.
The Quakers not only made it back to Buffalo State Wednesday night, they left no doubt in distinguishing themselves as the top Class AA school in the area.
Behind a game-high 21 points and 14 rebounds from Fischer, top-seeded Orchard Park (22-1) won the program’s second sectional title and first since 1997 with a 57-22 win against No. 7 Frontier (10-13).
“What’s really emotional to me about it is most of these girls, my seniors, I’ve been coaching since they were in eighth grade,” OP coach Gary Janas said. “I’ve coached them on JV all the way up, and I’ve seen them work so hard and I’m so proud of them because they came to me as eighth-graders who didn’t really have the skill but had the passion and worked their tail off.”
Point guard Danielle Hore, a senior who was not on that runner-up team two years ago, added 14 points and four steals to go over 100 for the season. She formed an impressive inside-outside duo with Fischer that was unstoppable from the opening tip.
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“I’ve been playing with Danielle since I was 6 years old, and she left to go to Sacred Heart and then she came back” last year, Fischer said. “That was probably one of the best years of my life. She’s so awesome to play with and she sees the court so well. Like if I’m open, I don’t even know I’m open and she passes me the ball.”
“And Sam for only being 5-10, probably one of the shortest bigs in Western New York, she’s one of the best,” Janas added. “When they’re on their game, you saw what they can do.”
Orchard Park started the game with an 8-2 lead, but Frontier made a pair of three-pointers to bring the score to 9-8 four minutes in. The Quakers ended the first quarter with nine straight points and then scored the first two of the second quarter to take a 20-8 lead before the Falcons snapped a seven-minute scoring drought 2:47 into the second.
The Quakers took a 28-17 advantage into the break, going 12-for-16 from the charity stripe. Fischer had 12 points in the first half, six on free throws.
OP's defense limited Frontier standouts Claire Kruszka and Kennedy Izzo (eight points) to a combined 11 points, eight in the first half. The duo averaged 30 per game coming in.
Attacking those two on the offensive end put them in foul trouble. Izzo picked up her second foul midway through the first quarter and sat until 1:37 was left in the half. Kruszka had her fourth called on her with 1:54 to go in the third.
“If you take those two girls out – they do have talent on their team but they’re young – we knew we had the ability to win,” Janas said. “If we can get them in foul trouble and get them out of the game, it makes our job so much easier.”
The third quarter was just pure domination by the Quakers as they outscored the Falcons, 20-3, to extend the lead to 48-20 heading into the final eight minutes.
A tall task awaits Orchard Park in Saturday’s Far West Regional at 1 p.m. at Rush-Henrietta. Section V champ Bishop Kearney (18-4) is 6-0 against some of the top schools in Western New York.
The Rochester private school beat Cardinal O’Hara and Williamsville South twice, as well as Sacred Heart and Amherst by an average of 21 points.
“Bishop Kearney’s a buzzsaw. My girls know that,” Janas said. “It’s gonna be a game where we’re gonna go and have fun.”