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Gabby McDuffie bounces to a different ball than her relatives

Gabby McDuffie may have a surname most high school sports fans associate with football, but the Olmsted senior has done a fine job making folks think “athletes” when they hear or see the recognizable last name.

While she doesn’t play football like many of her well-known male relatives, what she has in common with older brother Isaiah, proud papa Stevenson, cousin Dylan and her uncles who played Division I football is that next-level athleticism -- a skillset that makes her a dominant and special player on the basketball court.

Three cheers for excellent genes.

“I do have people to look up to and to look at their work method and see how they work hard,” Gabby said of the influence of Isaiah, a former Buffalo News Player of the Year in football and linebacker at Boston College. “He works hard at everything he does. And he’s always in the gym or working out. … I just try to make sure I do the same thing.”

It’s worked.

The 5-foot-7 McDuffie has made such a name for herself on the hardwood that the two-time Canisius Cup Player of the Year will further hone her skills after this season with national junior college power Niagara County Community College in hopes of catching the eye of a Division I program.

“I really like the coach (Nate Beutel) and I played for him for a time over the summer (with the BCANY team) and I feel very comfortable,” McDuffie said.

In McDuffie, NCCC gets a player who can shoot, run the offense, rebound and defend. She has scored more than 1,700 points during her five seasons with the Owls and also has grabbed more than 500 rebounds.

You give her a task, she’ll complete it.

Most importantly, she’s provided leadership for a young Olmsted team to grow on the fly as it returns to action Wednesday in a Section VI Class B-2 semifinal contest against Eden at Starpoint High School.

Much like last year, when McDuffie helped the Owls become the first Canisius Cup team in more than 15 years to reach a sectional final, she’s had a hand in another playoff run for her team. McDuffie scored 34 points in the team’s quarterfinal win over Arts on Saturday.

Entering Tuesday night, McDuffie ranked second in scoring average per game in Section VI at 25.9, slightly ahead of City Honors’ Kyra Wood (25.3). Franklinville’s Danielle Haskell led the way at 31.6.

“People see the points,” Owls coach Mark Orlando said. “What people don’t see is her kind of being the general, the leader of the guards, the coach on the floor and guiding all the players where to be and allowing people to get better as the year’s gone on.”

McDuffie, who has 11 double-doubles – including a 29-point, 16-rebound game in a win over McKinley last month, is one of several talents who have helped a few Canisius Cup teams experience seasons to remember so far. Wood, along with Desmonique Veal and Ava Purks, has led City Honors (21-0) to an unbeaten record and top seed in the Section VI Class B-1 bracket. The Centaurs face high-scoring Dunkirk on Thursday.

Arts gave Olmsted (11-9) a tussle in the quarterfinals. Hutch-Tech (18-3) is alive and well in Class A-1 and faces Kenmore West on Wednesday.

“This year’s really good (for city teams),” Orlando said. “For us we were in the (Canisius Cup) B division last year. For us to be in the A division and play City Honors this year and Hutch-Tech it’s helped our team grow even more and learn what sectional basketball is all about.”

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