The top two small schools in The Buffalo News’ girls basketball poll will play for the Section VI Class B-1 championship.
No. 1 Dunkirk advanced with an 85-74 semifinal victory over previously undefeated City Honors after No. 2 Iroquois outlasted its ECIC III rival and defending sectional champion East Aurora, 48-46, on Thursday night at Starpoint.
Tipping off at 11 a.m. Sunday at Buffalo State College, this will be the second sectional final appearance in three years for both Iroquois and Dunkirk, but each team is looking to end a title drought. Iroquois last won the section in 2001. Dunkirk hasn’t done it since 1991.
The top seed in the B-1 bracket, City Honors, entered the semifinals as the last local unbeaten with a 21-0 record, and was ranked third in both the state Class B rankings and the WNY small school poll.
Seniors Kymi Nance (25 points, six rebounds, four assists), Nadara Odell (23 points), Amari Carter (16 points, 18 rebounds) and Jessica Beehler (10 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, eight steals) set the pace for fifth-seeded Dunkirk (22-1), the highest-scoring team in Section VI averaging 83.4 points per game.
“We pushed really hard from the beginning to end,” said Nance, who earlier this season passed her older sister, Khee, to become Dunkirk’s all-time leading scorer and now has 1,197 points. “We didn’t back down. We knew it would be a tough game and if we didn’t show up on the defensive end and get rebounds, we wouldn’t be able to win. But we played really hard, really fast, and up to our potential.”
Junior standout center Kyra Wood did what she could for City Honors, recording a triple-double (32 points, 10 rebounds, 10 blocks). Senior guard Desmonique Veal had 22 points, six rebounds and six steals. Sophomore forward Kaori Segars scored eight points and pulled down 10 rebounds.
“I told the girls in the locker room that we have a lot to be proud of,” City Honors coach Kristin Juergens said. “They worked hard all season. They were resilient. We had big wins over Holland and Eden that really prepared us for a game like this. In the end, experience caught up with us. But there are good things to come in the future with four of our starters coming back.”
Dunkirk’s pressure defense and up-tempo style also caught up with City Honors as the game wore on.
The Centaurs had the edge for much of a back-and-forth first half and led 48-44 before the Marauders took control with a 15-2 to close out the third quarter.
“We talk about pace non-stop,” said Marauders coach Ken Ricker, who won three sectional titles at Jamestown before taking over at Dunkirk last season. “Our girls feed off that and you saw it in that run. Those kids were doing everything they could to keep our season going.”
In the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader, senior forward Logan Streety (17 points, 12 rebounds) and junior guard Emily McLaughlin (11 points) led Iroquois (20-2) in beating East Aurora (17-5) for the second time in three meetings this season.
“East Aurora has always been our rival,” Streety said. “To beat them here in this setting and be able to go back to Buff State is really exciting.”
Overall B champions last season, the Blue Devils were led by senior guard Katie Oar (15 points, 11 rebounds) and junior guard Isabella Wier (11 points, eight rebounds).
Iroquois led throughout and built its advantage to 40-29 late in the third quarter but East Aurora battled back to get within 45-43 on Haley Potenza’s floater with just under a minute to play. Kate Rachwal made a 3-pointer to make it a two-point game with 0.8 seconds left, but the Blue Devils ran out of clock in their comeback attempt.
“When we had them by 11, I thought it was looking good,” Iroquois coach Stephen Sokolski said. “But they battled back and we actually got lucky that time ran out. Because a few more minutes, I don’t know if we’d have stayed with them. They had the momentum and we didn’t.”
Escaping with the win, the Chiefs are “jacked up” to be playing for a sectional title, Sokolski said.
“I’m pretty confident that we can win,” Streety said. “Our team has such a deep bench and we are so well-rounded. I think we match up well.”
Story topics: Section VI girls basketball