By Mike Meiler
Niagara Gazette — The Niagara-Wheatfield girls basketball team made a storybook run through the Section VI Class AA playoffs this season. Unfortunately for the No. 6 Falcons, the story came to an abrupt end Tuesday night when they ran into top-seeded Jamestown.
The Red Raiders asserted themselves from the start, harassing the Falcons into turnovers and hitting shots from all over the court en route to a 99-63 win at NCCC and the Class AA title.
“They caused some early turnovers, and we didn’t get into the game,” N-W coach Diane Fegatilli said. “Hats off to them, they’re a great team.”
Anne Campion, who’s brother Tommy helped knock off the Niagara Falls boys team on Saturday, kicked off the scoring with a contested 3-pointer from the left elbow. The Red Raiders scored 14 points off of turnovers in the first quarter as they jumped out to a 28-12 lead. N-W sophomore Allyson Czaja scored nine of the Falcons’ points in the quarter.
The Falcons were nearly able to match the Red Raiders’ pace in the second, scoring 21 points to Jamestown’s 25. Any hopes of a comeback were squashed in the third quarter, though, when Jamestown hit five 3s and pushed its lead to 35 points.
“They go quite deep and they’re able to send players in waves at you,” Fegatilli said. “They trap really well. ... They go to the basket well and they kick out. They’re very good shooters.”
Senior captain Rachel Pawlak led the Falcons with 21 points, including three 3s. Czaja finished with 19, while co-captain Melissa Smith ended up with 16.
The loss marks the end of the careers of Pawlak, Smith and reserve guards Rebecca Campbell and Meghan Maranto. Fegatilli raved about the group after the loss.
“They’re just tremendous, basketball players but also people,” she said. “Rebecca and Meghan didn’t get much playing time, but I give them credit because they came to practice every day and made Rachel and Melissa better players.”
She added that Smith and Pawlak, who played a combined seven years on varsity, were a “joy to watch, coach and be with. (They’re) excellent student athletes, they really epitomize the word.”Follow high school sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.