Often times the simplest mottos are the most meaningful.
Grand Island Girls Basketball coach Kristin Wegrzyn made her team’s 2018-19 rallying cry ‘finish.’
It’s a fitting focal point for the Vikings after last season ended with a heartbreaking two-point loss to the Hamburg Bulldogs in the semifinals. A game in which GI controlled the play for the game’s first 20 minutes.
Now the Vikings have the opportunity to put that to the ultimate test as they return to the Section VI Class A1 semifinals next week. Suitably, their opponent will be Hamburg.
“It’s a huge game [the semifinal],” said GI junior Lydia Sweeney, after her team’s 42-25 quarterfinal win over the North Tonawanda Lumberjacks Thursday night.
“We didn’t want to just get to that game, we wanted to get past it. Last year left a salty taste in our mouth. We’re using it as fuel to not let it happen again.”
Grand Island and the Bulldogs are scheduled for a 7 p.m. tip on Wednesday at Clarence High School.
“It would be really fitting to play Hamburg again,” Wegrzyn said before knowing the result of the Hamburg/Williamsville East game.
The Vikings certainly didn’t have their best offensive game of the year. But their defense made up for it, especially early on only allowing only one Lumberjack point in the opening quarter.
Both offenses picked things up in the second. GI’s Kayla Robinson got things going with a three-pointer. Sweeney added a bucket a few minutes later to extend the Viking lead to 15-1.
NT found a groove mid-way through the quarter. Emily McNeill hit a mid-range jumper sparking a 13-2 Lumberjack run to finish out the half, going into the locker room down 22-15.
GI came out on fire in the third scoring eight-straight points and took an 18-point lead into the final stanza.
Sweeney and teammate Sam Bailey each had 13 points to lead all scorers.
In preparation for her team’s impending game, Wegrzyn beefed up the Vikings’ non-league schedule this year. Wegrzyn scheduled St. Mary’s, Williamsville East, Southwestern and Orchard Park, teams with strong post players like the Bulldogs.
“That was my point of putting the schedule together the way we did,” Wegrzyn said. “The non-league games were put together to hopefully give us that ‘umph’ and that extra experience to get over the hump.”
Wednesday will be the third year in a row Grand Island will take on Hamburg in the semifinals, with the Vikings losing the two previous meetings.
“You want a little bit of payback,” Sweeney said. “To beat Hamburg would make going to the finals that much better.”
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