Clarence Remains Unbeaten
A battle of unbeaten teams certainly did not disappoint on Thursday night as both teams fought to the very end to keep a perfect record heading into the New Year.
In a close, thrilling game the Clarence Red Devils (3-0, 7-0) defeated the hosting Sacred Heart Sharks (4-1) by a score of 53-47 to win the Art Dobson Memorial High School Girls Basketball Tournament Championship and remain one of the few teams in WNY with no losses.
Clarence was up 44-29 at the end of the third quarter and most in the building thought that the Red Devils were going to win without much trouble, but Sacred Heart had other plans.
In the fourth quarter, the Sharks came out on a tear going on an 11-2 run in the first four and a half minutes of the quarter cutting the Clarence lead to six with a little more than three minutes to go. Then freshman Siobhan Ryan knocked down a three-pointer to bring Scared Heart within one possession.
Ryan came back in the second half after going out with a technical late in the first half, ending the night with 13 points.
Luckily for the Red Devils, senior Lauren Cullinan took matters into her own hands driving through the paint, deking past defenders and scoring to stop the bleeding a little bit.
According to her coach, Cullinan is important on both ends of the floor. “She’s always the girl defending the best player on the team,” Clarence Head Coach Erin Booker said.
Cullinan’s score was then quickly followed up by a lay-up from Ella Eckert that gave Clarence a five point lead with less than two minutes left.
“Ella is always picking everyone up, her intensity brings everyone else’s intensity up”, Booker said. “She brings 110% effort to games and practice.”
Despite earning a double-double, Eckert insists it was a team win, saying “We all played together as a team and everyone stepped up.”
But the Sharks weren’t done quite yet. Junior Micaela Ryan went to the foul line a couple times, helping Sacred Heart get within three points with less than a minute to go.
Micaela Ryan led her team with 16 points, including an eight for ten performance from the foul line. Ryan, like her sister, left the game late in the first half and played through a slight ankle sprain.
In the final minute, the Red Devil defense finally clamped down and Eckert scored on a lay-up with 40 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
“We stayed really mentally tough, having the lead we did and beginning to lose it.. not to mention a few of our key players getting in foul trouble, our other girls stepped up,” Booker said.
Sacred Heart Head Coach Jack Coppola was proud of the way his team fought back in the game, saying “We dug ourselves a big hole but we really fought back and had some chances to win. I am really pleased with this young team.”
After the game, Cullinan admitted that beating Sacred Heart and being one of two large schools with perfect records heading into the New Year was a big deal. “They’re ranked No. 3 and we’re No. 7 in the area”, Cullinan said. “It’s a big win for us.”
Clarence will have its home opener Tuesday as they host Depew at 7:30pm. Sacred Heart will open up league play on Tuesday as they host Niagara Catholic at 5:30pm.