For two and a half quarters, the Orchard Park girls basketball team did everything it needed to do in order to hang around with Section V’s Bishop Kearney.
The Quakers were down only two at half, 22-20, against a team that beat a who’s who of Western New York’s best – Cardinal O’Hara twice, Williamsville South twice, Sacred Heart and Amherst – by an average of 21 points.
A basket by senior point guard Danielle Hore midway through the third quarter pulled OP within 25-24, but the Kings got the Quakers in foul trouble and ultimately proved why they’re one of the top teams in New York State.
After Orchard Park (22-2) pulled within that one point, Kearney (19-4) ended Saturday’s Class AA Far West Regional at Rush-Henrietta on a 33-15 run to pull away with a 58-39 win, a margin not reflective of how competitive the game was for its majority.
“We shocked them the first half,” said Hore, who finished with a team-high 17 points to go along with four assists and four rebounds. “They didn’t expect it at all.”
OP coach Gary Janas was forced to sub out Sam Fischer after the senior standout picked up her third and fourth fouls on consecutive plays in the third quarter. That’s what sparked Kearney’s closing burst.
Hore and Fischer both closed out their careers with record-setting campaigns.
Hore became the first girl in school history to eclipse 300 points, 100 rebounds, 100 assists and 100 steals in a single season.
“She is special. I don’t care. She is the best point guard in Western New York,” Janas said. “Show me another point guard in Western New York – show me another point guard in New York State – that has those stats.”
Fischer’s six points Saturday put her over 400, which is a school record. She also had eight rebounds and three blocks while guarding Kearney freshman Saniaa Wilson (game-high 18 points).
“It was definitely a ride,” Hore said. “Me and Sam have been playing for so long together. I remember I was 6 years old and started playing with her. Just the duo we had with our inside-outside game, I think it’s one of the best that OP’s ever seen.”
“Both of them, that duo is going to be sorely missed next year,” Janas added.
Orchard Park’s 22 wins this season is also a school record, which is just one of the ways this team has set itself apart from any other Janas has guided over nearly two decades.
“This is definitely a once-in-a-lifetime, magical team as a coach,” Janas said. “To be able to watch them grow up from little kids to young adults is honestly really emotional. I don’t know how I’m going to keep it together during our banquet next week because I’ve literally spent more time with these kids than my kids during the winter season.
“We have a special bond and not just what they did on the court breaking records and playing with poise, playing together, playing as a team. But just who they are was a pleasure to coach. I’ve never seen a group so polite, so nice, so dedicated, so hard-working in my 18 years of coaching.”
Other key seniors graduating this year include Lauren Miller, Emily Henrich, Jenna Probst and Amanda Erie.