AMHERST - Dunkirk's most successful girls' basketball season in recent memory came to an end Wednesday night, as the No. 4 Lady Marauders (15-6) fell to the top-seeded Olean Lady Huskies (17-3), 43-36, during Section 6 Class B-1 semifinal action at Williamsville East High School.
"I'm so very proud of the way these girls played the entire season and in (Wednesday's) game," Dunkirk head coach Sarah Bogardus said. "They led Dunkirk to its best record in 20-plus years with 15 wins and two playoff victories. And they really gave Olean a run for its money (Wednesday). I told them, win or lose, if they gave 32 minutes of effort they should hold their heads high. And each and every one of these girls can really hold their heads high, because they played a heck of a game."
The game went back-and-forth for the first three quarters, before the Lady Huskies were able hit key free throws down the stretch, punching their ticket for Saturday's Class B-1 title game at Niagara County Community College.
OBSERVER?Photo by Gib?Snyder III
Dunkirk’s Dimary Maisonet looks to pass the ball while being guarded by an?Olean defender during Wednesday’s Section 6 Class B-1 semifinal game at Williamsville East High?School.
"Down the stretch we played smart," Olean head coach Don Scholla said. "Our bigs got a few key offensive rebounds off missed free throws, because we weren't making our free throws like we should have been."
The Lady Huskies struggled from the field and the foul line as they were without Emily Bantleman, arguably their best player.
"She's just sick," Scholla said. "She hasn't been in school the last two days and hopefully we get her back for Saturday's game. But people stepped up.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy," Scholla said. "We had beaten them pretty lopsided at home, but at their place - we actually played without Emily Bantleman again there - but I think we only won by five."
Olean led 9-8 after the first quarter and 18-17 at halftime, before ballooning its lead to six, 32-26, as the teams entered the fourth quarter.
See DUNKIRK, Page B4
"All we needed was a little lead," Scholla said. "More than one point or two points. Once we did that, it settled our girls down a little bit."
Leading the way for the Lady Marauders was senior Khee Nance, who had a game-high 21 points to go with 14 rebounds.
"She's definitely a game changer," Bogardus said of Nance. "Khee has that instinct that you can't teach. She's really driven and she's motivated and she played a heck of a game (Wednesday). And we're obviously going to miss her very much."
Although the Lady Marauders hung with the CCAA Division 1 champion Lady Huskies, they were unable to combat the sheer size Olean was able to put in the paint.
"Obviously their size slowed us down on offense," Bogardus noted. "I think sometimes, offensively, we play a little bit timid when we go up against a bigger team. Because of that, because of the presence their bigs make in the middle on defense, we really struggled (Wednesday) on offense."
Besides Nance, the only other Dunkirk players to score were fellow seniors Lacey Clark and Dimary Maisonet.
"We were at our best when we were pushing the ball up and down the court and fastbreaking," Bogardus said. "Unfortunately we just couldn't get into a rhythm."
Clark finished with eight points and Maisonet seven.
If having to contend with 6-foot 2-inch Maggie Moore and 5-10 Sara Ziegler - who tied Kaylee Pearl for the team-high in points with 15 - wasn't hard enough, the Lady Marauders had to play much of the second half without Clark, who picked up her fourth foul early in the third quarter, before fouling out in the latter half of the fourth quarter.
"It was so tough," Bogardus said of having Clark in foul trouble. "We basically played a whole game without her. She is an invaluable asset both offensively and defensively and I feel like we struggled getting into a rhythm offensively without her on the court."
On the offensive side however, Olean's size didn't make a difference, as Dunkirk was able to hold Moore to just four points, despite her having four inches on Dunkirk's tallest player.
"We really studied the film from our two games (with Olean) this year," Bogardus said. "We really wanted to make it a point to slow their offense down and stop their pick-and-rolls and their backdoor cuts. And I was really pleased with how we executed defensively."
According to Bogardus, what ended up coming back to bite her Lady Marauders was their inability to limit the Lady Huskies from getting to the offensive rebounds.
"We were unable to limit their shots to one," Bogardus noted. "Each possession we gave up a lot of offensive rebounds and I think that ultimately came back to hurt us, because we were giving them second-, third- and fourth-chance opportunities."
No matter the outcome of the game, Bogardus couldn't have been prouder of her team, and her four seniors, Nance, Clark, Maisonet and Joyce Bomasuto.
"These past two years that I've had the honor to coach them, they really have transformed Dunkirk basketball," Bogardus said of her seniors. "And I really think they earned the respect from our community, all our opponents and people in Western New York. And I really think these girls have started a tradition. It really has been such a fun ride and I just couldn't ask for more dedicated and coachable girls."