Girls team extends season; boys bow out of playoffs
Clarence’s fifth-seeded girls basketball team lived to play another day after opening its Section VI Class AA run Thursday with a convincing 50-27 prequarterfinal round victory over 12th-seeded North Tonawanda.
After getting out to a slow start that resulted in an 8-8 tie through the first quarter — and left North Tonawanda thinking it might have a chance at the upset — Clarence clamped down and put on a defensive clinic in the second quarter, holding the Lady Jacks scoreless to take a 25-8 lead into the second half.
“Our defensive effort has been our strong point all season, and we were true to form in the second quarter,” girls coach Erin Booker said. “I don’t think they even got too many shots off in the second quarter. We helped our cause by rebounding well, which took away their second-chance opportunities. It kind of felt like we were playing down to their pace in the first quarter, but we stepped up our speed in the second quarter.”
The Lady Red Devils, who outscored North Tonawanda by a 15-8 margin to close out the game, finished the contest with 19 steals as a team.
“It’s fun basketball; it was an all-around good game for us,” Booker said. “We had a lot of energy, and that’s something we need for the playoffs. We had two tough games going into the playoffs, and we definitely needed to do some regrouping after that. We have to find other ways and other girls to score the rest of the way if we want to keep advancing.”
Tori Nappo finished the game with 13 points and five steals, while Katie Devine added 10 points and seven rebounds. Liz Schaefer chipped in with eight points and 12 rebounds, while Mo Rogers netted eight points. Blair Budzinski finished with six points and six assists.
The Lady Red Devils returned to action Tuesday at fourth-seeded Kenmore West, but information about that contest was not available at press time. If they are successful, the Lady Red Devils will play in a semifinal-round game against an undetermined opponent Friday at Sweet Home.
“We’ve scouted them a couple of times, so we know that they’re scrappy and aggressive — they’re like Jamestown without the height or the three-point shooting,” Booker said. “We’re expecting a lot of back-and-forth action in a low-scoring game. We’re going to need to hit the defensive boards hard again to have a chance at the win.”
Clarence’s ninth-seeded boys team, meanwhile, saw its season come to an end Wednesday at eighth-seeded Orchard Park, 69-61. The Red Devils jumped out to a 12-10 lead by the end of the first quarter, but the Quakers rallied back to take a 32-28 lead going into the second half. Orchard Park continued to pull away in the third quarter, taking a 52-45 advantage into the final frame.
“We started off well and were playing our game early — we hit some threes early on — but they just were a little more physical and out-hustled us to loose balls for a big chunk of the night,” boys coach Todd Banaszak said. “We did get it down to four points late, but a couple of turnovers cost us. We left it out on the court and showed a lot of heart, which made this even tougher to lose.”
Stephen Hughes and Bryan Jost each scored 15 points to lead the way for Clarence, while Robert Florio added 10 points. Vince Taverna and Andrew Jost both contributed five points each for the Red Devils, who finished 8-11 overall and loses four seniors — two of whom were starters — to graduation.