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Clarence edges Frontier to take girls AA championship

It took a moment for Carly Reynolds of Clarence to realize that she was on a team that had just won the Section VI Class AA girls basketball championship.

"It didn't set in right away," said the junior forward. "They missed the shot that could have tied it, and then I turned around. All of a sudden, I saw that everyone on the team was just freaking out."

The first title since 2004-05 for Clarence will do that. The Red Devils captured a 34-31 win over Frontier that wasn't too pretty, but it got the job done.

It was the rubber game of the season between the two teams, as the rivals split the two previous meetings. This one was right in character.

"Both times that we played them, the games were very defensive," said a relieved Clarence coach Erin Booker.

About the only person who could score consistently on the night was Reynolds, the talented 6-foot-1 center. She had 15 points, an enormous contribution by this game's standards.

"Carly just had a great game," Booker said. "We want to have the ball touch her hands on every possession, so she can go to the basket."

Claire Kruska had 11 points to lead Frontier.

One of Clarence's biggest worries going into the game was the three-point shooting of the Falcons. They came out firing in the first quarter, jumping out to a 14-7 lead. The total included four three-pointers, including two by Alyssa Lorka. It was Frontier's biggest lead of the game.

"We were worried about a couple of their three-point shooters, but then a couple of others stepped up and hit shots," Booker said. "We switched to a man-to-man defense, and that turned the game around."

Clarence scored the last five points of the first quarter, and the first 10 of the second quarter. That 15-0 run, in hindsight, tilted the game in the Red Devils' favor.

"We had the height advantage, and it really gave us an advantage in that stretch," Reynolds said.

Frontier only scored two points in the second quarter, and added only four in the third period. But Clarence could not put the pesky Falcons away. When Frontier hit two three-pointers and added a free throw, the Red Devils' lead was down to 29-27. In short, anyone's game.

Clarence got the lead back up to four with 2:30 left, but it wasn't done yet. That's because the Red Devils missed five of their last six free throws. That was par for the course on a night when Clarence only sank 3 of 12 from the line.

"We usually hit 65 percent," said a head-shaking Booker when informed of the statistic.

When the last two misses took place, it gave Frontier that last chance to win. But the Falcons couldn't take advantage of their last opportunity as they missed a three-pointer at the buzzer, and Clarence had a Section VI title.

Now it's on to the Far West Regionals for the Red Devils. They will play Mercy at 1 p.m. at the Buffalo State Sports Arena on Saturday. That's in the future for Booker; she had more immediate plans.

"We're definitely going to enjoy this," the coach said about the win.


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