WNY Athletics

Grand Island Girls survive upset-minded McKinley to reach semifinals

Grand Island was the clear favorite on paper. Playoff games, though, aren’t played on paper.

Seventh-seeded McKinley gave the Vikings all they could handle but Grand Island was able to make the plays in the fourth quarter and posted a 42-31 win over the Macks in a Class A1 Section VI quarterfinal game on Thursday.

“I think we definitely did underestimate them,” Grand Island forward Samantha Bailey said. “Once we were able to get into our flow we were OK. But anything can happen in sectionals.”

After scoring just 15 points in first half, the Vikings picked things up offensively in the second. Grand Island seized control of the game with an 8-0 run to start the fourth quarter.

“The biggest key for us was to play our type of basketball,” Vikings coach Kristin Wegrzyn said. “We let them run us in the first half which is definitely McKinley’s game. When we finally started to run our stuff and determine the pace of the game, we were obviously able to make more shots.”

The win lifts Grand Island (13-7) to the Section VI semifinals at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at Clarence High School. Grand Island will face sixth-seeded Hamburg, which upset Kenmore East by a 61-47 count on Thursday.

“It just keeps getting tougher,” Wegrzyn said. “You just have to prepare the best you can. Everyone is in a win-or-go-home situation so you have to be ready.”

Meanwhile, McKinley ended the season at 9-12 – a very respectable mark considering the Macks were 1-7 on New Year’s Day. The recent surge had McKinley feeling it could battle with the Vikings.

“I was coming in here saying it was 50-50,” Macks coach Sara Torres said “When we beat Kenmore West on Tuesday (in a sectional prequarterfinal), we were the underdog then too and nobody thought we could win. We had a real rough start to the season but we turned it around. We came in here, Grand Island is really good, but we knew we had a fighting chance.”

Bailey scored six of her game-high 12 points in the final quarter for the Vikings. Co-captain Claire Brandon added 10 and Lydia Sweeney chipped in eight.

“We needed to calm down a little bit,” Bailey said. “The biggest thing that was getting us was the offensive rebounds that they were getting. We really need to focus on boxing out and getting those rebounds and then keeping our composure on offense.”

The Macks had a tough time inside but were able to make things happen from the outside. Victoria Wilson led McKinley with 10 points and added eight.

“We told the girls to shoot,” Macks coach Sara Torres said. “We do have outside shooters. We couldn’t really penetrate the ball so we took our shots from the outside, which is more of what I encouraged them to do.”

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