Weekly Feature



2018-02-07 / Sports

Girls hoops team records three lopsided victories

by JASON NADOLINSKI
Reporter

Clarence’s girls basketball team came up with a big win in a game coach Erin Booker tabbed a “must-win for us if we want to have a shot at finishing in the top four of our division” Friday, as the Lady Red Devils pounded Jamestown, 72-41, to avenge an earlier loss to the Lady Red Raiders and earn a split with them in the season series.

Clarence came up big on the boards on the night, snagging 36 of them as a team – with many of them coming from its guards. That, combined with the Lady Red Devils’ scrappiness and hustle on defense, helped limit Jamestown to just one shot per possession for most of the night. It also helped hold the Lady Red Raiders to seven points in two of the game’s four quarters, including the opening stanza in which Clarence set the tone for the game by taking an early 17-7 advantage.

Ella Eckert and Carly Reynolds were particularly effective in the opening frame for Clarence, scoring all 17 of the team’s points. Eckert finished the stanza with nine of her team-high 23 points for the contest, while Reynolds contributed eight of her 18 points for the game.

“I thought we had a good shot at winning, but we were just awesome against Jamestown,” Booker said. “That first quarter, I don’t know if we missed more than three baskets. We just really ran the floor well against them. We pushed the ball down the floor and really tried to get it into the post. It helped us shoot 55 percent from the floor for the game.”

A pair of three-point baskets right before halftime allowed Jamestown to keep Clarence’s advantage at 10 points, 31-21, going into the second half. But not even those shots, which helped shrink a gap that had grown to as high as 18 points in the latter stages of the second quarter, could slow the Lady Red Devils down. Instead, Clarence constructed a 23-7 run over the course of the third quarter to all but seal the decision.

“I was definitely really proud of the girls for their hustle and their confidence,” Booker said. “I was happy that our guards’ defense helped keep Jamestown to just five threes for the game. We’ve just meshed really well as a team over the last month and have been playing good team basketball during that stretch. And I was just really pleased with the difference in our performance from when we played in Jamestown earlier in the season.”

Theresa Bienko helped Clarence’s cause by scoring 10 points, grabbing seven rebounds, dishing out four assists and snagging two steals. Grace Barker chipped in with seven points, three rebounds and three assists, while Eckert also had nine rebounds, five assists and a block to complete her night. Reynolds added eight rebounds, three assists and a block as well to her offensive production.

Friday’s triumph was the second lopsided league victory of the week for Clarence, as the Lady Red Devils kicked off their stretch of three games in five days with a 72-24 conquest of West Seneca West on Jan. 29. Clarence was all over West from the game’s first possession and never let up, shooting 50 percent from the floor for the night – including 62 percent from inside the paint – as the Lady Red Devils jumped out to an 18-3 lead by the end of the opening stanza and never looked back.

A 16-4 run over the course of the second quarter gave Clarence a commanding 34-7 halftime lead that grew to an insurmountable 55-17 by the time the horn sounded at the end of the third quarter.

“Our guards were more aggressive with their boxing out, which helped us get out into transition well, where we ultimately finished well in the paint,” Booker said. “We generated more steals for the game and we were above the goal we set every night by going 21-of-29 from the free-throw line, so it was just a nice, solid all-around effort by the team.”

Eckert led the way for Clarence with 20 points, 16 rebounds, six assists, three blocks and three steals. Reynolds chipped in with 15 points, two rebounds and a block, while Maddie Stearns scored a season-high 13 points to go along with her five rebounds and two steals.

Claire Kiener, who scored just two points, was an intimidating presence on defense, blocking two shots and grabbing 11 rebounds.

Clarence was just as successful when it stepped out of league play mid-week to face Sweet Home, as a 34-13 surge over the middle two frames of the game helped break open a tight 16-15 contest at the start of the second quarter en route to ultimately recording a 76-38 victory.

Clarence’s 16-4 spurt over the course of the third quarter did the most damage from a demoralizing sense, as the Lady Red Devils – who scored seven of their first-quarter points on 7-of-9 shooting from the foul line – continued to heat up following an early effort that Booker assessed as one where “we couldn’t really buy a basket to start.”

“After we got rolling in the second quarter, we were able to turn the game into one where everyone got in and scored,” Booker said. “We got down to hustling on defense, which ultimately created more chances on offense. We’ve really had a huge emphasis on our defense lately, so it was good to see that happening.”

Clarence, which finished out the game on a 26-10 run in the fourth quarter, was led by Eckert’s 21 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Bienko chipped in with a career high 18 points – an effort that included an 8-of-10 showing from the free-throw line – to go along with seven rebounds, four assists and three steals, while Reynolds added 12 points, four rebounds, three assists and a block.

Kiener, who went 3-of-4 from the foul line in the fourth quarter, added eight points for the victors, while Barker contributed four points, five steals – which Booker called “huge, since getting steals has been an area of focus with our guards” – and two rebounds for Clarence, which began its final four-game stretch of the regular season with Monday’s Senior Night game against Williamsville North. Information about that contest was not available at press time, however.

The Lady Red Devils (10-6, 5-3 ECIC I) play Lancaster in a home-and-home series Thursday (away) and Monday in what are shaping up to be two crucial divisional games, and then complete their regular season at Frontier on Thursday, Feb. 15.

“Everybody’s really right in the middle in our division, and there are a few teams that still have to play at Jamestown, so how we do this week will go a long way towards our goal for sectional seeding,” Booker said. “We need to keep playing good team basketball. Our defense has been really key these past few games and our outside shooting has been heating up too. We just really need to focus on this final stretch of league games.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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