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High School Girls Basketball: Upset of Pioneer gets Lake Shore’s season back on track

Michaela Stepniak helped lead more of a team effort to shoot from the outside, helping Lake Shore upset Pioneer. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

A poor shooting night and disappointing loss did not fester very long for what over time has become a more poised group of Lake Shore players.

The Eagles got over a rough night at home against East Aurora just one game later with its highest offensive output all season which resulted in pulling off a 52-48 upset of Pioneer on Jan. 8.

Lake Shore received some early help from an effective 1-2-2 half court trap and press and also took advantage of open outside shot opportunities, instead of constantly driving to the basket.

“Pioneer wasn’t expecting that type of press from us and we got some turnovers from it. In the second half, we switched to man-to-man, which is what I think they expected to see at the beginning,” Lake Shore head coach Andrea Conrad said.

“The girls constantly want to drive to hit the bucket or get fouled but they need to also shoot jump shots,” she added. “If you don’t then the defensive sags down on you. We want teams to at least have to come to contest shots against us.”

With wins over Depew a night later and Maryvale on Jan. 14, Lake Shore moved into third place in ECIC Division III with a 5-2 record (8-3 overall). The Eagles have been playing well for much of the season, but suffered a setback for the second time this season in a winnable game, falling 42-30 against East Aurora. Lake Shore also had its late-game offensive troubles in a 43-32 division loss to Springville.

“It’s taken five years or so to get us to a middle of the road team and now we’re trying to take it to the next level,” said Conrad, whose team finished in third last year in ECIC II. “What I like is, in close games, this team does not turn it in and for the most part, we’re poised and not beating ourselves. If they do one thing wrong, it isn’t snowballing into five things.”

Sophomore Melanie Linsmair helped engineer a better effort on the offensive side against Pioneer, which was previously unbeaten in ECIC III, as she scored 15 points and added eight rebounds, five assists and three steals. Linsmair also heeded the advice of Conrad by taking the opportunities to shoot over top of defenders.

Conrad also credited Michaela Stepniak and Miranda Aikin with better shot choices. Despite first half foul trouble, Stepniak added seven points, including a big late-game bucket to seal the win, while Aikin, an unselfish point guard who passes on many shots, added nine points and limited the team’s turnovers offensively. Aikin also made important foul shots in the last minute of play to solidify the victory.

Sophomore teammate Darian Evans enjoyed a breakout game with her first double-double of the season, which included 11 points and 12 boards. Conrad commended Evans for being helpful with fellow forwards Lindsay Gearhart, also a sophomore, and Shayla Scanlan, an eighth grader, but was also happy to see the second-year varsity player simply worry about her own game to perform big against Pioneer.

“She’s helped others get to a different level and she already understands what we do at this level,” said Conrad, who added that both Gearhart and Scanlan, along with senior Josilyn Benton, played important minutes in the win.

Pioneer’s top two scorers did wind up scoring 37 combined points, but the defensive effort stifled Lake Shore’s opponent just enough. The Eagles outscored Pioneer 32-28 in the second half after trailing by two at halftime.

In the 37-30 win over Depew the next night, Lake Shore was led by Linsmair, who was the only Eagle in double digits as she scored a game-high 18 points. Stepniak added five.

Lake Shore finished off the first half of its divisional slate with a 50-40 win over Maryvale, which shared third place with the Eagles entering the game. Josilyn Benton scored eight of her 13 points in the first quarter to help the Eagles to an early 16-7 lead. The with the lead changing hands on several times in the fourth, Aikin scored 11 of her 15 points in the quarter to seal the win. Five of those points came in the final minute-and-a-half. Evans and Stepniak each had 10 rebounds.

Elsewhere, Frontier played last year’s top two ECIC I teams very tough but wound up without a win to show for it. At Jamestown on Jan. 8, the Falcons stuck right with the division front-runner in a 67-62 loss as senior forward Natalie Galus scored 25 points. Lexi Rockey added 15 and Caisey Lipka, 10. In a 41-36 overtime loss at Lancaster two days later, Frontier was again led by Galus, who scored 11 in a much lower scoring affair.

The losses were the first for Frontier in the division. The Falcons are now 3-2 and after a loss Saturday (Jan. 11) to Mercy of Rochester, are 4-5 overall. Galus, a four-year starter, is just 46 away from 1,000 career points with Falcons next hosting Orchard Park on Jan. 16 and then traveling to West Seneca West a night later on Jan. 17.

Also, Hamburg continued its winning ways, beating Williamsville South, 65-37, and Williamsville East, 45-30, last week to improve to 8-1 over all and 5-0 in ECIC II play. Kendra Quinn-Moultrie led the Bulldogs with 22 points against South on Jan. 8 and then scored 14 against East three days later. Also in the latest win, Jill Ford added eight points.

It sets up an intriguing non-league match up at cross-town rival Immaculata on Friday, Jan. 18. The Bears (9-3) are on a seven-game winning streak, which includes earning the Pioneer Tournament title over the weekend.
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