Orchard Park tops Kenmore West
Jill Michael dropped 18 points as the No.8 Lady Quakers beat No.9 Kenmore West 42-32 in the Section VI Class AA prequarterfinals that were held at Orchard Park High School on Thursday.
The Quakers prize for topping the Blue Devils? A trip to Jamestown where they will face the No.1 seed Red Raiders.
Though OP lost both regular season games to its ECIC I rival, coach Josh Dannecker feels that the experience from those two games, coupled with the tough, gritty challenge posed by Ken-West has his team as ready as they will ever be.
"We beat Williamsville-North, and Williamsville-North beat Jamestown. We came within four points of Jamestown (70-66) last time we played them. We've got the talent to do it. It's a matter of going down there and playing tough and I think this game is a perfect set up for it because it's gonna be a physical, tough match up again and we need to be ready for it."
A classic bang-and-crash game both teams left it all on the court as you would expect to see in a playoff game.
The Blue Devils got strong inside play from senior Liz Gallagher (16 points/12 rebounds) and varsity rookie Katie Proy (eight rebounds/two blocks).
It was Gallagher's bucket late in the first that tied the score at 10-10.
But in the end the Blue Devils either had too many shot ring off the rim or fall flat to keep pace with the Quakers.
The Quakers meanwhile were able to hit four three-pointers at key moments that absolutely stuck a dagger in Ken-West's heart.
The most damaging ones came from Hannah Johnson (nine points) and Noelle Poloncarz.
After West tied the game 10-10 at the end of the first, Johnson hit a three early in the second quarter.
Poloncarz, meanwhile, struck from beyond the arc on the opening shot of the fourth quarter to give OP a 34-23 lead that Ken-West simply could not fight back from.
After making it to the AA semis and coming a whisper away for the title game last year with a senior heavy team, it was
especially hard for the Blue Devils to say goodbye to each other after a first round loss after fighting hard for each and every one of its six wins.
"It's always tough to look your seniors in the eye especially (captains) Liz (Gallagher) and Marylouise (Linder) who as seniors were very shaken by this (loss) because they understand it's the end of their career," West coach Mike Licata said."But what I said to them and everybody-I always say every team leaves some legacy. How in the world does a team that wins six games leave any kind of a legacy? I told them what they did was, believe it or not, if you didn't look at our won-loss record the way they practiced. The way they worked so hard. I said you know what I'll make sure that anybody that ever wears that uniform after you has to understand that's they price you pay, regardless of your won-loss record. That's the stuff that you hope carries on and that's what this group is really leaving us."
Gallagher played strong in the second helping West close the gap to 17-16 with 4:53 to play.
But again a three proved deadly as Shaye Swiatek connected to make it 20-16 as the Quakers began to pull away.
Jill Michael's was huge in every aspect for OP, especially at the line where she went 10 of 14, sinking 7 of 10 in the first half.
"We knew it was going to be a tough, physical game and we knew she might get some opportunities at the free throw line," Dannecker said."We talked about this week and she came in focused and played great."