Weekly Feature

2016-02-24 / Sports

North girls basketball downs Sacred Heart, completes undefeated regular season

by PATRICK J. NAGY Reporter

Ericka Taplin and Clare Ahern have seen the highs and lows of Williamsville North girls basketball.

Both were on the varsity team as eighth-graders that finished 2-17. Fast forward five years later and both are part of a team that accomplished a feat that may never be duplicated.

The Lady Spartans’ 66-40 home win over Sacred Heart on Thursday improved North to 20-0.

It is the first basketball team in school history, boys or girls, to finish the regular season unbeaten.

“We knew we wanted to get better, but we never knew we would be undefeated,” said Taplin.

North coach Bill Shaw, who recently achieved his 500th career win, has only coached one other girls basketball team to an undefeated regular season, and that was with Lockport in 1994. That team went on to win the Class A state title.

“I’m so proud of how they kept their focus and bought into what we do,” Shaw said. “We run the floor well, defend well, and are getting a lot more disciplined in our offense. And that is why we are scoring in the 60s now. If we are going to move on to where I would like us to go, we need to score in the 60s because I think our defense is good enough to keep teams in the 40s and 50s.”

Sacred Heart is one of the top girls basketball programs in Western New York, and the Lady Spartans completely dominated them. North led 15-9 after the first quarter and then held them without a point until 1:16 remaining in the first half, moving ahead 31-15 at halftime.

“I think we came out strong and played really well,” said Ahern. “We pushed up on them and I think they were flustered and they kept throwing it away, which worked in our favor.”

“I tell them there is only one thing that can hurt you and that is the ball,” Shaw said. “We emphasize ball pressure so much. When that happens, you are going to get steals.”

The Lady Spartans held a 55-29 advantage after three quarters and led by as many as 30 in the fourth quarter.

Taplin shut down Sacred Heart’s top scorer, Sarah Young, holding her to four points in the first half and 12 points overall, and seven rebounds.

“At first, I wasn’t denying her the ball,” said Taplin, who finished with 17 points, 13 rebounds, five blocks and five steals. “But coach said it would be easier instead of letting her drive to deny it and not let her get it, so I started doing that.”

Ahern, who scored 10 points seven assists and six steals, held the Sharks’ next best scorer, Micaela Ryan, to nine points.

“When you give Ericka Taplin a job, she does it,” Shaw said. “Clare did a great job on Micaela.”

“They have an excellent team,” Sacred Heart coach Debbie Laux said. “North played good defense inside. They shut Sarah and Micaela down. They also did a good job on the boards, which created a lot of transition points for them. We did not play up to par and could never really get going.”

North senior Ally Delano recorded 17 points and nine rebounds and junior Hanny Podgursky tallied 10 points.

Freshman Audrey Craffey (5 points), junior Renee Shapiro (3 points), and senior Shannon Stockman and sophomore Erin Lippa (2 points) also contributed for the Lady Spartans.

Senior Mary Rose Gaulin (6 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals), sophomore Liz Hill (5 points, 3 rebounds, 4 assists), junior Alisa Schaefer (4 points), senior Maura Tomm (2 points), sophomore Tori Sippel (2 points, 3 rebounds) and junior Mia DiFrancesco (6 rebounds) also contributed for Sacred Heart.

North, the top seed for the Section VI Class AA Tournament, hosted Jamestown in the AA quarterfinals on Tuesday, but information about the game was unavailable before press time.

The winner plays either Kenmore West or Clarence at 7:30 p.m. Friday.

“We are playing at a high level and peaking at the right time,” Shaw said.

Completing an undefeated regular season is a major accomplishment. What is the next goal?

“States, but we’re taking it one game at a time,” Ahern said. “If we lost and played our best game, that is all you can ask for.”

Sacred Heart

The Sharks headed into the North game after beating St. Mary’s of Lancaster, 63-44, at home on Wednesday, Feb. 17.

The Sharks led 20-12 after the first quarter; 36-24, at halftime; and 53-36 after three quarters.

Sacred Heart got huge games from Ryan (22 points, 4 rebounds, 6 steals, 6 blocks, assist) and Young (21 points, 14 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists, steal).

“They were feeding off each other,” Laux said. “If Sarah was double-teamed in the paint, she kicked the ball out and found Micaela for a couple threes.”

Gaulin (6 points, 5 steals, 2 rebounds), Tomm (6 points, 3 steals, 3 assists, 2 rebounds), Hill (6 points, 4 assists, 3 steals, 2 rebounds), Schaefer (2 points) and DiFrancesco (6 rebounds) also contributed.

Sacred Heart (17-6, 8-1) hosted Nichols in its regular-season finale at home on Monday, but information about the game was unavailable before press time.

The Sharks will play a yet-to-be determined team in a Monsignor Martin Association playoff game on March 1 at Villa Maria College.

email: pnagy@beenews.com

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