There are no more worlds to conquer in Western New York for the Williamsville North girls basketball team. They’ll have to do some traveling to find worthy opponents from now on.
The Spartans improved to 23-0 with a 56-40 victory over Orchard Park in the final of the Section VI Class AA competition at the Buffalo State Sports Arena on Wednesday. The victory was sweet on a number of levels – the most obvious being that Williamsville North had lost decisively in the AA finals in the last two years.
“It’s really great,” the Spartans’ Ericka Taplin said. “We’ve been trying to do this for four years. It shows that hard work really does pay off.”
It was also a landmark victory for Spartans coach Bill Shaw. He had won 13 Section VI titles when he was coaching at Lockport, but hadn’t been able to break through at his new address until now.
“It feels good. It always feels good,” Shaw said. “It doesn’t matter what team you’re involved with. I’m just glad the players got to experience this. It’s a great feeling.”
One of the differences in the game was supplied by Taplin, who certainly looked like one of the best players in Western New York. On offense, she had 25 points as the 6-foot senior scored from inside and outside.
However, her play at the other end of the court might have been more impressive. Taplin often grabbed a defensive rebound and took off with the ball down the court. She also finished with 11 blocked shots, and no doubt had the Quakers thinking about her presence at other times.
“Our guards were struggling with their defense at times, but Ericka was back there to block their shots,” Shaw said. “Believe me, it was nothing I taught her.”
Frequently teams meet in sectional play once again after competing against each other. In this case, Williamsville North had two wins over Orchard Park. That fact alone can be discouraging entering a third matchup. Williamsville North made sure to remind the Quakers about what it was like to play them. The offense was effective and balanced. Ten of North’s 19 points for the period came at the foul line, as the Spartans grabbed most of the rebounds.
At the other end of the court, Orchard Park couldn’t generate much of anything. The Quakers’ first points of the game came with a minute and six seconds left in the first quarter, as Sam Fischer sank two free throws. Orchard Park did not have a field goal in the first eight-plus minutes, and trailed by a score of 19-4.
“We wanted to come out aggressively,” Taplin said.
Williamsville North didn’t match that level of play for most of the rest of the game, but it really didn’t matter. Orchard Park never appeared ready to turn the game around. A 19-9 burst by Williamsville North covering parts of the third and fourth quarters made the final outcome inevitable.
Ally Delano was the only other double-figure scorer for the Spartans, finishing with 10 points. For Orchard Park, Christie Witkowski had 16 points, while Fischer had 13.
Now comes the hard part for Williamsville North. The Spartans head to the Far West Regionals, where they’ll play Penfield on Saturday at Rush-Henrietta High School. Penfield is ranked third in the state in Class AA.
Shaw has scouted Penfield and knows it represents a tough assignment.
“It will be a good game, a tough game,” he said. “Anytime you travel like this, it makes it difficult to win.
“They looked very good, but they don’t have an Ericka Taplin on their team. And I think Clare Ahern can make a difference at guard.”