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High School Boys Basketball: Bulldogs, Falcons each win once playing in three competitive games

Kyle Violanti has helped lead Hamburg to a win over Williamsville East and close calls with Sweet Home and Will. South. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

Eden wins first of the season

Opponents are taking notice of Hamburg and not just because the Bulldogs are playing good basketball. It’s also because of the hustle they’ve shown.

In probably the team’s toughest three-game stretch of the season, Hamburg exacted some revenge on Williamsville East in a big win and could have just as easily earned victories against ECIC Division II leaders Sweet Home and Williamsville South.

The Bulldogs opened up a size-able lead on East, which it lost big to in last year’s sectional playoffs, and led both Sweet Home and South going into the fourth quarter. Hamburg has been opening up early leads in many games this season by playing fast and working hard.

“We’ve gone from getting beaten to learning how to win,” said Hamburg head coach Tim Brueckl, whose team sits at 5-6 overall and 3-3 in the division. “The last three coaches have said to me, ‘your team has scared us the most from our division,’ which is a testament to this team. If you work hard good things will happen. We just need to finish because we shouldn’t have lost two of these three. If we can clean up the execution, we become dangerous in February (for the playoffs).”

Brueckl calls this the hardest working team he has coached in his five seasons with Hamburg. He said opponents have a hard time matching his team’s intensity right out of the bat in games. It’s also one of the more fun teams to be around.

“I feel like we can beat anyone (in the division) and our goal is to go 6-0 the rest of the way,” said Brueckl, who will try to help his team accomplish that starting at Iroquois (Jan. 25), which beat Hamburg earlier in the season. “I can’t complain at all with our effort.”

That effort was certainly there in a 63-57 overtime loss at Sweet Home on Jan. 18. Hamburg actually led the ECIC II unbeaten 32-22 at halftime after hitting five three-pointers. Andrew Sardinia hit what would have been the winning basket in the final minute but was called for a charge.

Sweet Home put on a ferocious full-court press in the second half to at one point grab a four-point lead. It took a Sardinia left-handed lay up with over a minute to play to send the game into overtime at 53 apiece. Despite battling the flu, Sardinia enjoyed a monster game with 22 points.

Also for Hamburg, senior point guard Kyle Violanti added 14 points, including knocking down a pair of threes. Junior forwards Jeremiah Bill and Griffin Ryan each added eight points.

“We were right there with them,” said Brueckl, whose team began to play better basketball last year during a 10-10 season. “We need to start to learn to play with a lead. Now we’ve turned the corner where we’re ahead and teams are pressing us. We used to be the desperate team; now, we need to fight off other team’s intensity.”

The Bulldogs nearly let another lead slip away two days earlier but held on for a 67-57 win over East, which shared the division title last season with South and then ran away from Hamburg in an early-round Class A playoff game. Hamburg led by as many as 19 in the fourth quarter, but East cut that deficit to 56-52.

Down the stretch, Hamburg knocked down 11 of 13 free throws. Tim Kane nailed four of those in the final minute and finished with 11 points. Fellow junior Brandon Pierce, who has given Hamburg quality minutes of late, finished with 12 points, including two three-pointers.

Violanti handled the press very well for most of the game, according to Brueckl, and finished with 10 points and seven assists. Ryan added 11 points and 11 rebounds and Bill, 10 points and five rebounds.

“We lost by about 50 points to them in that playoff game last year and a lot of the guys that returned this year didn’t take kindly to it,” Brueckl said. “We took the mentality that we owed them one.”

On Jan. 11, Hamburg held a 36-32 advantage going into the fourth against South. However, a 27-point fourth quarter led the Billies to a 59-50 win.

Sardinia, who finished with a team-high 16 points and was covering Billies’ standout Chaq Nettles, received a fifth foul early in the fourth then fouled out with six minutes left in the game which really deflated the Bulldogs, according to Brueckl. Nettles had 10 points alone in the fourth.

Ryan finished with 10 points and six rebounds and Bill contributed nine points and eight rebounds. Violanti added seven rebounds, four assists and three steals.

In other action, Frontier hit a school record 19 three-pointers but wound up losing a high-scoring overtime thriller to Western New York third-ranked small school Nichols.

The Falcons used its outside touch to go on a 24-5 run over the final six minutes of the game to and tie it up but fell 90-87 in overtime on Friday (Jan. 18). Frontier actually led 77-74 with 40 seconds left before Nichols sent the game to overtime with a three-point play conversion. Nichols, now 13-3, scored the first five points in the extra session and then held off Frontier.

Among five players in double figures for the Falcons, Shawn Fischer finished with a team-high 19 points, including five threes, and Brandon Jewett had 18, coming by way of six threes. Kevin Marcinkowski added 14 points and 13 assists, while Jay Bergmann and David Rajski notched 11 points each.

Frontier had broken its first two-game slide of the season with a 56-40 win over Lancaster. The Falcons improved to 6-4 and 4-3 in ECIC Division I with the help of a 20-8 fourth quarter run to pull away at Lancaster.

Marcinkowski scored 10 of his game-high 15 points in the fourth and added eight assists. Rajski finished with seven points and notched a career-high 15 rebounds. AJ Licata added a key driving left-hand hook in the fourth and also had 13 rebounds.

“It was a great road win for us; we had lost two straight coming in and Lancaster was coming off a 15-point win over Orchard Park,” Frontier head coach Gary Domzalski said.

After trailing big at halftime, the Falcons pulled within nine points of Jamestown but couldn’t get any closer in losing a road game 61-41 on Jan. 8. Jamestown led 32-13 at the half, but Frontier was to able to get within 43-32 late in the third, due to some defensive pressure and making five three-point shots. Rajski hit three of those, and Jewett and Licata each added one. Rajski led the way with 16 points and seven rebounds.

Elsewhere locally, Eden picked up its first win in beating Gow 47-44 on Jan. 18. Brad Palmerton hit a three-pointer from the corner to tie the game with 30 seconds left and then notched the winner on a lay-up. He led the way for Eden with 22 points, three assists and four rebounds. Evan Reinig finished with 10 points and seven rebounds, two of which were big ones in the final minute. Brett Gilson added eight points, including two three pointers, while Lou Bartus had five points and five rebounds and AJ Feldman had seven rebounds.


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