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Basketball Preview: Immaculata looks to improve body of work to qualify for states

The 2012-13 Immaculata Academy varsity girls basketball team includes, from left, first row: Bailey Gawley, Jill Sullivan, Kathryn Halloran, Taylor Heinold, RayAnn Call and Molly Hennessy. Second row: Grace Coughlin, Jordan Heinold, Karah Burlow, Emma Lipinski, Abby Wind and Lauren Leo.

Immaculata has plenty of incentive coming into the season off the disappointment of a rare snub from the New York State independent schools tournament.

The Bears, who had been a fixture in the postseason downstate tournament, winning it several years ago, did not receive a bid last season even after posting a 14-9 regular season playing against an array of large and small schools from throughout Western New York.

The early end to last season was a lesson for Immaculata head coach Andrea Drabik and the school’s basketball program. She said her team needs to be even better during the regular season and win more of its closer games. Last season, the Bears lost five times by six or less points. She hopes this year’s more veteran team will turn those close losses into wins.

“We didn’t get to go and it was a surprise to some people, but I think it was an eye opener about how hard they had to work in the offseason and come back this year to see if it’s made a difference,” Drabik said. “It would be nice to see the teams that we lost to by two to four points that we really focus on them this year. Those should be ‘W’s for us. We’re looking forward to it. We’ve had girls that have been with us for years that are now juniors and seniors.”

Drabik believes Immaculata has a unique bunch in that much of this group has been allowed to develop together over the past two to three years. “We have a lot of girls returning that have the experience of playing together,” Drabik noted.

The most exciting of the group is senior fourth-year starter Taylor Heinold, who comes off a season in which she averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds. The 5-foot-10 versatile guard also grabbed a team-leading three steals per game and 43 assists and 42 blocks.
Junior RayAnn Call, who's been with the varsity since her freshman year, returns to the point guard spot for a more-experienced Immaculata squad. (Photo courtesy of Ron Larson)

Also back are seniors Bailey Gawley and Kathryn Halloran and junior RayAnn Call, all of whom enter their third seasons with the varsity. Coming off a big volleyball season, Gawley will play in close to the basket, while Call will be back to starting at the point and Halloran will contribute as both a guard and forward.

Adding another element to this year’s team will be Taylor’s younger sister, freshman Jordan Heinold, who at almost six feet tall should grow into a force in the post.

“I’m really excited to have Taylor back as a senior with her sister who’s a freshman, which is going to be a nice sister duo,” Drabik said. “This is the first year in a few where we have some size, so we’re looking forward to seeing how teams match up against that, while still having to match up against Taylor.”

While Gawley returns to a starting role, Drabik noted that Halloran, who came off the bench last year, has really developed her game. Call has a distinctive leadership quality and really knows the game well, according to Drabik.

“It’s that connection that they all have,” Drabik said. “In the first year, you know you see these kids with talent but sometimes it takes a little while to form that gel. We’re looking forward now to them putting it together on the court.”

Also returning are sophomore guard Molly Hennessy, who should be much improved, and senior forward Jill Sullivan, who has the ability to play big in a smaller frame. Also, senior Kara Burlow is back after tearing her ACL last season.

Immaculata will continue to have a challenging schedule which covers many of the larger and mid-sized public and private schools, In addition, the Bears will play Rochester power Aquinas.

Immaculata 2012-13 schedule
Tues., Nov. 27 at Christian Central  6:30 pm
Sat., Dec. 1 at Aquinas                4 pm
Tues., Dec. 4 at Mt. St. Mary’s     6 pm
Tues., Dec. 11 vs Niagara Catholic 6:30 pm
Fri., Dec. 14 vs Holy Angels         6:30 pm
Sat., Dec. 15 vs Oracle             12:30 pm
Wed., Dec. 19 vs. Buffalo Seminary   6:30 pm
Thurs., Dec. 27 Frontier Tourney  1, 4 pm
Fri, Dec. 28 Frontier Tourney     TBA
Tues., Jan. 8 vs Holland                6:30 pm
Fri., Jan. 11 Pioneer Tourney     7 pm
Sat., Jan. 12 Pioneer Tourney     TBA
Tues., Jan. 15 at Fredonia         7 pm
Fri., Jan. 18 vs Hamburg             6:30 pm
Fri., Jan. 25 at St. Mary’s             7 pm
Mon, Jan. 28 at Cheektowaga      6:30 pm
Wed., Jan. 30 vs Eden               6:30 pm
Thur., Feb. 7 at Tapestry              5 pm
Tues., Feb. 12 vs Fredonia          6:30 pm
Fri, Feb. 15 vs Niag-Wheatfield   6:30 pm
Mon., Feb. 18 vs. Niagara Falls   6:30 pm
Fri., Feb. 22 vs Nichols               6:30 pm

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