Weekly Feature



2017-11-29 / Sports

Reigning AA girls hoops champs seek repeat

by JASON NADOLINSKI
Reporter

Carly Reynolds, front row middle, recently signed her national letter of intent to continue her basketball career at the NCAA Division I level at Central Connecticut starting next season. The 6-foot-2 center, who sits fewer than than 250 points from hitting the 1,000-point mark for her career, will be a key figure in the Lady Red Devils’ quest to earn a second consecutive Section VI Class AA championship. Witnesses to Reynolds’ signing included, clockwise from top left: assistant principal Bob Coniglio, principal Ken Smith, varsity coach Erin Booker, athletics director Greg Kaszubski, mom Diane Reynolds and dad Bob Reynolds. Carly Reynolds, front row middle, recently signed her national letter of intent to continue her basketball career at the NCAA Division I level at Central Connecticut starting next season. The 6-foot-2 center, who sits fewer than than 250 points from hitting the 1,000-point mark for her career, will be a key figure in the Lady Red Devils’ quest to earn a second consecutive Section VI Class AA championship. Witnesses to Reynolds’ signing included, clockwise from top left: assistant principal Bob Coniglio, principal Ken Smith, varsity coach Erin Booker, athletics director Greg Kaszubski, mom Diane Reynolds and dad Bob Reynolds. As good as Clarence’s girls basketball team was last winter in ending a 13-year sectional title drought, foes of the Lady Red Devils need to realize that this season’s group has the potential to be even better.

Not only are the top two scorers back and poised to dominate yet again in the paint, but coach Erin Booker is optimistic that Clarence will have more of an outside threat this season than it did last year. All things considered, defenses are going to have to pick their poison when going up against the Lady Red Devils — and even then, they’ll need a lot of luck just to slow Clarence down a bit.

“I really like this group of girls we have this year,” Booker said. “We really have a nice outside game, which is something we struggled with last year. We’ve got some good ball handlers and shooters, so when most teams play us in a 2-3 zone and pack it in under the basket, we should be able to do some things to take advantage. And we also have a little bit of depth this year too, which has me looking forward to using more of the bench this year.”

Two players who were largely responsible for Clarence’s 21-3 effort last winter and will be at the forefront again this year are senior twin towers Ella Eckert, the reigning ECIC I Player of the Year, and Carly Reynolds. The 6-foot tall Eckert, a 13th Team All-State Class AA, Third Team All-WNY and First Team All-Bee all star last season, led the team in points (308) and rebounds (264), tied for second (55) in assists and was fourth (49) in steals. The 6-2 Reynolds, who recently signed her national letter of intent to continue her playing career next year at NCAA Division I Central Connecticut, sits less than 250 points away from the 1,000-point mark after posting 270 last year.

Reynolds, who was an Honorable Mention All-WNY and All-Bee all-star as a junior, also led the team in blocks (57), was tied for second in assists and was third (153) in rebounds last year.

“The leadership we’ll get from those two will be key, with them both having been with me for as long as they have,” Booker said of Eckert and Reynolds. “Having the younger girls up from JV that we do, and them seeing all the differences there are in the varsity game, Ella and Carly been really great in showing them the ropes. They create a really nice, positive atmosphere because it’s all about the team with them.

“The two of them play so nicely together too,” Booker continued. “I usually have them go up against one another in practice, but the day before our first scrimmage I put them together and it was so nice to see their unselfishness out there. Carly really developed her outside game tremendously to where I feel 
Ella Eckert earned First Team All-Bee all star honors last season after leading Clarence’s girls basketball team in points (308) and rebounds (264). 
File photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com Ella Eckert earned First Team All-Bee all star honors last season after leading Clarence’s girls basketball team in points (308) and rebounds (264). File photo by Jason NadolinskiPurchase color photos at www.BeeNews.com comfortable pulling her out further from the basket. She really developed her ball handling skills, as has Ella. They have size, speed and agility, and they’re both bigger, faster and stronger in all of those aspects compared with last year. A lot of that is from having successful years with their AAU clubs during the offseason.”

Guard Gabby Andzel, meanwhile, is this year’s only other senior on the roster. Andzel is in line to see a bump in playing time this winter after working on her game quite a bit during the offseason.

The other nine players making up this year’s squad are all juniors, with four of them having played at the varsity level last year and the rest moving up from last season’s JV team. Booker is hoping the experience that guard/forwards Theresa Bienko and Megan Mc- Craith, along with guards Kayla Callaghan and Arianna Carey, gained during the Lady Red Devils’ run last winter will help them be even greater contributors to the cause this time around.

Guards Grace Barker and Emily Jebens, along with forwards Morgan Saraf, Julianne Taylor and Jessica Fitch round out this year’s roster.

“I think it’s going to be real beneficial that Theresa, Megan, Kayla and Arianna have been through the varsity routine for a year already,” Booker said. “It’s their time to step up and fill some big shoes this year.”

The Lady Red Devils, who have already scrimmaged Rochester Mercy — the team that eliminated them in the Far West Regional — on Saturday after facing Cheektowaga and Iroquois earlier in the week, got an additional look into what this season might hold Tuesday when they faced Grand Island in their final scrimmage outing before opening the regular season Tuesday against Orchard Park.

“I think our scrimmages have shown that we definitely should be able to rebound really well, and that our outside game is looking pretty good too,” Booker said. “Getting that balance and having the girls have confidence in one another — you can see that trust in one another on offense — is great. There should be some great teamwork on the court this season. Everybody just needs to stay healthy and work together to give ourselves the best chance at success. Everybody al- ways wants to take it one step further, and Ella and Carly want to win that Far West Regional game. Winning a sectional title two years in a row would be awesome, but it’s a long road ahead of us to make that happen.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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