This is the time of year when the teams who play the best team basketball tend to earn championship moments.
However, there were some girls who strung together sensational individual performances Friday night at Sweet Home High School during the Section VI Class AA semifinals just to make sure a shot at the title didn’t slip through their teams’ grasps.
The stars of Williamsville North’s Ericka Taplin and Jamestown’s Chrisanna Green happened to shine brightest, though, before the 450 fans, so it’s fitting two of Western New York’s best players will once again butt heads with a championship on the line at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.
The 6-foot Taplin scored 20 of the Spartans’ first 26 points, finishing with a game-high 33 to go with 10 rebounds, as top-seeded North crushed Lockport, 67-46.
“I just really wanted to win this game to get to the championship,” Taplin said.
“She did dominate the game tonight,” Spartans coach Bill Shaw said. “She did a great job.”
As did Green for Jamestown, especially during the second half of its 62-50 win over a pesky Clarence crew. The 5-8 senior poured in 19 of her game-high 30 points during the final 16 minutes and also grabbed 19 rebounds. She scored seven points during a 16-4 third quarter that enabled the two-time defending champions and No. 2 seeds to seize control after the teams played to a 30-30 first-half stalemate.
“It’s my senior year, we definitely want to win,” said Green, who shot 13 for 22 from the floor and 4 for 8 from the line. “It’s great to get another opportunity to play for the title.”
Jamestown (16-5) and Will North (17-3) meet for the championship at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Buffalo State Sports Arena in a rematch of last year’s final. Both teams split two regular-season games, with North winning the coin flip to get the top seed for the Section VI tournament.
Taplin made sure Williamsville North didn’t get bounced by fourth-seeded Lockport (14-7). She scored the Spartans’ first 10 points and 14 of their first 18 – all in the paint. Timeout calls by the Lions failed to quell the momentum as North led 18-13 after one and 39-16 at halftime. Taplin had 22 points at the break.
North teammates did a great job feeding her the ball in the post. Juniors Clare Ahern (12 points) and Heidi Noll (five points) each had six assists. Natalie Hazzan scored 12 points.
“I said during one of the timeouts if the ball doesn’t touch Ericka’s hands all four of you are going to come out,” Shaw said. “The ball has to touch Ericka’s hands every time down the court. We needed that to happen.
“I thought all of our kids played outstanding basketball. They were smart. They didn’t turn the ball over.”
Now all North has to do is figure out a way to slow down Green.
Clarence (11-11) did for a half, just as it hung with the Red Raiders for 16 minutes.
Senior Gabbi Pacatte scored 19 of her 25 points during a first half in which a normally stingy Jamestown defense just couldn’t slow down the young, tall Red Devils. Jamestown didn’t let the Red Devils break away completely, as Peyton Butts scored 11 of her 14 points in the second quarter as the teams entered halftime tied, 30-30.
“I told the girls I don’t think we gave up 30 in a half all season,” Red Raiders coach Tim Anderson said. “The defensive effort in the first half was our biggest problem. We weren’t closing off the shooters, we weren’t closing in the lanes.”
Jamestown went straight man-to-man during the decisive 16-4 third quarter. Green opened the scoring with a traditional three-point play. Throughout the second half, Green found the soft spots in the Red Devils zone and attacked the basket.
“She was very aggressive,” Anderson said of Green in the second half.
Besides Green being an inside force during the second half, diminutive guard Kaleisha Mosley’s hustle proved to be invaluable as the 5-foot-3 standout finished with 14 rebounds, five steals and four points. Butts made 4 of 7 shots from beyond the arc.
Pacatte, who also had seven rebounds and five steals, missed most of the decisive third quarter with a shoulder stinger, suffered during a tumble to the floor.
“That definitely played a factor,” Clarence coach Erin Booker said of the tough third quarter. “Her defense was creating turnovers that were fueling our offense.
“We can play with Jamestown, we proved that in the first half. We just needed to that for four quarters instead of three. We just came up short.