A lot was expected from the Orchard Park High School girls basketball team a year ago. The talented and senior-heavy team was the favorite in Class AA all season long and delivered with a Section VI championship.
It’s a little bit different this season. Seven seniors graduated from that championship team, but the Quakers certainly aren’t going to give away that top spot without a fight.
Orchard Park took another step forward on Thursday night with an impressive defensive performance, posting a 47-29 win over Lancaster in ECIC I action on the road.
“We’re slowly building,” coach Gary Janas said. “We’re not where we need to be yet but we’re making progress and with a totally new team, but these girls are making baby steps every day.”
The win was the fourth in a row for Orchard Park, which moved to 9-3 overall and 7-1 in ECIC I. It’s a different look from last year when the Quakers went 22-2 and won their three Section VI playoff games by a combined 77 points. But folks already know now not to sleep on OP when it matters the most.
“I think we have pretty good chemistry,” said senior Celeste O’Connor, a fourth-year varsity player. “I’m pretty happy. I don’t think we’re an underdog necessarily but we’re not the top either. Everything’s kind of even, nobody knows what’s going to happen. I think we have a chance at it. Our biggest challenge is Frontier, but after that who knows?”
The Quakers won this one with defense, holding an opponent below 50 points for the 12th time in 12 tries this season. The Legends scored just one field goal in the first half and despite an off night on the offensive end, OP was able to build a lead.
“They ran a 3-2 zone defense and that’s what we run so we know where the weaknesses are and we were able to put on the pressure,” Janas said. “But the biggest thing was to not let them drive. If we can contain them to the outside, we know we have the height for rebounds, let them shoot from the outside. If they’re going to beat us from the outside, so be it. But I’ll roll the dice.”
Lancaster hit just 2-of-17 from 3-point range and shot around 30 percent from inside. The Legends were held to just two Haley Kirisits free throws in the first quarter. A Stephanie Herrnreiter bucket with 6:50 left in the second quarter was the only made field goal for the Legends in the first half.
“It was a strange game for us,” Lancaster coach Jayson Jaskier said. “We had good looks at the basket and sometimes they just don’t go in .They’re a very good team, they play aggressive defense, and sometimes, it’s just not your night.”
O’Connor led all scorers with 10 points. Madison Stevenson, Leah Harrigan, and Ali Miller added 8 apiece, and Lily Flannery scored 7 for the Quakers. Stevenson added 10 rebounds and O’Connor had 7 of OP’s 13 steals on the night.
Alyssa Backert led Lancaster (2-10 overall, 0-7 in ECIC I) with 10 points. Recent junior varsity call up Kendyl Kerner added 6 off the bench for the Legends.
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