Coach Kristen Dolan called Amari DeBerry the “best-kept secret in Western New York” last year following Williamsville South’s Section VI Class A-1 title win over Hamburg at Buffalo State.
On the same court, in the same round and against the same opponent, it’s safe to say the 6-foot-5 freshman is a secret no more.
DeBerry was a dominating presence from the tip and one of three Billies who scored 18 points Sunday to lead top-seeded Williamsville South (17-5) to a 72-40 win over No. 6 Hamburg (11-13), securing the program’s fifth straight Class A-1 championship.
Sophomore point guard Hannah Dolan scored a game-high 22 points for South, and senior sharpshooter Lauren Lassiter drained six three-pointers for her 18 points. DeBerry was a force in all facets. She also had nine rebounds, six steals and five blocks.
With the win, Williamsville South became just the second school to secure five straight Section VI crowns. Grand Island won five Class A-1 titles in a row from 2009-13. The Billies started their current streak in 2014.
“Wow. That is an honor because I have so much respect for coach (Jen) Banker,” South coach Kristen Dolan said, referring to the former Vikings and current Daemen coach, “and I remember bringing my little girls to the gym when she was playing here on a yearly basis.”
No team has won more than five in a row, but with DeBerry, Hannah Dolan and a roster of four seniors, the future of the Billies looks as bright as their recent past and present.
South advanced to Wednesday’s overall Class A final at 6 p.m. at SUNY Buffalo State, the round where it saw its season end the past two years against Lake Shore and Amherst, respectively. The Tigers beat Iroquois in the second game of Sunday's doubleheader, 64-44, to set up a rematch.
“I think we just love playing on this court,” said Lassiter, the lone holdover from South’s state-championship team in 2015. “We just worked so hard all offseason to get here. ... We’re definitely coming together as a team and it’s just getting better every single game.”
While DeBerry is the obvious focus of every opponent’s game plan, South showed Sunday that it has plenty of other options to exploit whichever defense is thrown at it.
“It’s nice when I have a few weapons and I can get them kind of all grooving together,” said Kristen Dolan, adding Lassiter missed time early in the season with an injury.
“We use each other to open each other up,” said DeBerry, who’s being recruited by some of the top Division I programs in the country, “so, I mean, you can’t really – it’s hard to stop just one of us. You have to stop all of us.”
DeBerry scored 11 points during the first eight minutes, including a trey from the top of the key. Lassiter made her first three attempts from beyond the arc, and Hannah Dolan had the other six points as the Billies led 26-10 after the opening quarter.
The Class A-1 finals is underway. Amari DeBerry with the first basket. I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot of this today as the Billies seek heir fifth straight title.#PrepTalkLive coverage: https://t.co/CAVVGYkqJx pic.twitter.com/vOTYLAepsG
— Corey Desiderio (@cpdesi1) March 4, 2018
Hamburg had eight of the first 15 points of the second quarter to make it 33-18, but South closed the last 3:31 on a 14-2 run to take a 47-20 lead at half. Lassiter made two more threes to give her 15. DeBerry had 16 at the break and Dolan 10.
The Billies went on a 15-0 run, Dolan with 12 and Lassiter her sixth three, after Hamburg scored the first two points of the second half. Bulldogs sophomore Tara Geary (14 points) had eight of her team’s 10 points.
South emptied the bench and coasted the rest of the way after taking a 67-30 lead into the fourth quarter.
“We just have to continue to stay focused and get back in the gym now because we have our hands full with these two teams – either team,” Kristen Dolan said. “It’s going to be a battle Wednesday night.”