PUSH IT — RayAnn Call of Springville is pictured, pushing the ball up the floor, during a game against Williamsville East.
HAMBURG — Following her completion of eighth grade at Springville-Griffith Institute, Springville native RayAnn Call made the decision to switch to a private, Western New York school, for her high school career.
After playing eighth grade varsity basketball at S-GI, Call was offered a scholarship and took the opportunity to attend Immaculata Academy. Immaculata competes as an independent school, scheduling games against teams from all over Section VI and New York state.
Call, a junior this year, just finished off a season in which her team wrapped up a 20 – 5 campaign. Immaculata does not compete in the Section VI playoffs, but participates in the New York State Association of Independent Schools championships, held in New York City.
To get into the NYSAIS playoffs, Immaculata had to be invited, based on its seasonal win-loss record, as well as the strength of its schedule.
While Call and the rest of the Immaculata girls basketball team advanced to the championship game of the tournament, this past season, they fell to Hackley School of Tarrytown, N.Y., during the title game.
UP AND OUT — RayAnn Call of Springville looks to finish in the lane against Williamsville East. Photos by Dave DeLuca.
“We were ready, since the day we got into NYC, to be in this game,” Call said. “As we started off, in the first few minutes, we weren’t so hot. Our shots wouldn’t go in and we weren’t getting our rebounds. Their defense was very good and we just needed to step it up. They got a pretty good lead on us, but we closed the gap with only being down 15. It stayed like that, throughout the whole game.”
The Immaculata Bears were led in the final by Kathryn Halloran, who scored 11 points and went 5 – 8, from the field, in the loss. Call added 10 points, going 5 – 7 from the field.
The Bears’ leading scorer, Taylor Heinold, who averages more than 20 points, per game, was held to 9 points.
“It was tough competition,” Call said. “They were the better team, that night, but without the little things we did wrong, we could have had it. All of us girls played our hearts out, till the last second, and, in our eyes, that’s all that mattered.”
Immaculata began the season by losing three of its first five games, but the girls went on a eight-game winning streak and finished the season on a tear; winning 15 of their final 16 regular season games. The Bears defeated some of Western New York’s highest-rated schools, Niagara Falls, Niagara-Wheatfield and Frontier, along the way.
“Our team was a little slow at gelling together, in the beginning, and that is what hurt us the most,” Call said. “By the mid season, and mostly the last five games we played, we pulled everything all together and we all worked as a team.”
The second half surge earned Immaculata an invite to the NYSAIS playoffs in New York City. This was Call’s second trip to the independent playoffs. She was a freshman, the last time the Bears were invited.
“Going to NYC for states was just an awesome experience. It wasn’t our first, but for some girls on the team, it was. Being on the bus with the girls was such a great bonding experience. Going through the city was amazing, as well. Us girls knew we had to win the first two games [in the tournament], to have all day in the city on Saturday. And, well, we wanted that. So we worked our butts off in the first two games, for the shopping, just as much as we did to get into the championship game,” she added, with a laugh.
As a freshman, Call was pulled up to varsity by Coach Andrea Drabik, and earned a spot, coming off the bench.
As a sophomore, Call took the role of being the team’s starting point guard. This past season, she was named one of the captains of the team.
“RayAnn’s leadership, on and off the court, was one of the main reasons we were so successful, this year,” Drabik said. “She became an on-the-floor coach and, often time, would control the pace of the game, in our favor. She also helped give direction to the younger players on the team.”
The Bears were led, in scoring, all season, by the Heinhold sisters, Jordan and Taylor. Acting as the team’s point guard, Call controlled the pace and flow of the game. She was the team’s leader in assists and dished out eight assists, in a win against seventh-seeded Fieldston, during the playoffs.
“RayAnn was our vocal leader, on the floor, and our quarterback,” Drabik said, about her team’s point guard. “She also had the responsibility of guarding the other team’s quickest player, in our man-to-man defense. She was an excellent captain, on and off the court. She gave guidance and pushed the team in practice and when we were behind. She added scoring as point guard and, many times late in games, hit crucial foul shots. She became a well-rounded player for us.”
Call will enter her fifth and final year of varsity competition, next year, and will be one of a limited number of players returning for the Bears’ next season.
“Next year, being a senior is crazy, but we have many expectations for the next season,” Call said.
“We are losing five seniors and three of them being starters, but I know the returning players will be ready to work hard and have an even better season. One thing we have on our team is working together on and off the court.
“We are family and being close and staying together is the only thing that will get us as far as we can go,” the athlete added, about this season.
“It isn’t just the five girls on the court that will get us to where we want to go. It is our whole team and this year, we learned that.”