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High School Girls Basketball: Speedy Hamburg out to quick 6-1 start to season

Kaley Reardon and a cast of new varsity contributors have helped Hamburg pick up where it left off last season. (photo by Michael J. Petro)

At times this season Kelly Owens has needed to remind her Hamburg team that its speed is in fact a weapon to use against opponents.

This Bulldogs team may not be as experienced as the ones of recent seasons, but its athleticism and quickness helps this group stand out. When used to its advantage, Hamburg becomes tough to handle in transition.

Despite having four new starters in the lineup, the defending ECIC II champions are on a similar course, starting the year at 6-1 and 3-0 in the division, including a big 42-39 win last month over an experienced Iroquois squad.

“Something we’ve talked about is that sometimes we don’t realize just how fast we are,” Owens said. “Opponents have a hard time catching up once we get going.”

Speed certainly made a difference in Hamburg pulling away from Starpoint in a 59-31 win on Dec. 21. The Bulldogs have also handled West Seneca East in division play and beaten ECIC large schools Clarence, Orchard Park and Frontier to start the season.

“The transition game has been huge for us,” said Owens, whose team has lost only in a rematch with Clarence, 39-38, in the final of the Orchard Park Tournament. “It’s what we’ve tried to emphasize. In tight games, that and defense is what pushed us ahead.”

It was defense that held Hamburg in the game with Iroquois and then against Orchard Park, allowing the team to make some key late shots in the wins. The comeback win on Dec. 27 over Orchard Park went to overtime.

“We’re still a work in progress,” said Owens, who noted that her team clamped down late in the game against Iroquois after turning the ball over too much early on. “We’re starting to see people mesh. There are things to build on.”

The play of junior forward Kendra Quinn-Moultrie has been one of those building points. In her second year with the varsity, first as a starter, Quinn-Moultrie has been a factor on both ends of the floor. Offensively, she’s enjoyed several big games and finished with nine in the team’s latest win, 67-16 over East.

She’s been aided up front by the experience of senior Taylor Wolf, who as expected has been a steady force for Hamburg as its only returning starter. Wolf notched a team-leading 10 in limited time against East.

Owens said junior point guard Jill Ford has stepped in and contributed by playing hard as she becomes more comfortable with her role. Junior Leah Jones has taken on the other starting guard spot and been a contributor, including a 16-point performance in that win over Orchard Park.

The team’s depth has been aided by key minutes off the bench from six-foot forward Jordan Smith and junior Kaley Reardon. Ashley Kabza, another six-foot sophomore, is beginning to see more minutes as well. She and Ford also scored 10 each against East.

As Hamburg gets into the heart of the division schedule in the New Year, it will be up next against the like of Williamsville South (Jan. 8) and East, three days later, who should be two more tough teams in what seems to be a more even division this year.

“We ran away from Starpoint and East but other than that there isn’t anybody else we’re going to blow off the court,” Owens said. “There’s a little more depth in the division this year.”

Elsewhere locally, thanks to an impressive start, a new to ECIC III Lake Shore was in an early-season division showdown with perennial power East Aurora. The Eagles hung tough with a typically scrappy defensive effort but couldn’t fight off a poor shooting second half. Host Lake Shore made only two second half field goals in falling 42-30 on Jan. 4.

East Aurora, which finished second in ECIC III behind only Pioneer last year, extended its 18-16 lead at halftime to 29-24 after three quarters. Lake Shore made its only two shots of the half in a minute span during the fourth quarter but it was not enough.

Melanie Linsmair hit a put back midway through the fourth to keep the game close and finished with a team-high 11 points. Michaela Stepniak and Darian Evans each added seven in the loss.

Lake Shore falls to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the division with a tough game at Pioneer slated for Jan. 9 and then a home game against Depew the next night.

Also, Eden nearly pulled an upset of ECIC IV-leading Holland on the road on Jan. 4, but after a gritty and close game between two of the division’s top teams the past three years, the Raiders fell 57-54 in overtime.

The Raiders came from three points down to force the overtime. Erin Dix converted on a free throw shooting a one-and-one to cut the deficit to one and then Sabrina Kraska, who enjoyed a breakout game, stole the ball and then drew a foul with 30 seconds left. She made both free throws to tie the game.

However, Eden had two costly turnovers that Holland capitalized on in overtime to pull out the win. In a losing effort, Emily Carias led the Raiders with 19 points, four steals and four assists, while Kraska, a sophomore, notched 16 points and 13 rebounds.

“The entire game was back-and-forth and I didn’t think either team had a lead greater than three points and even then, it would only last for 30 seconds or so,” said Eden head coach Marisa Fallacaro, whose team’s three-year reign atop ECIC IV is in jeopardy as it fell to 4-5 overall and 2-2 in division play.

“Seeing the way Eden has struggled this season I was happy with the tempo, effort and the shooting percentage. But in the final three minutes or so, we had some costly turnovers. Our youth really showed at pivotal times; not taking anything away from Holland.”

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