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Williamsville South five-peats as Class A1 champion

The Williamsville South girls basketball team made some history on Sunday afternoon.

The Billies defeated Hamburg, 72-40, in the championship game of the Class A1 bracket of the Section VI tournament. The game was played at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.

Here’s the fun part of the story, at least from Williamsville South’s perspective. It was the Billies’ fifth straight Class A1 championship, a run that includes a state title. No team in Section VI girls basketball history has ever had a longer one.

“Oh, wow,” Kristen Dolan said upon hearing that piece of information.

The only other team to win five straight in the same class is Grand Island, which did it from 2009 to 2013 – in other words, in the years immediately preceding Williamsville South’s run.

“It’s an honor,” Dolan said. “I have so much respect for Coach (Jenepher) Banker. I remember bringing my little girls to the gym when her teams were playing here on a yearly basis. I still stay in touch with Coach Banker and share a little bit of coaching information.”

That sort of winning tradition is difficult to imagine, thanks to the ever-changing cast of high school sports.

“I just started from the ground up,” Dolan said. “All summer, we kept playing. We’d grab a group and go play. The young kids used to play with them. They love being in the gym.”

The Billies were the top seed in the class, and they are ranked as the second-best large school in Western New York. Once again, they showed at the start that they could destroy any hopes that an opposing team might have of hanging around for a while in gaining confidence.

On Wednesday in the semifinals, Williamsville South ran off a string of layups in the first quarter that led to an easy win over Williamsville East. This time it was an inside and outside game.

After Amari DeBerry scored a couple of layups and a three-pointer, Lauren Lassiter hit on three straight three-pointers. That made the score 16-4 after only three minutes and 27 seconds of play. No, this wasn’t going to be the Bulldogs’ day, either.

“I think I just love playing on this court,” Lassiter said. “We had played all season to get here, so we came out firing.”

When DeBerry is dominating the area around the basket and Lassiter is hitting from the next area code, the defense doesn’t know what to stop.

“We use each other to open us up,” DeBerry said. “It’s hard to stop just one of us.”

“There are a lot of teams with just one good player, but we have several of them,” Lassiter said. “Hannah (Dolan) is a great point guard, and Tatyjana (Scalisi) is averaging about 23 rebounds a game.”

Hamburg put on a little flurry to get the margin back to 20-10. Then Williamsville South hit four straight shots around the basket to lead, 28-12, early in the second quarter. A 14-2 burst in the final three and one-half minutes of the half made it a 47-20 game, leaving the final 16 minutes as essentially a scrimmage.

“We have no reason to hold anything back now,” DeBerry said.

Dolan finished the game with 20 points, while Lassiter had 18 and DeBerry finished with 17. Tara Geary had 16 points for Hamburg.

Next up for Williamsville South is a Wednesday night game for the Class A title, with the winner earning a ticket to the Far West Regionals. The playoffs have been something of a joyride for the Billies so far. Now it’s just a matter of keeping a foot on the gas pedal.

“We’re definitely coming together as a team,” Lassiter said. “It’s getting better every single game.”

When you win a Section VI title by more than 30 points, as Williamsville South did, the celebration gets muted. — Budd Bailey (@WDX2BB) March 5, 2018

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