Brandy Wangelin and her Olean teammates entered the playoffs with all the incentive they needed: win a Section VI title and send their retiring coach out on top.
They accomplished both as the surprising Huskies claimed the Class A girls basketball crown for coach Martha Altmire, who is stepping down after 35 seasons. Olean looks to extend its season even further today at the Far West Regionals at Finger Lakes Community College in Canandaigua.
Olean (18-7) will play in one of five games as the Section VI champions play the class champs from Section V with the winners moving on to the state final four.
"We wanted to make our season great, she's deserved it so we just wanted to make it happen," said Wangelin, a junior forward. "We weren't really expected to do a lot since our league season wasn't that great. We thought we were really capable of it, we just didn't do it till now."
Olean, 4-0 this postseason, plays Pittsford-Sutherland (18-4) of Section V.
Altmire described the last month as a "whirlwind." In a ceremony before the team's last home game, Olean Mayor David Carucci presented Altmire with a key to the city and proclaimed Feb. 10 "Martha Altmire Day."
"I give these players a lot of credit. There were so many times when they could have gone down the tubes when things didn't go right," said Altmire, the winningest coach in Western New York history at 484-221.
Class AA: Jamestown (22-1) puts its 21-game winning streak on the line against Rush-Henrietta (21-1), a team that has reached this round for the second year in a row. Last year the Royal Comets eliminated Hamburg.
Class B: East Aurora (22-1) takes on Nazareth (21-3), the state's No. 1-ranked team in Class B. It's EA's first appearance in the FWR while the Lazers have been here five of the last six years.
Class C: Portville (20-4) makes its fifth appearance in the FWR hoping the ball bounces its way against Honeoye (22-2).
Class D: Sherman (20-3) looks to return to the state final four for the first time since 2000-2001. Standing in their way is state No. 1 Batavia Notre Dame (22-2).
Niagara Catholic in final
ASTORIA -- The "amoeba defense" carried Niagara Catholic into its first state Catholic championship game, 51-28 over Brooklyn-Queens' St. Saviour in the Class D semifinals at St. John's Prep.
The Patriots' 1-2-2 match-up zone, which looks like man-to-man, limited a taller St. Saviour's crew to 11 field goals. Vonshay George scored a game-high 15 points for Catholic, including the final four during a 6-0 third-quarter opening run that extended a 23-15 lead. Jen Hare had 13 points and 12 boards.
"It's wonderful for the program," NC coach Larry Puzan said.
Niagara Catholic (18-10) plays Rockville Center's Our Lady of Mercy, which beat New York City's Mount St. Ursula, at 1 p.m. today for the title.
St. Joe's on Long Island
Nichols will be rooting for St. Joe's (25-1) to beat Long Island's St. John the Baptist (19-6) in today's noon Catholic Class A boys basketball state semifinal at Holy Trinity High in Hicksville.
Nichols, the Monsignor Martin Class B champion, is already in the state Class B final. If the Marauders win, a Catholic state championship doubleheader will be held March 18 at Niagara University. If St. Joe's loses, Nichols heads to Fordham on March 19.
St. Joe's, the News' top-ranked large school, faces a St. John the Baptist crew that beat Chaminade, 72-48, Tuesday night to win its first Long Island Catholic title in 17 seasons.