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Girls Player of the Year Martinsen goes out in a blaze of glory

Here today, gone tomorrow.

That sums up the status of Erica Martinsen, the talented Williamsville East guard who is the 2016 Buffalo News Girls Basketball Player of the Year.

Martinsen, a sophomore, will transfer to Blair Academy in northwest New Jersey in the fall. She started the 2015-16 academic year at Blair, but came back to Williamsville East a couple of days into the basketball practice schedule.

“It’s mostly for basketball reasons,” Martinsen said about the upcoming move. “There are amazing players there. There are two USA players, and a 6-9 girl. They are very serious about basketball there. That’s what I liked – playing people that are good competition.”

The 6-foot-9 player is Felicia Aiyeotan, a Nigerian who will head for the University of Virginia in the fall. Martinsen said it’s a little different playing against someone that tall.

“I got my shot blocked a lot,” she said.

Martinsen will try to fit in with players who have been members of the United States Junior National Team and who are recruited by such elite programs as Connecticut.

In the meantime, she leaves quite a legacy at Williamsville East after playing three varsity seasons with the Flames. For starters, she easily led all Western New York players in scoring with an average of 31.3 points per game.

Martinsen finished the season with 721 points, 114 steals and 99 three-pointers three of her seven school records with the Flames.

“She had 495 points last year, a very good year as a freshman,” Williamsville East coach Chris Durr said. “She drew a lot of box-and-one and triangle-and-two defenses. This year she had 721 points playing the schedule we played − Williamsville South, Hamburg, Williamsville North. Their goal was to take Erica out of the game, and she was still outstanding.”

A highlight of the season that caught the attention of many was her 50-point outburst against Hamburg on Feb. 24. It’s a number that isn’t seen very often in local girls basketball circles.

“In that game, it was back and forth,” Martinsen said. “We needed every point. I didn’t know anything about the points because there were just timeouts and stoppages. I just looked at the scoreboard. It was a fun game, though.”

Durr added, “I’ve seen a lot of kids who have scored 40, 50 a game. They usually are forwards and centers, because they just have a huge advantage. I didn’t know she had gotten 50 points until the end of the game. We are used to her taking the number of shots she takes. She handles the ball and takes free throws, too. We don’t keep track of it.”

That was part of a nice postseason by Martinsen, as her scoring average went up during the Section VI Tournament. But the Flames were eliminated by Williamsville South in the Class A-1 final.

“The season could have gone better at the end,” she said. “I wish we could have done better in the sectionals. That was my goal for the whole year. We fell a little short. But it was a fun season.”

It’s not too soon for Martinsen to start thinking about college. Several schools have contacted her already, and that number will only grow if her game continues to develop in the months ahead.

Martinsen has some hopes that an Atlantic Coast Conference school will express interest in her at some point. No matter who makes her preliminary list of possible destinations, it’s never an easy decision to pick one. However, she figures the answer will come to her.

“I’ve visited a couple of schools, but I think I’ll know right away,” Martinsen said. “When I visited Blair, I knew that’s where I wanted to be. It’ll probably be that way for college, too.”

In the meantime, Western New York fans may wonder about what might have been. Martinsen is considered one of the best local girls basketball prospects of the 21st century. Who knows what she could do here if she stayed for another two seasons?

“It’s disappointing to lose a player of that caliber,” Durr said. “If she stuck around, she would have left the school as the best basketball player ever from here – boys or girls. Maybe she’d be a three-time All-Western New York player.

“But her family and herself have to do what they need to do, and that’s play at a high level.”


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