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GIRLS BASKETBALL: Grand Island scores upset win over Kenmore East

By Nate Beutel

LOCKPORT — The old saying goes “it’s tough to beat a team three times in a season.”

The saying turned into truth Saturday evening at Lockport High School in the first Section VI Class A-1 semifinal. Upstart Grand Island, seeded fifth, knocked off No. 1 Kenmore East 39-35 to advance to the championship game Thursday against No. 2 Williamsville East at ECC City. East, the defending Section VI Class A champions, had beaten its Niagara Frontier League rivals from the Island both times in the regular season.

“I’m real proud of this team,” GI coach Jenepher Banker said. “They’ve come so far I can’t even put it into words right now.”

In fact, Banker’s team came pretty far just over the course of Saturday’s game.

Ken East came out strong as Jazmine Bell scored seven points and Jordyn Broas added five to give the Bulldogs a 15-5 lead after the first period. Then in the second quarter, both teams struggled with turnovers, allowing East to keep its 10-point lead heading into halftime.

GI decided to come out in a 2-1-2 zone defense in the third period, which seemed to give East fits. The Vikings held the Bulldogs to only five points in the third period, but could only muster four themselves.

But then as the fourth quarter began, GI found a spark on both ends of the floor that they seemed to be missing in the first three quarters. Turning up the pressure on the defensive end, GI’s offense also began to click. Mallory Griffiths, who finished with a game-high 15 points, 12 rebounds and three blocks, scored five consecutive points early in the period to pull GI within four.

“Mal did a great job down the stretch,” Banker said of her senior forward.

After Catie Hilliard knocked down a jumper, Amber Duda put in a layup with 3:40 remaining to tie the game at 40 apiece.

On East’s next possession, Cheryl Hartinger was fouled and made the first of two free throws. It was East’s first points since two minutes remained in the third quarter. That being said, the free throw did put the Bulldogs back in the lead with just over three minutes left.

GI would not stand still, though, as Kristin Wegrzyn put in a layup with 2:25 left to give the Vikings their first lead of the game, 32-31. From that point on, it was a matter of free throws and yet another crucial putback from Griffiths until the celebration poured onto the floor at the Lions Den.

“Our kids just kept believing,” Banker said.

While GI was making its miraculous comeback, the Bulldogs were uncharacteristically turning the ball over and settling for a number of outside shots that just did not fall on this night.

“We couldn’t hit a shot,” Ken East coach Jack Blanch said of his team’s lackluster second half. “We had our chances. For two quarters we played very well, so it’s too bad that it had to end with two bad quarters.”

Bell led East with 10 points.