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Scholastic spotlight Will South hoops have family ties

The official sport of the Dolan family is basketball, and the big winner for that this season has been Williamsville South.

The boys and girls teams are legitimate Section VI Tournament title contenders because the steady guiding hand of a Dolan has been running the show on the court for each.

Each team plays a similar, unselfish style of basketball that requires players to work the ball to find the best shots. Each has at least three players averaging double-digits.

As it turns out, each team thrives because of what Kristen Dolan tells not only the players she coaches on South’s girls team but also shares with her two sons, Greg and Graham, members of the boys team:

“Play good defense. Share the basketball. Be unselfish.”

Living on the court by those words has resulted in both girls and boys teams winning an ECIC II championship. The Billies are still hungry, though, and looking to add more hardware to their trophy cases.

South’s girls open the postseason at 7 p.m. Thursday against North Tonawanda (3-14) as the No. 1 seed in Class A-1. The boys return to action at 7 p.m. Friday in the Class A-1 quarterfinals as a No. 2 seed, playing Wednesday’s Grand Island-Kenmore East winner.

One thing is certain: Members of the boys team will be in attendance Thursday to support their favorite team, while the situation will be reversed Friday.

“There’s a lot of energy and fun with the student body, the community and the alumni,” said Kristen Dolan, who is in her third-year coaching the Billies. South is the defending overall Section VI Class A champion. “People come out and are very supportive of both programs.”

“It’s great how fast the programs are coming together,” said Greg Dolan, the starting freshman point guard for a team that’s 17-2. “We all have a great bond.”

Dolan, who played at Canisius College from 1987-91, coached for seven seasons at Sweet Home before taking a long break after she and her husband Mike, who coaches youth travel basketball, had the third of their four children (current seventh-grader Hannah).

She returned five years ago when South needed a junior varsity coach. She moved into the varsity job two years later.

Boys coach Gabe Michael, who is also in his third season at South, isn’t afraid to bounce ideas off Dolan and seek her opinion.

“We have very similar teams if you look at the makeup of our rosters,” Michael said. “We talk things through. I ask her for advice all the time. She gives me great advice just like I’m sure she gives her kids great advice.”

The girls enter the playoffs with an 18-game winning streak. Their only loss came Dec. 13 at Pittsford Mendon, 58-46.

The Billies rallied for the win over reigning state Class C champion Chautauqua Lake last Friday at the Lockport Tournament. They trailed by three at halftime before erupting for the 71-48 win behind a 42-16 second half. Grace Licata’s 29 points fueled the Billies’ comeback, while Erin Egan added 17. Licata (12 points per game), Egan (11), Emily Smith (14) and Zaria McCullough (12) are South’s top scorers.

“I have 10 girls that can start,” Dolan said. “We talk about how everyone’s accepted the team concept. I tell them they’re reinforcements and not substitutes, and have the girls really be able to feel they have a big role on the team. … It shows when we share the ball.”

Michael’s team shares the ball well, too, but is at its best when the 6-foot-1 Greg Dolan has the rock in his hands. He averages 13.5 points, 5.9 assists and 3.3 steals.

He’s overseeing an offense that averages 59.1 points per game, with big brother Graham, a senior, averaging 10. Senior Sam Castronova leads the Billies in scoring (16.3).

Greg isn’t the normal freshman. Coming from a basketball family is part of the reason, but since second grade he has played on a travel team coached by his father that’s featured kids two years older than him. That team included Graham, current South teammates Ryan Phillips, Matt Foster and Myles Hall, and Canisius High standout Stafford Trueheart.

Greg had 20 points, six assists and 10 steals in a Jan. 6 win over Iroquois.

“Their basketball IQ is off the charts,” Michael said of the Dolan brothers. “They know situations better than coaches do.

“Greg’s a leader on the court. We’re counting on him to make the right basketball play, which he’s done 98 percent of the time.”

“The most important thing to me is for them to be a good teammate, be respectful of coaches and understand they’re never going to know it all,” Kristen Dolan said. “Be willing to learn and enjoy the sport for the fun of the game. … Share the basketball. Be unselfish.”

The secret of South’s success.