SEASON ENDS FOR HAMBURG — Despite the effort of Kendra Quinn-Moultrie, Williamsville East ended Hamburg’s season. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
In the postseason, every possession’s importance is increased, and every point is more crucial than the one before it. That idea rang true as the fifth-seed Williamsville East defeated No. 4 and two-time Class A finalist Hamburg 41 – 40, in a will-testing sectional quarterfinal game on Feb. 20.
In a game decided by just one possession, it was some late-game clutch shots and defensive stops that put Williamsville East over the top. The Flames forced a steal, while ahead by one point, off a Hamburg inbounds play with 4.8 seconds left to seal the game on the road for East in Class A-1.
“We decided that in the second half we wanted to play a little harder and match their intensity from the first half,” said Williamsville East head coach Chris Durr. “I thought Hamburg came out and played well in the first half, and made some big shots. We’re not a really experienced team, but we battled today. We won the way we had to win.”
The two teams traded early blows in the first quarter, before Hamburg outscored East 15 – 4 in the second and then East outscored the Bulldogs 14 – 4 in the third, to send the game tied into the final quarter.
“I think what won us that game tonight was the third quarter,” Durr said. “Coming out in the third quarter was a huge thing for us.”
The Bulldogs started the fourth quarter with two long baseline jumpers from Anna Chiacchia to put them ahead by four. The Flames countered with a 7 – 0 run of their own, which included 5 points from Lauren DiDuro, who finished with a game-high 19 points. She added 5 rebounds and 6 of her team’s 12 steals.
Hamburg tied the game on the next possession and then took a one-point lead, 39 – 38, before DiDuro once again connected on a floater with 2:30 left to put the Flames ahead 40-39. A late free throw and misses at the line on the other end by Hamburg allowed East to maintain that lead to the finish.
Although the season ended earlier than Hamburg had anticipated, when it came into the year with such high expectations, head coach Kelly Owens reflected on the positives with her team afterward.
“We’ve accomplished a ton,” Owens told her team. “We won the division. They’ve accomplished so much individually. We certainly don’t walk out with our heads hanging. It’s unfortunate, its not the game we wanted to lose, by any means, but, for whatever reason, there were critical times where things didn’t go our way when we needed them to.”
The Flames learned from tight earlier season games. In the previous week, alone, they played two games, against Orchard Park and Williamsville North, that was a one-possession contest with less than 30 seconds left. After losing to the Quakers, they found a way to beat North.
“The nice part of last week was we had a lot of practice managing that type of situation which we didn’t earlier in the year,” Durr said. “That kind of helped us today to be relaxed and composed in the last minute.”
Hamburg got 11 from senior Kendra Quinn-Moultrie and eight each from junior Ashley Kabza and senior Leah Jones. Kenzie Laughlin netted 7 and pulled down 10 rebounds for the Flames, while Erin Jozwiak added 6 points and had a team-high 12 rebounds.
Hamburg finished its season with a 12 – 6 record, while WiIlliamsville East moved on to face McKinley on Feb. 25 in a sectional semifinal game at Kenmore West.