Thursday February 13, 2014 | By:Michael J. Petro | Sports
RIVALRY WIN — Jill Ford and Hamburg rolled past Frontier. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
There’s been a number of ups and downs this season for a Hamburg girls basketball team that came into the winter with high expectations. Right now, the Bulldogs find themselves on an upward swing.
Hamburg won its third straight game, going into rival Frontier’s gym and controlling most of the action in a 59-45 non-league win Monday (Feb. 10).
“We’ve gotten ourselves into a nice little niche right now,” Hamburg head coach Kelly Owens said. “We’re playing well together and people are filling certain roles at certain times.”
The Bulldogs have looked good in their last three games, all victories against some top competition, none by less than 13 points. They also beat division foe Williamsville East, avenging an earlier season loss, and local rival Immaculata
Since losing four of six games, 11-5 Hamburg has reeled off five wins in six contests. Even in the team’s last loss — falling 52 – 42 at home to Williamsville South — Owens liked what she saw from her team. The first time the teams met, South ran away with the game by 21 points.
“Obviously, we wanted to win but the most important thing to me was how were we going to respond to South,” said Owens, whose team, even with the two losses to South, are in a three-way first-place tie at 8-3 with the Billies, along with Starpoint. “We didn’t win but I thought we gave them a good game.”
Frontier was on such a tear to start the season, but since its 9-0 start the Falcons have lost that groove, winning just twice in eight games. Falcons’ head coach Rick Mihalik said the struggles have stemmed from the inability to get to the free throw line, lack of boxing out and rushing with the ball.
“We’ll get it straightened out and organized,” he said. “It’s not like we’re playing cupcake teams. And when you’re playing well and winning, you become that team that other teams want to knock off, so they’re spending more time preparing for you. We’re telling the team to just keep plugging along.”
Against Frontier, Hamburg fed the ball inside to forwards Ashley Kabza and Kendra Quinn-Moultrie, the two leading the team with 18 and 15 points, respectively. Leah Jones added 14 and guards Jill Ford (6 points) and Allie Salerno (4 points) hit some key shots, as well. Owens also pointed to Ford’s leadership as a key for the team.
“We got away from that inside-outside game for a while and I really think we were trying to play too much on the outside,” Owens said. “I think now we’re back to that inside-outside game. And Ashley and Kendra are giving us some huge minutes inside.”
On Senior Night at Frontier, Caisey Lipka shined with 20 points, her aggressive play on both ends and on one trip down the floor, an ankle-breaking drive in the lane which she finished with a bucket.
She was aided by fellow seniors, Kaitlyn Lipka, her twin sister and partner in the backcourt who scored 11, and Kelsi Ebert, with 7. In fact, Frontier seniors accounted for all but three points in the game.
“Caisey is a competitor — doesn’t matter what the game is, she wants to win,” Mihalik said. “The energy in practice; she’s not taking any play off. Hopefully, she can continue her play tonight, moving forward.”
He’s hoping Lipka’s play becomes contagious as the Falcons try to turn it around in time to make a postseason run in Class AA starting next week. “Hopefully, we can start to click a little bit, like we were at the beginning of the season,” Mihalik noted.
Hamburg should be a top four seed in Class A-1 as it attempts to make an appearance in a sectional final for a third straight season.
“We’ve got three teams tied for first in our division and I anticipated some challenges, for sure,” Owens said. “No game is ever going to be easy and clearly we’ve seen that all season. We’re just going to keep battling and working together to try to reach our goal.”