Weekly Feature

2018-02-07 / Sports

NT girls hoops post wins on consecutive nights


North Tonawanda’s girls basketball team picked up a pair of wins — one in division and one in an NFL crossover — on back-to-back nights early last week to pull within a game of the .500 mark on the season.

The Lady Lumberjacks’ three-game stretch kicked off on Jan. 29 with a 43-40 victory over CSAT. A 9-1 run over the course of the second quarter helped North Tonawanda open up what had been a close 11-9 contest at the start of the stanza.

That effort seemed to carry over into the second half for the Lady Lumberjacks, as Sammarco took charge in the third quarter by nailing four of the five three-point shots she took to account for all 12 of her points for the game, and all but two of North Tonawanda’s points for the stanza.

“We stepped up our defense a little bit in the second quarter, but we didn’t really do anything out of the ordinary,” coach Patrick Kennedy said. “Talking with their coach after the game, I guess they’ve been having similar struggles to us when it comes to scoring sometimes — and in the second quarter, it was like there was a cover on the basket for them. They never really made a run on us because of that, but we also never really could pull away from them either.”

Bridget Wilson led the way for North Tonawanda with 12 points and seven rebounds. Lindsay Piotrowski, whom Kennedy said “played probably her best game of the year” and “really did a great job running the show and holding our team together with how she distributed the ball,” added eight points and five rebounds.

Yllka Sopi and Paige Book contributed six and five points, respectively, to North Tonawanda’s cause.

The Lady Lumberjacks didn’t have quite as easy of a time against league foe Niagara Wheatfield the next night, however, needing overtime to ultimately secure a 44-43 victory.

North Tonawanda rode the momentum of the previous night’s win to an early 11-4 lead, but some struggles to finish chances in the second quarter allowed the Lady Falcons to cut the Lady Lumberjacks’ advantage down to three, 17-14, going into the half.

Feeling emboldened by its second-quarter effort, Niagara-Wheatfield went on a 10-0 run in the third quarter and led by as many as five points before North Tonawanda managed to pull back within one, 25-24, at the start of the fourth quarter. Piotrowski came up with some clutch free throws late in regulation, and Sopi “probably gave the best ball fake I’ve ever seen her do” to score a critical basket down the stretch as the Lady Lumberjacks rallied to knot the game at 38-38 at the end of regulation.

Once in the extra session, the Lady Lumberjacks executed in a way to say they weren’t going to be denied, taking an early four-point lead before Piotrowski’s layup with under 20 seconds to play gave North Tonawanda the lead back for good.

Niagara-Wheatfield’s runner with 1.8 seconds to go in the game — following a time out to set up the last shot — clanged harmlessly off the rim to give the Lady Lumberjacks two consecutive wins for the first time in a long time, according to Kennedy.

“The girls just really listened and did a great job of faking shots and faking passes,” Kennedy said. “I think they saw that if we can get the defense’s hands up and go under them, we can get some easy shots and do well. Our girls came to play against Wheatfield and displayed some nice physicality, and as a result we picked up our second win in a row. It was an outstanding feeling.”

Piotrowski led the way for North Tonawanda with a season-high 24 points to go along with her seven rebounds, while Wilson finished with seven points and eight rebounds. Sopi and Book added six and four points, respectively.

A tough start in Friday’s game with Niagara Falls put an end to the Lady Lumberjacks’ good times, however, as they dropped a 50-31 decision to the Lady Wolverines and fell to 7-8 on the season in the process.

North Tonawanda found itself facing a 14-5 deficit after the first quarter and struggled to make any headway the rest of the contest, seeing the gap widen to 23-11 at the half and 34-19 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Lady Lumberjacks lost the fourth quarter by just four points, but in the end Niagara Falls’ post players proved to be too much for North Tonawanda to handle.

“I think after winning that big one against Wheatfield earlier in the week, we just came out flat, almost like it was day one of the season,” Kennedy said. “To their credit, Niagara Falls is a greatly improved team from the first time around and they just came out ready to play. We just got into a funk where we’d miss shots — they played a triangle and two against us and we had a bunch of missed layups in the first half because of it — but I think the big reason for that was more mental than anything else. If we can focus a little more on offense, I think we can do better.”

Wilson led the way for North Tonawanda with nine points, while Sopi added eight points. Piotrowski chipped in with six points and six rebounds for the Lady Warriors (2-6 NFL Niagara Division), whose non-game against Mount St. Mary ended too late for this edition.

North Tonawanda closes out its regular season by taking on Kenmore West Friday and Kenmore East Monday before facing an as-of-yet-undetermined NFL Frontier Division foe in a crossover game in its regular-season finale on Valentine’s Day.

“I think we do a decent job defensively, so the big thing for us is to find a way to score more than 40 points a game,” Kennedy said. “We’ve got to come up with a way to have someone other than Lindsay score in double figures. Even if we could get three other girls to score eight points, we’d be in good shape. But, we’re just not good enough to miss easy shots like we have been. It’s something we’re working on every day, and we’re going to continue to work hard at until our last game of the season.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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