Gretta Dry’s impossible running left hander with just under 30 seconds to go Tuesday night lifted the No. 2 Lockport Lady Lions to an improbable 38-34 comeback win over the visiting No. 7 Frontier Lady Falcons in a Section VI Class AA girls basketball quarterfinal at Clarence High School.
With the narrow win, head coach Bill Shaw’s Lady Lions (17-2) advance to play Niagara Frontier League rival and No. 6-seeded Niagara-Wheatfield (14-5) at 6 p.m. Friday night in a AA semifinal at Kenmore West High School. Friday’s two AA semis were originally scheduled to be played at Sweet Home, but a leaky roof has forced a venue change.
Dry capped off a brilliant 12-point second half (14 points total, 4 rebounds, 2 assists) by taking a fast-break pass from senior Alexis Cheatham (8 points, 3 assists) — and with a Lady Falcon draped all over her — went to the left hand and threw up a soft one-hander that rolled around and in with just 27.2 seconds left in the game, breaking a 34-34 tie.
Moments later, Frontier’s Caisey Lipka traveled and the Lady Falcons were forced to foul, sending Cheatham to the charity stripe to ice it with a pair of freethrows with just 17 seconds left.
“We played an amazing game. The scouting report was good and we executed our game plan well,” said Lady Falcons third-year head coach Rick Mihalik. “What we wanted to do is blanket Franco, (Alyssa) Wagner and (Sara) Franco. If they were going to beat us, it was going to have to be someone else. Dry hit a circus shot with we have to applaud her and her team.”
Added Shaw about his promising freshman guard Dry, “She’s really growing up fast. If she keeps this up, she could be something special down the road. She certainly didn’t play like a freshman tonight. She hit some big shots.”
The Lady Falcons dominated most of the action, especially early on before a large, stunned, partisan crowd in the Lady Lions’ Den.
A Dry jumper got things started for LHS, but a bucket by Caisey Lipka (8 points, 5 rebounds, block) and a three-pointer from their best player, Natalie Galus (14 points, 2 steals) gave the visitors a 5-2 lead.
A Cheatham free-throw and an inside bucket by physical sophomore forward Wagner (10 points, 8 rebounds, 4 steals, block) off a nice feed from sophomore Hailey Bechtold (3 rebounds) tied the game at 5-5, but the Lady Falcons got another bucket from Galus, then Lipka completed a three-point play with 2:30 left in the first and Frontier led 10-5.
The Lady Falcons controlled the boards and the ball the rest of the quarter, capping it with a Kaitlyn Lipka offensive rebound basket that beat the buzzer, giving Frontier a 12-5 lead after one.
Frontier continued to frustrate Lockport in the early part of the second. Cheatham’s three-pointer cut the deficit to 12-8, but the Lady Falcons reeled off five straight points and Shaw called a full timeout, trailing 17-8 with 5:43 left before the half.
Wagner converted on a rebound basket, went 2-for-2 from the charity stripe, then added a running left hander as the Lady Lions closed out the second with Alyssa’s 6-0 run to trail by just three at the half, 17-14.
“We weren’t playing as a team in the first half,” Dry said. “I think we were listening to the fans too much and getting too excited. They were taking Sara and Alexis out of the game and that left me Allie (Cavagnaro) and Alyssa open. We didn’t put ourselves down and came out stronger in the second half.”
Dry and the unsung senior stalwart Cavagnaro (4 points, 5 rebounds, 2 assists) found the range in the third quarter from the right and left side, respectively. Cavagnaro’s second straight bucket off a feed from Dry midway through the stanza lifted Lockport into its first lead (21-20) since the first minute of the first quarter.
Dry drained another outside jumper from the right side, then Franco added a rebound bucket to make it 26-21 as Lockport looked like they might start running away with it. But Lipka’s tre brought Frontier closer. Lockport closed things off with a Wagner bucket from Cheatham and the blue and gold led after three quarters, 28-24.
A great scoop shot by Galus then an inside bucket by Frontier’s Jocelyn Kempf (2 points, 11 rebounds) tied it quickly in the fourth. Lexi Rockey’s jumper from the right side gave Frontier the lead again, 30-28, with under six minutes left. Cheatham drained a running jumper, but Rockey scored again as Frontier called a timeout, leading 32-30 with just 4:45 left to play.
Dry’s jumper from the right side tied it 32-32, then moments later, Dry went up with the first of two running left-handers, this one off the glass and in, as LHS led, 34-32.
Galus went 2-for-2 from the line to tie the game for the last time at 34-34 with 54.9 seconds left in the game, setting the stage for Dry’s amazing go-ahead shot.
“The biggest thing I’m happy about is that we came out and we were ready to play against the number one team in Western New York and we were on top at the end of the first quarter, at the half and in the fourth quarter,” Mihalik said.
Franco had 11 rebounds and two points for Lockport.
“They had a great game plan and they executed it very well,” Shaw said. “We didn’t shoot well in the first half from the wings. Our footwork was bad and we heard people in the stands telling us to shoot. I tried to get them relaxed at halftime and they came out and knocked down the clutch shots when they needed to.”
Niagara-Wheatfield was an upset winner Friday night, knocking off No. 3 Lancaster, 55-43. Other winners on Friday were top-seeded Jamestown (16-3) and No. 5 Williamsville North (10-8). They’ll meet at 8 p.m. Friday night at Ken West in the other AA girls semifinal. Jamestown beat visiting No. 8 Orchard Park, 75-59, while visiting North downed No. 4 Niagara Falls, 52-51.