All day Saturday at Buffalo State College, there were games filled with tons of intensity, a plentiful amount of drama and fantastic basketball. 10 teams came into Buffalo, N.Y. vying to punch their ticket into the Final Four in their respective classes. Sadly, only 5 teams were able to do that today, but some weren’t as easy as others. Here’s a recap of each game played:
Class B – Livonia vs. East Aurora
Livonia came into the Far West Regional game owning a 20-game winning streak and hoping to continue that streak with a win on Saturday night. On the other hand, East Aurora had a different idea. The Bulldogs opened the first quarter with a 17-11 lead, but then East Aurora got hot in the 2nd quarter and never looked back. The East Aurora Blue Devils found their niche with good ball movement and they capitalized on that in their 63-46 win.
“Not a better feeling,” Blue Devils coach Gary Schutrum said after his team’s win. “It feels pretty darn good.”
Schutrum had four players that got in double-figures including sophomore Julianna Misenheimer, who had 20, and senior Erin Nason netted 16.
“There’s so much diversity on this team and that’s what makes us become a great team and play well,” Misenheimer said. “We try and not to think about what other people expect us to do. We go out there and have our own expectations.”
The expectations that the Blue Devils had in this game were beneficial to their now upcoming trip to Troy, NY to face Susquehanna Valley on March 20 at 10:00am at Hudson Valley Community College.
“It feels pretty awesome. I can’t believe we are going to States,” Nason said. “That’s been a goal we say all year, but we were hoping we would get here, but it was one of those far off goals that we didn’t want to jinx anything.”
East Aurora Blue Devils – 2015 Far West Regional Champions – Class B
Class A – Bishop Kearney vs. Williamsville South
Coming into the match-up between Bishop Kearney and Williamsville South, the Billies clearly had the upper-hand in almost every statistical category. They proved to be the better team in front of a decent crowd at Buffalo State College, defeating the Section V Class A champion, and giving the Billies their first ever Final Four appearance ever, 58-44.
“It’s unbelievable,” Williamsville South coach Kristen Dolan said. “It’s been their goal ever since coming back from the Finger Lakes and they just knew and they committed and they worked at it. It’s been their dream and goal to get to next weekend.”
Williamsville South was incredibly efficient from the get-go and never wanted to quit. Junior Brianna Neeley stole the show as she had a team and game-high 23 points, including two shots from downtown.
“I practice my three but I don’t get out there that much, but whenever I take it, it usually never goes in,” Neeley chuckled. When asked about two three’s being her season-high, she laughed and said, “Yeah, probably.”
Dating back to last Saturday, the Williamsville South boys coach Gabe Michael mentioned that he was receiving text messages from former players and alumni wishing him luck in their Sectional semifinal game. When asked about how close the program truly is, Grace Licata said, “I’ve been getting texts from the seniors when I was a freshman and how proud they are. They’re very proud of us. We did it for them.”
The Billies will now travel to Troy, N.Y. in the Class A State Semifinal to face the Section XII champion North Shore at 1:30pm on March 20.
Williamsville South Billies – 2015 Far West Regional Champions – Class A
Class AA – Rush-Henrietta vs. Jamestown
Rush-Henrietta was noticeably bigger coming out of the locker room than Jamestown. But the Red Raiders did give the Royal Comets a run for their money, but did not come up on top as the Section V Champion earned their way to the Final Four in Class AA with a 53-45 win.
“It feels awesome and I couldn’t be more prouder of these girls. It doesn’t have to be pretty, but as long as we’re up in at the end, we’re happy,” Rush-Henrietta senior forward Emily Nestler said, who finished the day off with a team-high 16 points.
The Royal Comets got up and down the floor with intensity much more effectively than Jamestown and was a partial reason why Rush-Henrietta has not lost a game this season and are now 22-0.
“I think we were able to get the ball in more in the 2nd half,” Royal Comets coach Stephen Shepanski said. “Our size causes a lot of problems for teams. If your team doesn’t have the size matchup, they have to pick and choose one of those two (Dana Watts and Emily Nestler).”
