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Open Mike Column: Grand Island’s Oursler to join a familiar local coach at Robert Morris

Cassie Oursler, pictured left fighting for a rebound during Grand Island\\\'s sectional title victory over Hamburg, will be playing at Robert Morris under former Hilbert coach Sal Buscaglia. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)
The same player who has been such a thorn in the side of Hamburg’s sectional title hopes the past two seasons will be a former Hamburg resident’s prize starting in the 2013-14 academic year.

Grand Island senior Cassie Oursler, who helped lead her team past Hamburg the past two seasons in Class A-1 sectional championship games, will be playing at the next level at Robert Morris in Chicago for former Hilbert College and University at Buffalo head women’s basketball coach Sal Buscaglia.

The current Robert Morris head coach would have been very excited with what he saw in Saturday’s (March 2) game. The forward listed as 6-foot-3 — although her father jokingly tweeted me her correct height at 6-4 — poured in 16 points, 21 rebounds and seven blocks and even when she wasn’t putting up any of those statistics her mere presence seemed to have Hamburg out of its game for essentially the first time during a stellar 19-2 season.

An All-Western New York Second Team and all-state selection following her junior season, Oursler has helped the Vikings win a championship in all four seasons she’s been a starter with the varsity. An athletic player, especially for her size, she’s only improved her game this season.

She should help a Robert Morris team that didn’t fare very well this season, but has been quite good under Buscaglia for most of his 10 years at the helm. Robert Morris is 7-21 going into its regular season finale this week after eight straight winning seasons since going 3-24 his first year. Robert Morris won NEC titles and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and 2008. He also won a conference regular season title in 2010.

Buscaglia coached women’s basketball for 12 seasons at Hilbert, amassing a record of 249-62. From 1982-90, he won eight straight regional tournament championships and regular season conference championships, along with making eight consecutive national tournament appearances. His 1988-89 team finished in the Elite Eight. Buscaglia also headed University at Buffalo from 1990-98 and led the Lady Bulls to five 20-win campaigns.

He said via the school’s website back when she signed her letter of intent in November 2012 that Ourseler will help fill the void left by the graduation of his current big Anna Gailite.

“With dedication and hard work, Cassie can develop into a very good post player for us,” he said. “She runs the floor very well and has showed the potential to contribute very quickly to our team.”

Wolf just misses trifecta

The Hamburg loss to Grand Island marked the end of Taylor Wolf’s basketball career and left her just short of what would have been a monumental feat of winning three sectional titles in three different sports.

Already a two-time Section VI champion as a goalie in field hockey and a champion as an attacker for the girls lacrosse team, the senior played in the finals in basketball the past two seasons but she and the team fell just short both times.

The three-year varsity basketball player still finished a standout career on the hardwood and certainly has a bright future ahead as she plays lacrosse for another loaded Hamburg girls team this spring and then moves on to compete in the sport at the Division I level with the Niagara University women.

It would have been nice for her to get that rare third title — it’s difficult enough to be a three-sport standout in each season, let alone a champion in all three sports, but at school year’s end she be leaving with plenty of which to be proud.

And chances are one day she’ll be back at the school with the disappointment of that loss all but a memory as she celebrates her name being placed up on the Wall of Fame.

Eagles’ Hornberger a talent and unselfish, to boot

You don’t have to be a track and field and cross country aficionado to realize that Lake Shore’s TJ Hornberger is just flat-out as good as it comes at this level in the two sports.

And it’s been said by his coaches and written on these same pages that he’s unselfish in giving back his knowledge and know-how to his younger teammates. There was true proof of that in his selfless act in between the Section VI and State Championships.

A three-time Class A cross country champion, Hornberger also won a sectional title in both the 1600 and 3200 meter races just recently at the indoor track and field championships, which also qualified him for state competition in both events.

He decided to run the 1600 but give up his spot in the 3200, so that sophomore teammate Calvin Butlak could also compete at states. After finishing third in Section VI, Butlak was the first alternate in the event. Hornberger’s generosity allowed his up-and-coming teammate to make his first state appearance in track after having joined Hornberger at that level during the cross country season.

The good deed was rewarded with a second-place effort in the one-mile as Hornberger moved all the way up from being ranked 10th in the state coming into the competition. Butlak didn’t reach his goal time in the two-mile race, but Lake Shore distance coach Trisha Ippolito said he was happy to participate and gain the experience.

Home safe and sound

A few months back in this column, we profiled the Hamburg cross country’s team’s effort to recognize the military, most specifically the work being done by one of their coach’s two sons in Afghanistan, by wearing T-shirts in their honor. Bill Malican’s first-born son, Will III, wrote the team back, showing his appreciation for their support. Well, coach Malican e-mailed me last month with an update that read, “both my sons are back (including Matt, his third child) in the States without injury. They were in the last two NYARNG companies to leave Afghanistan. Great news!

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