Sarah Tully is a girls basketball coach’s dream.
“She can defend; she can take it to the hole; she can shoot the three,” East Aurora coach Gary Schutrum said. “Defend, rebound and score. What more can we ask of a player?”
She also can score in the clutch, as the senior captain did all of that Wednesday in helping the Blue Devils earn a season-extending victory in the overall Section VI Class B final.
Tully scored a game-high 24 points, including 10 during a key third-quarter blitz that pushed Class B-1 champion East Aurora past B-2 winner Southwestern, 56-43, before an estimated 1,000 at the Buffalo State Sports Arena. Bella Weir chipped in with 15 points for the Blue Devils (21-3), who return to action in the New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association tournament at SUNY Buffalo State at 5 p.m. against Section V champion Midlakes.
“This is just a phenomenal feeling,” Tully said. “I’ve never even made it here (to the overall final before today). What a game.”
It’s East Aurora’s first Far West Regional appearance since 2015, and perhaps one owed to them by the basketball gods — but more on that later.
The Blue Devils bolted to an early 6-1 lead only to see their lead trimmed to 12-11 by the end of the quarter. But that’s OK to coach Schutrum. He said the Trojans’ M.O. is to usually grab the lead by putting put up a big number in the first quarter.
“I thought being close after the first quarter was key,” he said.
It helped that Southwestern’s Erin Radack sat most of the second quarter with two fouls, but she watched her team take the lead as Sofia Genareo (17 points) sunk a couple three-pointers to give the Trojans (18-6) a 19-14 lead. They led 21-18 with under a minute left in the second quarter. In a sign of things to come, the Blue Devils scored twice in the final 18 seconds on putbacks by Cameron Dils and Tully to take the lead into halftime.
Tully scored six straight points in the opening 1 minute, 38 seconds of the third quarter, prompting the Trojans to take a timeout. Radack hit a three-pointer after the break for Southwestern, but East Aurora scored 18 of the next 20 points to pretty much end things. Southwestern tried to focus defensively on Tully only to get burned by Weir – who scored eight straight points, including consecutive three-pointers, to start the decisive blitz.
“I thought some of our support players (Katie) Oar and (Katherine) Jancevski just played exceptional at the defensive end,” Schutrum said. “Bella Weir, she was a difference-maker.”
The Blue Devils are back in the state playoffs since reaching the semifinals during Emma Brinker’s freshman year.
It seemed with her and a talented cast that EA would’ve made a return trip to regionals sooner rather than this year. But in the you-never-know-what-the-future- holds department, fate threw a few wicked curveballs at the Devils. Two buzzer-beating defeats in the postseason and then a season-ending knee injury to Brinker two years ago when the Blue Devils had the look of a state contender stalled them.
They’re back and loving every minute of it.
“It’s unforgettable,” Tully said. “Coach is ecstatic to be here. We’ve just put in the work and here we are.”
“We feel really fortunate to be here,” Schutrum said. “They just wanted it.”