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High School Boys Basketball: Lake Shore gaining winning experience

Hamburg comes back; Frontier beats O.P
Bruce Freidenberg goes up for a shot in Lake Shore’s 41-29 win over Springville on Dec. 18. The Eagles have started the season 3-1, just win short of last year’s victory total. (Photo by Ron Larson)

It doesn’t get any better than being able to take lessons from a game while still winning that contest.

In starting the season 3-1, Lake Shore has made mistakes that allowed teams to hang around in games, but the Eagles have been steady enough to earn wins. It’s a welcome change from the past two seasons, in which Lake Shore has been on the other end of many of those results, having combined to win only six games in that span.

The Eagles ran out to a big lead against Cheektowaga before holding on for a 66-63 win on Thursday (Dec. 20). Two games earlier, Lake Shore’s quick start assured them a victory over Springville, 41-29.

“It’s nice to have lessons to learn after a win,” Lake Shore head coach Dan Gerken said. “We’re learning some situational play and how to play with a lead. The guys aren’t that accustom to that.”

Lake Shore led Cheektowaga 16-3 after the first quarter and built that lead to 16 points in the second, but received a fourth quarter scare, being outscored 29-18, before holding on. Gerken liked the way his group rebounded and defended the lane, and as has been the case through the first four games, on offense the group has been quite unselfish.

Ryan Joslyn is developing into a force in close to the basket as the 6-foot-4 senior finished with 16 points and 10 rebounds, while sharp-shooting senior Clark Brueckl went for 17, three coming off three-pointers. The two led a contingent of eight scorers, three of whom finished in double digits.

Also, senior Dane Cala finished with 10 and fellow guard Wade Bergum, a junior, added nine. Cala had led Lake Shore with nine points in its win over Springville.

Not only does Gerken feel that he can go to an assortment of players for scoring, the veteran coach also likes the level of intelligence with which his team is playing. The group is coach-able and seems to easily understand what is laid out for them. Gerken believes it may help the group’s focus that he’s kept a smaller team with nine this year.

Lake Shore has shared the ball, as well as handled it with care. The Eagles have 53 assists while turning it over only 32 times. “I can’t remember a recent season when that’s been the case,” noted Gerken, whose team next plays at St. Francis on Saturday, Dec. 22 at 5:30 p.m.

Also helping in that effort have been Colin Hart and Matt Vona off the bench and Connor Govenettio, who’s been the team’s unsung hero with his contributions and cool demeanor, according to Gerken.

Elsewhere, Hamburg closed on a 31-10 run to beat Starpoint 56-43 and even its ECIC I record at 1-1 on Dec. 20. The Bulldogs began to press and it paid off with some steals and easy buckets at the other end.

Hamburg was also able to settle in and hit some free throws, which head coach Tim Brueckl said has been a problem in the three previous games to start the season. The Bulldogs nailed 15 of 22 for the game, including 10 of 14 in the fourth quarter.

After Starpoint led by five at the half and stretched that advantage to eight in the third, Hamburg cut the deficit to two by the end of the quarter. The Bulldogs then made some key buckets in the fourth, including Kyle Violanti’s three to give them a 43-37 lead. The senior point guard finished with seven points, five rebounds, four steals and three assists.

Once Hamburg was able to get the ball inside against an undersized Starpoint, big junior forward Jeremiah Bill was able to go off as he finished with 15 points on 6 of 8 shooting. Griffin Ryan also played well inside finishing 4 of 6 for nine points. Andrew Sardinia added 13 points and five rebounds.

Sardinia had a big game against Iroquois, finishing with 16 points on 6 of 10 shooting, including three treys, and six rebounds, but Hamburg fell short 54-42 in a game it led early on. Brueckl said Sardinia also did a good job shadowing on defense Iroquois’ top scorer Nate Wilkinson.

Hamburg opened with a 15-6 lead but missed six free throws in the first quarter and could not extend that advantage. The Bulldogs were in the game down the stretch, trailing by five points, but a missed lay-up and inability to get a defensive stop turned into a double-digit deficit. Brueckl was happy with the defense as Iroquois had scored in the low 40s before knocking down late free throws.

“We defended well enough to win; we just didn’t score,” noted Brueckl, whose team will compete over the holiday break at the Maryvale Christmas Tournament on Dec. 27-28.

Also, Frontier defeated ECIC I rival Orchard Park, 69-54, in a game that it took over thanks to a 23-10 third quarter spurt. Leading 31-30 at halftime, senior Tyger German scored 11 of his 17 points in the third. Brandon Jewett knocked down three big threes in the second half to account for nine of his 13 points. Also in the win, Kevin Marcinkowski added seven assists and Pat Quinlivan, 11 points. The Falcons did fall to 4-2 overall and 2-1 in the division after losing at Clarence, 60-57, on Dec. 20.

In other action over the holiday break, St. Francis will participate in the Jolly Boys Tournament at Williamsville South on Dec. 27-28.

Lake Shore vs. North Collins game on Dec. 28 to honor former coaches, celebrate alumni, and raise funds for Sandy Hook students

On Friday, Dec. 28, North Collins and Lake Shore are coming together for a non-league game at North Collins in which all basketball alumni from the schools are asked to come out to attend. Also at the game, the community is being asked to support raising donations that evening to provide financial assistance to college-bound high school graduates from Newtown who attended Sandy Hook Elementary. 

North Collins coach Rob Catalino and Lake Shore coach Dan Gerken, long-time friends and both former Lake Shore players, also decided to get together for a game honoring their former coaches, Joe Rutkowski, Jim Emerson and Bob Uszacki.  The inaugural game will be known as the Coach’s Classic, and will also recognize alumni and support a vital cause following the senseless tragedy in Newtown.

Both Catalino and Gerken served as managers for the Rutkowski coached modified basketball teams at Lake Shore prior to starting their playing careers. They moved up through the ranks with Coach Emerson leading their junior varsity teams, and completed their playing days under the tutelage of Coach Uszacki.  Both Rutkowski and Emerson have passed on and left us much too early, but their spirit lives on in Gerken and Catalino. Uszacki, a former varsity coach, lives in Florida and stays in communication with Gerken.

“Both Gerk and I utilize things we learned from those guys when we played for them,” noted Catalino, who served as the JV and assistant varsity coach with Gerken for a number of years before moving on to be an assistant to former North Collins varsity coach Bill Weidner and then taking over the program last year. Meanwhile, Gerken is in his 27th year coaching at Lake Shore and 28th overall.

Along with honoring their coaches and paying tribute to alumni attending the game with a 5 p.m. JV tip-off, followed by a 6:30 p.m. varsity start, the coaches will have donation baskets available to help raise money for the Sandy Hook Elementary School Memorial Scholarship Fund. Those wishing to donate but unable to attend can do so online at or by check to The Newtown Scholarship Association, P.O. Box 302, Newtown, CT 06470.

A post-game party will be hosted by North Collins alumni and former varsity basketball coach Mike Loretto at McKenzies Bar & Grill on 4151 Lake Shore Road in Hamburg.


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