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No short cuts for Niagara-Wheatfield High School's Pawlak

NIGARA-WHEATFIELD - If you didn’t know Rachel Pawlak you’d say what stands out about her is the furious pace in which she has been scoring on the basketball court this season.

But those who know Pawlak best know what stands out about her isn’t the points that she’s racking up. But the hard work and dedication that goes into each and every second on the court. And everything she does in life.

A senior on the Niagara-Wheatfield basketball team, Pawlak has been a big part of the Lady Falcons going into the holiday break with a 5-1 overall record, 2-1 in the Niagara Frontier League.

While her 23 points per game have been invaluable, it’s Pawlak’s unwavering commitment to be her best that shines through. Pawlak isn’t the kind to look for a shortcut or an easy path to success.

“She’s very, very business-like,” Falcons coach Diane Fegatilli said.”Whether it’s in the classroom or on the court, she always strives to do well.”

Flattered that her coach spoke so highly of her Pawlak said she didn’t have to search far to find strong influences that helped shape her work ethic.

“My mom (Debbie) and dad (Ken) always taught me to work hard. And my sister (Sarah) worked hard to get where she is,” Pawlak said. “We have such a competitive league there really is no easy way to reach your goal. We all know we have to work hard.”

Happy just to do her part, Pawlak said that she and fellow co-captain Melissa Smith are simply doing their best each and everyday to help bring the team together as one.

“We’re very pleased with how it’s going so far,” Pawlak said. “Everyone seems to meshing well together and me and Melissa have been playing together now for three years so we’re working well together. And we’re very focused on doing well in the NFL this year so that we can be in a good position for sectionals.”

Knowing that they don’t have to carry the load on just their shoulders Pawlak said she feels that the Falcons have strong and talented blend of girls. A blend that in her mind strong enough to contend for the NFL championship.

“I think we have a chance to compete this year,” she said.”We have returning players like Melissa Elnicki and Kirsten Klettke and we’re fortunate enough to have a post player with Allyson Czaja. So we’re still trying to figure out how to work together and become even better, we lost to Lockport, so we’re just trying to learn from that and do better next time.”

Originally starting her scholastic basketball career at Sacred Heart Academy, Pawlak, who is a Wheatfield resident, transferred to Niagara-Wheatfield High School in the fall of her sophomore season and has given the Falcons the benefit of a fundamentally sound, all-around player.

In true pay-it-forward fashion, Pawlak explained that the way the older Falcons welcomed her into the team circle when she first arrived gave her the stability and confidence that is the basis for the strong, confident team leader that she is today. In Pawlak’s mind it’s only right to do the same for the current batch of young Falcons to help them feel more secure and set them on the right path in their varsity careers.

“I felt welcomed as a sophomore and now I’m trying to do what those seniors did for me, and help the young players on our team,” Pawlak said. “Our team has the potential to do well in the years to come. They’re all really good basketball players and play well together. I just hope it continues.”

The younger sister of former Sacred Heart star Sarah Pawlak (Holy Family University), Rachel is without questioned inspired by her big sister. But Rachel has also made her own name as a solid, all-around player who can not only score but do all of the little things well.

Pawlak plays strong defense, has great speed, brings the ball up court, set screens, shows great anticipation when cutting off the passing lanes and essentially does whatever is needed to win.

“She’s just fundamentally a sound basketball player,” coach Fegatilli said. “She’s obviously a great shooter, but she’s also, and I don’t think she gets enough credit, is a very sound defensive player. Her shooting stands out but she does all of the small things very well.”

And Rachel Pawlak couldn’t be any happier doing those small things, and whatever else she can, for the Falcons.

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