Watts had the second highest scoring total for Rush-Henrietta as she had 13 points and Sarah Sweazy was another Royal Comet to eclipse double-figures with her 11 point performance.
Jamestown’s Chrisanna Green impressed everyone with yet another double-double. She had a game-high 24 points for her Red Raiders team and finished off her career with Jamestown to be a memorable one.
The Royal Comets will now travel to Hudson Valley Community College for a battle with Section XI champion Commack at 6:15 on March 20.
Rush-Henrietta Royal Comets – Far West Regional Champions – Class AA
Class D – Prattsburgh vs. Panama
Prattsburgh opened the 1st half looking like they would be advancing to the State Semifinal, but Panama came out of the locker room from halftime with a mission to change that and they sure did, taking a 50-45 win back to the Southern Tier and advancing to the Final Four in Class D.
“We had a lot of good looks inside and second chances and offensive boards and they didn’t fall today,” Prattsburgh coach Jeff Gilbert said after the loss. “I thought they were a scrappy bunch of girls and they definitely held their own,” Gilbert said about Panama.
Panama’s scoring attack was led by Brittany Lenart who had a team-high 17 points, including four three pointers. While Emilee Sperry was right behind Lenart with 14, and Taylor Bowen was the other Panther scorer in double-figures, netting 12.
“I knew our defensive pressure, we’ve lived like that all year,” Panthers coach Jeff Angeletti said. “I was concerned about their size, but I figured we could get up on them. We’ve been working hard trying to help on post side and don’t let them get to the post.”
The crowd was electric throughout the game, as both communities from Prattsburgh and Panama came out in full force to support their schools on their quest to advance to the Final Four.
“Absolutely speechless,” Angeletti said about the communities support. “That’s our community. We stick together and basically everybody knows everybody. A lot of my former coaches and teachers came out and they’ve been retired for 20 some odd years and that’s our community.”
Panama will face the champion from Section X, Heuvelton, next Saturday at 9:00am at Hudson Valley Community College.
Panama Panthers – Far West Regional Champions – Class D
Class C – Mynderse vs. Chautauqua Lake
After defeating Randolph, Chautauqua Lake was trying to prove where they belong in the NYSPHSAA Class C Bracket. The Thunderbirds were a very aggressive and skilled team who really gave Mynderse Academy a tough time as Chautauqua Lake punched their ticket into the Class C Final Four and try to win their 2nd consecutive State Title with a 56-44 win.
Thunderbirds senior forward Jenna Einink led her team and the game with 20 points and was a dominant force against Mynderse’s defense. Coach Eric Schuster moved Einink from forward to point guard halfway through the game, which was almost a shock to the Blue Devils and they weren’t able to contain the fifth year Varsity player.
“Once Courtney (Hewes) got in foul trouble that’s what usually happens,” Einink said about the move of positions. “Point guard is a little tougher for me, but if coach asks me to do something, I’ll do it.”
Coach Schuster praised his 23-1 team on how well they played, “These kids have been around for a long time and they’re used to the big game. They fight.”
Mynderse Academy was fighting to back into the game towards the end of the 3rd quarter and in the middle of the 4th, but they couldn’t muster any offense against the very solid defense Chautauqua Lake had to offer. The Blue Devils highest quarterly scoring total was 13, which happened in the 1st quarter.
The crowd from Chautauqua Lake was absolutely amazing and they were behind their team from start to finish. They were almost deafening and did affect how the game was played. The game was very chippy in places, which may have been due to the crowd.
“Last year, our Far West Regional was about the same,” Einink said about the crowd factor. “We handle that pretty well for not seeing that much. We appreciate our community coming out to support us, but we kind of expect it.”
The student section, called the “Mayville Maniacs” were in full force at Buffalo State College and did happen to heckle the opponent in a unique way:
“Mayville Maniacs” sign for Mynderse Academy
The Thundebirds will travel to Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, N.Y. to face Section III champion Cooperstown on March 21 at 12:30pm.
Chautauqua Lake Thunderbirds – Far West Regional Champions – Class C
For the updates from these games, took a look at my timeline on Twitter: @mhaim1934