MAYVILLE - It's hard enough, as the old saying goes, to beat a team three times in a single season.
But four times? Not a chance.
Unless, it seems, you're the Sherman Lady Wildcats.
Bridget Yaw of Sherman brings the ball up court while being defended by Ellicottville’s Rebecca Golley during Section 6 Class D semifinal action at Chautauqua Lake on Tuesday night. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Lisa Monacelli
Defying the odds, No. 2 Sherman - behind solid offensive outputs in the first and fourth frames, especially, and suffocating defense on Janae Hamilton - toppled No. 3 Ellicottville for the fourth time in as many tries this season, along the way ejecting the Lady Eagles from Section 6 Class D playoffs, 49-37, on Tuesday night.
"They know everything we do, every back-cut we make and every screen," Sherman coach Mel Swanson said, "and the three of us in the league - Clymer, Ellicottville and us - are so even that any of us could win on a given night. So for us to be able to win four times, if you'd have told me that at the beginning of the season I'd have said you were dreaming."
No dreaming, as it turned out, just cold, hard reality.
While Sam Delcamp blanketed Hamilton down low on the defensive end - the senior standout managed just 14 points all game - Elle Reed continued to be her solidly-consistent self, tallying a game-high 28 points to go along with 11 rebounds and six steals.
At no time did she make a bigger impression on the final outcome, however, than in the first and final quarters.
Reed netted seven points in the first quarter, including five during an 11-0 run spanning the period's last 3:14 that helped the Lady Wildcats sprint out to an early, 17-6 lead. Then in the fourth she connected on 12 of her squads' 18 points, including six from the free throw line during a 9-0 surge over the last three minutes of the game, helping to balloon what had been the slimmest of margins - one point, 31-30 - into a comfortable 12 by game's end.
"We knew we were going to go to her," Swanson said of his senior, who is averaging a Section 6-high 32 points per game. "She's been the nucleus of our offense all season, so it wasn't a surprise. It puts a lot of pressure on a young lady to have to score 25 a night for her team to win, but night in and night out she steps up."
Also stepping up was the defense, whose main focus was shutting down Hamilton.
Making life difficult in the paint - Delcamp and Reed and whomever else was nearby would swarm the Ellicottville senior whenever she got the ball near the hoop - Hamilton was forced to work from beyond the 3-point arc for much of the contest.
Only in the third quarter did she find some space down low, which allowed her to score five points and bring Ellicottville to within one point.
"She came outside," Swanson said. "We were giving help down low really well. Elle was helping on one side and we gave up a few shots (on the perimeter) by we knew we'd give them up in order to help down low. When a team has a star like (Hamilton), you've got to control her and if others beat you, they beat you.
"We did a really great job defensively tonight."
After a pair of ties over the first quarter's opening three minutes, Sherman captured the lead behind a free throw from Delcamp, who finished with eight points.
Sherman would never trail again.
That is not to say, however, that Ellicottville went quietly.
Despite connecting on just 2 of their first 16 shots from the field, the Lady Eagles slowly fought their way back into the contest, going on a 14-4 run over the bulk of the second period to cut the deficit to just one, 21-20, with 1:10 left in the half.
"It wasn't like they were going to go away," Swanson said. "We knew they weren't going to quit."
And though they undoubtedly had designs of taking the lead, and momentum, into the locker rooms, Reed quickly extinguished those thoughts by drilling a jumper in transition and a half-court 3-pointer at the buzzer.
Along with Elle Reed, Danielle Reed hauled in seven boards and Bridget Yaw tallied six points, dished three assists and made five rebounds.
Sherman, now 18-2 this season, will be looking to capture its second sectional title in the past three years when it squares off against Pine Valley (12-8), 6:30 p.m., Saturday at Jamestown High School.
Hall 2 0 5, Szpaicher 3 0 7, Golley 2 0 4, Wendel 0 0 0, J. Hamilton 4 6 14, M. Hamilton 3 0 7, Wilson 0 0 0. Totals 14 6 37.
Rater 0 2 2, Luden 0 0 0, E. Reed 10 6 28, Coccarelli 1 0 3, Delcamp 3 2 8, Yaw 3 0 6, D. Reed 0 2 2. Totals 17 12 49.
3-point goals: Hall, Szpaicher, M. Hamilton, E. Reed 2, Coccarelli.
Ellicottville6 14 10 7 - 37
Sherman17 9 5 18 - 49