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Long Class AA droughts over for Clarence, Frontier

Two teams unfamiliar with playing in a girls basketball sectional final will meet with the Class AA title on the line.

Top-seeded Clarence defeated No. 4 Jamestown, 51-37, on Friday night in the second game of a Class AA doubleheader at Sweet Home to advance to the final for the first time since 2004, and second-seeded Frontier may be making its first trip to a sectional championship game after holding off No. 6 Lancaster,

They’ll meet in a rubber match Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at Buffalo State. Each team won their home game during the regular season.

"We’ve played a three-point game and a six-point game, so it’s going to be a battle," Clarence coach Erin Booker said. "It will be a scrappy game. They’ve got some great shooters that we have to shut down. I feel like we have a better all-around team and this was a great confidence game for my shooters from the

Frontier last won a league title in 1995, and school officials aren’t even sure of the last time or if they’ve ever reached a sectional final.

Someone must have forgotten to tell that to this upstart and confident group that includes two freshman starters and one sophomore starter and only one senior in its rotation.

"Hopefully, this team appreciates where we are right now and makes this a thing on a regular basis moving forward," said Frontier’s seventh-year coach, Rick Mihalik. "This is what it takes to get here. … Our kids know it is not easy and I’m not always easy to work with from the kids’ or parents’ perspective because it’s something that’s never been done before so we’ve got to do things that have never been done before."

Frontier outscored Lancaster 18-12 in the final quarter, after the Legends used a late run in the third to end the quarter with only their second lead of the game, 29-27. The teams had split regular season games, each winning on their home floors.

Sophomore Kennedy Izzo scored a game-high 16 points and freshman point guard Claire Kruska added 11 points. Senior Macayla Barry (6 points) was 4 for 4 at the line down the stretch.

"We played our game and put it all out there," Izzo said. "You know when the season starts but you don’t know when it will end. We’re going to the sectional final for the first time ever. It’s pretty crazy."

Lancaster was led by 14 points from senior Alyssa Kranz, who nailed two three-pointers in the game’s final 19 seconds to bring her team to within 44-41. Junior Molly Mahoney added 12 points in the loss.

"It doesn’t matter who you’re playing this late in the season, teams want it just as bad and are going to battle," Mihalik said. "You can’t take any time off on the court. You still have to execute, especially against players that can hit from deep."

Clarence had been to the sectional semifinals the last two years and set a goal to reach the finals in 2017. It helped that the Red Devils sport a front line of three players 5-foot-11 and taller and in the semifinal, senior guard Ali DiGiulio enjoyed her best game of the season, finishing with a game-high 19 points. She nailed six three-pointers as the team finished with a season-high

Clarence’s 6-foot-1 senior forward Carly Reynolds added 11 points and senior Lauren Cullinan had seven.

Jamestown, which has won three of the last four Class AA crowns, was led by junior Kaitlyn Bennett’s 12 points and senior Mackenzie Swanson with 11.

"Usually we’re really working the ball inside because we obviously have the height advantage," Booker said. "We haven’t had a lot of outside shooting but with Jamestown packing it in, Ali had a career-high night."


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