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The 2018-19 Niagara Frontier League girls basketball champions Grand Island Vikings. (Photos by David Yarger)
The 2018-19 Niagara Frontier League girls basketball champions Grand Island Vikings. (Photos by David Yarger)

Grand Island wins girls b-ball NFL title

by yarger
Thu, Feb 14th 2019 10:55 pm

By David Yarger

Tribune Editor

Thursday night, the Grand Island Vikings defeated the Lockport Lions, 45-33 in the Niagara Frontier League title game at Lockport High School.

In the first quarter, the game was more defensive minded, but a 3-pointer from Vikings senior captain Sam Bailey with under 10 seconds left, gave the Vikings lead after one frame, 9-8.

In the second quarter, Lydia Sweeney scored 5 of her 7 points at the foul line, including three from the stripe after a foul on a 3-pointer. Along with Sweeney, Kayla Robinson added 4 points in the quarter as the Vikings took a 20-16 lead into the break.

In the first half, Sweeney, along with a few steals, had 9 points, while the rest of the team (Robinson, Bailey, Grace Carey and Julia Eichel) had 11.

Bailey started a 9-2 Vikings run with her second trey of the game. The run queued a timeout from the Lions.

Following the timeout, Lockport went on a 6-0 run behind 4 points from Jasmine White, but the Vikings answered with the final two buckets on the quarter and led 33-24 after three quarters.

In the final quarter, Bailey started with her third 3-ball of the game, then Eichel added a bucket underneath the hoop after corralling a loose ball. A couple possessions thereafter, Lockport called a timeout with 5:06 remaining, down 38-24.

The Lions attempted to creep closer, as Ashlynn Johnson and Kourtney Krchniak added buckets, but it was too late, and the Vikings won the 2018-19 NFL championship.

For the Vikings, Sweeney led the way with a team-high 16 points, while Bailey added 11. Carey, Eichel and Robinson each had 6.

Grand Island coach Kristin Wegrzyn, of the NFL title-clinching win, and an undefeated league season (12-0) was thrilled to see the girls’ hard work pay off.

“It feels amazing,” Wegrzyn said. “I mean we had high expectations with the girls this summer and they put in the work in the offseason. I think it’s just great for them to see that if you put in the work in the offseason, you’re going to reap the benefits. And to go undefeated in our league is pretty exciting. … Coming in this year, our word was ‘finish,’ and we took it one game at a time. We didn’t think about the next game and that was crucial in our development.”

Wegrzyn added that having three girls in the top-nine for assists shows how much the team trusts each other.

“We haven’t had a championship since, I think, 2011-12 season, so it’s really nice to bring that home,” Wegrzyn said.

What helped fuel the Vikings climb to victory was the 9-2 run at the beginning of the second half, and Wegrzyn agreed that it was a gamechanger.

“We came out of the locker room making adjustments and they (Lockport) were really all post. … We had to play a little tougher, but really own the boards. That was our statement at halftime; we wanted them to leave their mark on this championship and it had to be done rebounding. Sam Bailey pulled down some big rebounds in the second half to limit their production on offense and it was huge to help make our run. Defense wins championships, that’s what they say,” Wegrzyn said.

The Vikings will now focus their talents to the Section VI Class A1 playoffs next week.

The Grand Island Vikings girls basketball captains. From left, Julia Eichel, Sam Bailey and Lydia Sweeney

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