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Hamburg loses lead, then division’s top spot to Williamsville South

BIG WIN — Hamburg’s Tim Kane launches into the air during his team’s big division win at home over Sweet Home. Photo courtesy of Ron Larson.
When it rains, it pours.

For the first three quarters of its recent game, the Hamburg boys basketball team saw nothing but green grass and sunlight, but in the fourth, the clouds opened up and caused a storm.

The Bulldogs had their foot on the gas pedal, as the host went into the fourth quarter of a Jan. 16 Erie County Interscholastic Conference Division II showdown with Williamsville South ahead by 10 points. But the Billies began to shoot, and the Bulldogs lost their lead.

Williamsville South improved to 5 – 5 overall and 4 – 2 in the division, by scoring 28 points in the final quarter, to pick up a come-from-behind 60 – 52 win against Hamburg (5 – 4, 3 – 2) in a battle of two of the top teams in ECIC II.

“I think [Hamburg] is a great team,” said Williamsville South head coach Gabe Michael. “They took it to us in the first half, and it’s not necessarily what we did wrong. It might be what they did right, and visa versa, in the second half.”

South’s victory put five teams at the top of the division, all with two losses. They also include Iroquois, Williamsville East and Sweet Home. Hamburg’s stay atop the division lasted two days, after the team defeated Sweet Home on Jan. 14.

Hamburg led South 14 – 11 after the first quarter and used an 11 – 0 run to open the second quarter and separate itself from the Billies and gain the largest lead of the game, at 14. Williamsville South made up little ground between then and the start of the fourth, cutting the deficit to as few as four, midway through the third quarter.

In the fourth quarter, the zone defense that had worked for the Bulldogs through 24 minutes began to crumble, as did their execution on offense.

“We stopped playing,” said Hamburg head coach Tim Brueckl, about his team’s fourth quarter performance. “We went into a shell. We didn’t run offense. We just stopped playing defense.”

Myles Hall opened the fourth quarter with a jumper and Matt Macomber (10 points) followed that with a 3-point play on the next possession. After forcing another stop, Macomber connected on a three ball from the right wing, and Sam Castronova scored on a fast break layup to knot the game at 42 with a little more than 2 minutes into the fourth.

Hamburg regained the lead momentarily, but another Billies run – this time 8 – 0 – put them ahead by six, after Kam Varner buried a deep triple.

“We made a lot of really tough plays and our big thing was just push, push, push, in the second half,” Michael said. “When we got a rebound, we were just trying to get easy baskets.”

Varner led the Billies’ scoring attack with 12 points. Brandon Pierce, Hamburg’s leading scorer – netting more than 13 points per game and averaging a double-double – turned in his average on the night, but was held to 1 point in the second half. Griffin Ryan scored a team-high 14 points.

“Mentally, we were our own worst enemy today,” Brueckl said. “We lost our heads. We got up 10 and everything was going good and, when they started to make a run, we lost our focus. When we lose our focus, we’re not a good basketball team.”

Coming into the game, Hamburg had won back-to-back games against Williamsville East and Sweet Home, while the Billies had defeated Iroquois, two days prior.

In the win against Sweet Home, Pierce poured in 21 points and 11 rebounds, while Ryan added 16 and 9. Guards Tim Kane and Brendan Ryan added 9 and 8 points, respectively. Hamburg rallied, after trailing by 12 points early in the game.

The Bulldogs bounced back from the loss two days later, by beating Lake Shore in a non-division game 53 – 36. Pierce led Hamburg with 13 points and Ryan added 11 points and 12 boards. Lake Shore fell to 5 – 4 overall, after also losing additional ECIC III games last week, to Maryvale and Amherst.

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