by Larry Austin
Two weeks after Hamburg beat the Grand Island boys basketball team with a last-second shot in the Section VI playoffs, the Grand Island girls beat Hamburg with a last-second basket of their own to claim the Class A-1 title.
GI beat Hamburg 44-43 Saturday at Niagara County Community College in the championship and will play Pioneer Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at NCCC for the overall Class A title.
Basketball fans saw this scenario before, as Saturday's playoff game concluded in similarly dramatic fashion at the boys playoff game between the two schools on Feb. 22. In the boys Section VI game, the Vikings' erased a 7-point deficit, culminating when Quinn Carey hit a 3-point shot to give his team a 1-point lead, but Hamburg's Tom Lipomi swished an 18-foot jumpshot on a baseline inbounds play to beat the Vikings at the buzzer, 52-51.
In the girls game, Hamburg trailed the entire fourth quarter until Sam Villarini hit a 3-point shot to put the Bulldogs up by 1 in the waning seconds, but Grand Island's Cassie Oursler scored on a baseline inbounds play with 4 seconds left to give GI the win.
Oursler was in the bleachers at Hamburg to witness the Vikings' heart-wrenching loss at the buzzer. "We had to get revenge for our boys, and we did," she said.
"It feels great," she said of winning in the last seconds. "I looked over at the other bench. They thought they had it and I was like, this is not happening. This is our game."
Oursler and Kallie Banker led the Vikings with 15 points each. Alexis Smith led the Bulldogs with 16 points. The win is the Vikings' fourth straight Section VI Class A-1 championship.
"We did exactly what was the plan," Oursler said of the baseline play. "We were using a pick from block to block and it worked. Grace Olszewski made a perfect pass and I finished it."
"We haven't used it at all this year," Banker said of the last baseline inbounds play. "In fact, my kids in the past would have known that play had I yelled it from the bench, but these kids had no idea so I had to call a timeout and set it up for them."
Hamburg had given a hard foul on Kallie Banker, last year's first team All-Western New York point guard, and were determined not to let her score a game-winner.
"They're going to throw two at Kallie, and they did, so we used Kallie as a decoy in that last play, so she took up two kids," Jen Banker said. "That left man-to-man instead of help for anybody else. This time they went with the decoy."
Hamburg executed their game plan on the last play as well, Hamburg coach Kelly Owens said, but the 6-foot, 2-inch Oursler was able to muscle the ball up over two defenders and score even while being fouled. She missed the ensuing free throw, but Hamburg couldn't advance the ball after the rebound to attempt a good shot.
"My kids were there, they were defending it," Owens said. "That's all I could ask them to do."