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Published: March 06, 2010 11:42 pm     

GIRLS BASKETBALL: Defense sends GI to regionals

By Nate Beutel
Niagara Gazette

BUFFALO — Shaquita Smith may be going to Xavier on a basketball scholarship, but it’s Grand Island that will be moving on to next week’s Far West Regionals.

The Class A-1 champion Vikings held the Amherst senior without a field goal and just five free throws in a 56-30 throttling of the Class A-2 champions at Erie Community College’s Flickinger Center in Saturday’s Class A crossover game.

“She’s a great player, but we held her down,” GI sophomore guard Kallie Banker said. “We always had two people watching her. We couldn’t let her beat us.”

Banker’s mother, veteran GI coach Jen Banker, said she had six defenses planned for Smith, but needed only one because of her team’s outstanding execution.

“They followed the gameplan to a ‘T’ tonight,” the coach said. “Kallie and Brooke (DeMarco) did a great job of stopping (Smith) up top and staying with her at all times.”

GI’s offense wasn’t too shabby either. Banker, who scored only five points against Williamsville East’s box-and-one defense on Wednesday, knocked down four first-half 3-pointers to help the Vikings open up a 12-point lead at intermission.

“I felt a sense of relief when they came out in a 2-3 zone,” a smiling Banker said in reference to Wednesday’s struggles. The reigning Niagara Gazette Player of the Year finished with a game-high 21 points.

Meanwhile, Mary Scherrer and DeMarco continued their strong play. Scherrer finished with 12 points and 13 rebounds, while DeMarco had 15 points and 11 boards. Both were extremely physical in the paint as well, which seemed to benefit GI greatly.

“Those two girls have really stepped it up,” coach Banker said. “It’s great to have that extra help. They were excellent again today.”

GI also got solid contributions from Danielle Wegrzyn, Cassie Oursler, Ambria Tim and Maria Guidotti. The quartet combined for 13 of GI’s 41 rebounds. In comparison, Amherst had only 22 boards.

“This was a great team win,” the younger Banker said. “We played together, everyone stepped up and we did it. It’s an awesome feeling.”

Scherrer added, “We’re going to Far West Regionals and I can’t even tell you how stoked I am. We were so focused on this. We really worked hard for this.”

It is GI’s first trip to regionals since back-to-back appearances in 2003-04 and ‘04-05. The Vikings will play Section V champion Greece Arcadia at 2 p.m. Saturday at Gates Chili High School.

“It’s a great feeling because this was our goal going into the year,” coach Banker said. “It has been a bit of a rocky road with all the injuries and changes to our style of play throughout the season, but I think we’re all pretty comfortable right now.”