By MIKE MEILER
Niagara Gazette — Three years, three Niagara-Orleans League championships and three consecutive trips to the Section VI Class B-2 finals for the Wilson girls basketball team.
With an athletic team that blends experience with youth and athleticism, this year’s squad seems primed for another long sectional run.
Led by a quartet of captains — seniors Jamie Curry, Malorie Gagnon, Kate Placek and junior Emily Lasher — the Lakewomen thrive on turning defense into offense and running the floor.
“We’ve had a good start to the season so far,” coach Brian Baker said. “We beat a tough Starpoint team in the opener of our tip-off tournament, and then we beat Lew-Port in the championship.
“We still have games against Nichols and Holy Angels coming up, and hopefully those games will get us ready for the season.”
Curry, a four-year varsity player, is the team’s leader. Coming from a lineage of Wilson athletes, including her sister, Jessica, and five cousins, she brings experience and flexibility to the court. She was named honorable mention to the All-Western New York team as a junior and is off to a fast start this season, leading Wilson in points, assists and steals while being named MVP of the Wilson Tip-Off Tournament.
“She’s our point guard, but she can really play any position on the floor,” Baker said. “We move her around a lot.
“She’s been a great player for us. She’s a great senior leader and we’re looking for big things from her.”
Curry, Gagnon and Placek are the only seniors on the team. Gagnon and Placek, a guard and a forward, are both in their third seasons on varsity.
“(Gagnon) controls the floor,” Baker said. “She really runs a lot of what we do. She’s a very good defender and is very physical. She’s only about 5-foot-1, so teams look at her like she’s undersized, but she plays like she’s 6-foot.
“Kate is very fast and a is a very good rebounder. We look for her to get up the floor in transition and get to the hoop.”
Lasher plays both guard and forward. A junior in her third year on the team, she serves as a scoring threat and provides a lethal 1-2 punch with Curry.
“She’s been up since her freshman year, and we’re looking for really big things from her,” Baker said. “She scored 15 against Starpoint and played a lot of AAU-ball this summer. She’s going to have to be a big contributor for us.”
The team’s fifth starter is junior Dana Smith, another guard/forward hybrid. Smith is the Lakewomen’s tallest player at 5-foot-10, but has the ability to knock down open jumpers from the perimeter. She uses her size defensively, as evidenced by her 12 blocks in the tip-off tourney.
Despite the presence of Smith, size may be the only disadvantage the team will face this season. They lost 6-foot-1 senior Courtney Murray (Niagara County Community College) last season, along with fellow graduated seniors Maegan Buckner and Kailey Schultz. Baker said his team will look to up the pressure defensively and score in transition to take advantage of its athleticism.
“We’re very athletic. We play a very physical game, and we like to get after it defensively,” he said. “If we can create some turnovers on defense, then we can get out on offense. We’re looking to get after it on defense and switch some things up with each possession. We want to keep the other teams off balance, and if we can get out in our press and cause some turnovers and get some layups, then that obviously helps our offense.”
Wilson’s success doesn’t begin and end with sectionals, though. The team will have to make it through a tough N-O league schedule to set itself up for postseason success.
“There are some very good coaches in the league, and every day we’ve got to be able to bring it,” Baker said. “I saw Newfane last night and they look very good. Just checking box scores, Akron and Medina are off to good starts, and Barker and Albion will be real good, too. The league will be very balanced.”
The Lakewomen don’t start league play until Dec. 20 against Roy-Hart.Follow high school sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.