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H.S. Girls Basketball: Lake Shore avenges ECIC loss; Frontier looks to others without Galus

Melanie Linsmair has helped Lake Shore put up an 11-3 mark with a regular season ECIC III title still possible. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

Avenging an earlier season loss can be critical in creating confidence for a team during the remainder of the season. For Lake Shore, this same scenario couldn’t have played out at a better time.

The Eagles nailed down a 50-42 win on Jan. 22 over Springville, one of only two teams from ECIC III to beat them this season, as part of a six-game winning steak. The victory avenged a 43-32 loss on Dec. 18.

What better team for Lake Shore to face now than the other division team it lost to earlier in the season? The Eagles will travel Friday, Feb. 1 for a 6 p.m. tilt at East Aurora, which won a 42-30 game the first time the two met.

Now 11-3 overall and 8-2 in ECIC III play, Lake Shore can move into a first-place tie with a win over division front-runner East Aurora.

“I believe that this team can beat anyone in the division if they all show up,” Lake Shore head coach Andrea Conrad said. “The only way teams can beat us at this point, in my opinion, is if we beat ourselves. We have to limit our turnovers, play good defense, rebound and execute. If we do that, teams are going to have a hard time beating us, regardless of who we play.”

With the help of a solid all-around performance from senior point guard Miranda Aikin, Lake Shore made a concerted effort to pound the ball inside to its bigs Lindsay Gearhart and Darian Evans, and both sophomores responded with double-doubles.

Evans recorded 13 points and 12 rebounds while Gearhart, added 13 points and 13 rebounds. Aikin worked both sides of the floor for the Eagles, causing havoc defensively with her speed and ended the evening with 14 points, three steals, two assists and several deflections. Melanie Linsmair and Michaela Stepniak added five points each.

Thanks to an 18-9 spurt in the second quarter and 16-10 run through the third, the Eagles opened a 42-26 lead going into the fourth. But Springville made the game interesting in the final quarter.

“It wasn’t an easy night,” Conrad noted. “Springville is a never-say-die team.”

The week of play also included a 62-45 win over Amherst on Jan. 18 and defeating Cheektowaga 51-36 on Jan. 24

Linsmair, a sophomore, led all scorers with 20 points and added 10 rebounds, five assists, six steals and eight deflections to help Lake Shore pull away over the final two quarters after going into halftime tied at 25 apiece.

Aikin and Stepniak netted 12 and 10 points, respectively, while fellow senior Josilyn Benton had all eight of her points, including two three-pointers, in the second half.

Against Cheektowaga. Lake Shore again used its height in the middle to pull away. Both again recording a double-double, Evans finished with a career-high 20 points and 12 rebounds, and Gearhart added 13 points and 11 rebounds.

Aikin added nine points and eight steals in an enthusiastic defense effort aided by the athletic Linsmair, who chipped in five points, 10 rebounds, six steals and five assists. Stepniak added four and eighth grade forward Shayla Scanlan contributed important minutes.

After East Aurora, the Eagles will play at home against Pioneer on Tuesday, Feb. 5 in another big division match-up.
Frontier senior standout Natalie Galus, who here drives to the basket earlier in the season, is out with a broken hand. (Photo by Michael J. Petro)

Frontier looking elsewhere for production in meantime

Frontier has only played once in the past two weeks, yet it still managed to make some major news in that time.

In a 43-31 loss to Clarence, the Falcons played without senior leading-scorer Natalie Galus, who as it turned out broke her hand and at the very least will be out for three weeks.

Not only is the injury a big hit down the stretch to a hopeful team that came into the game at Clarence on Jan. 24 at 6-5 overall and 5-2 in ECIC I, but also, for Galus, the center now remains 26 points away from 1,000 in her career.

It was an accomplishment that seemed a shoe-in before the injury. In her last action, Galus scored 20 points in Frontier’s 56-46 win over Orchard Park on Jan. 16, but then she sat out the next night due to sickness in a 45-30 win over West Seneca West.

Although the injury is a disappointment for the team and its players, Frontier head coach Rick Mihalik sees this as an opportunity for others to step up.

“We have girls that are very capable of pouring it on and taking over games other than Natalie,” Mihalik said. “We need someone to take on this role while Nat is out.”

Highlighting Frontier’s performance against Clarence were junior Caisey Lipka with 10 points and senior Jocelyn Kempf, who finished with six points and 12 rebounds. Mihalik was disappointed that the team shot only 7 of 22 from the free throw line.

“It doesn’t matter who we play, you cannot expect to win games when you shoot like that from the line,” he said.

In the win over West, junior Hannah Lease finished with 10 points, while Caisey Lipka added 10 points and eight rebounds and twin sister, Kaitlyn Lipka, contributed nine points and seven rebounds.

Although his team has endured problems with consistency, Mihalik is fully aware of the capabilities of this underclassmen-laden group. He saw its potential in hanging with large school power Jamestown in a 67-62 loss on the road and in falling at Lancaster, 41-36 in overtime, a game in which Frontier was up by as many as eight in the fourth quarter.

“We have shown that we can compete with the league’s best, but we need more consistency with tempo, at the line and on the boards,” Mihalik said.

Galus’ return could help in that area. On Monday (Jan. 21), doctors said her best case scenario would be to return Wednesday, Feb. 13 on Senior Night against Holy Angels in the regular season finale. Galus, who is considering playing in college at Mercyhurst, Slippery Rock or Daemen, could also miss that game and still return for the playoffs which begin the next week.

Also of interest, junior Nicole Rockey, who has been out for the entire season after being injured in a car accident, will be cleared on Feb. 1 and also could play against Holy Angels. Mihalik said first she must complete the district/state mandatory concussion management protocol and he pointed out that the utmost care will be taken to make sure she is ready physically and mentally before stepping on to the court.

“She could potentially be a huge addition to the team and a big factor in the paint as we get ready for the playoffs,” Mihalik noted.

In the meantime, he has brought up from the junior varsity Paige Hilleman, a lanky and athletic freshman, who will be looked to for defensive and rebounding contributions in the post.

Elsewhere locally, Eden had a three-game winning streak ended by ECIC IV division front-runner Tonawanda, 42-21, on Monday (Jan. 28). The Raiders had lifted themselves back over the .500 mark with three straight wins, beating division foes JFK, Cleveland Hill and Lackawanna over a seven-day span starting Jan. 16. The Raiders are now 7-7 overall and 5-4 in ECIC IV.

Also locally, Immaculata senior guard Taylor Heinold will be signing her Letter of Intent to play at Daemen College, which during this school year begins a thee-year transition into becoming a full Division II team, playing in the East Coast Conference. Heinold recently reached the 1,000-point mark for her career at Immaculata.
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