Johnstown tops Tamarac in sectional opener

PHOTOGRAPHER:
Johnstown’s Kanako Sasaki (11) dribbles past Tamarac’s Gabriella Cellucci during Saturday’s Section II Class B first-round game at Johnstown High School. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)

JOHNSTOWN — After ending the regular season with back-to-back losses, the Johnstown girls basketball team looked to get back on the winning track in the first round of sectional play Saturday.

The seventh-seeded Lady Bills did just that with a 69-49 victory over 10th-seeded Tamarac in a Section II Class B first-round contest at Johnstown High School.

“All-in-all it was a really solid win for us,” Derwin said. “Tamarac is a solid team. I thought [Tamarac] came ready to compete tonight and we matched that.”

Abby VandeWalker scored a game-high 26 points, including seven 3-pointers, to lead Johnstown, while Jaden Wilson finished with 17 points. Anna Lee added 11 points for the Lady Bills.

“Abby [VandeWalker] had an exceptional game again,” Derwin said. “It’s becoming the norm for her.”

Jordyn Sorel scored 17 points for the Bengals, while Syrita Faraj added 16 points.

Tamarac scored the first three points of the game before Johnstown answered with an 18-7 burst to take an 18-10 lead. VandeWalker scored 10 of those points for Johnstown.

The Bengals got a late first-quarter 3-pointer from Gianna Bucciero to make it 18-13 after eight minutes of play.

After Tamarac scored the first points of the second quarter on a basket by Faraj to make it 18-15, the Lady Bills got their offense rolling.

Johnstown outscored the Bengals 21-7 in the quarter to take a 39-20 lead at the half.

“We had a good offensive effort tonight,” Derwin said. “It was good to see the ball go in the hole. We struggle sometimes with that.”

VandeWalker scored nine of those point to push her first-half total to 19 points, while Wilson had five points in the second quarter for Johnstown.

Tamarac got as close as 13 points in the third quarter, starting the second half with a 10-4 run to make it 43-30.

“We had a little lull in the third quarter, but we battled back,” Derwin said.

However, the Lady Bills regained some breathing roon by outscoring the Bengals 7-2 in the final 1:22 of the quarter to take a 50-32 lead into the fourth. The surge was capped by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer by Lee.

Johnstown didn’t let Tamarac any closer than 14 points the rest of the way, despite racking up five fouls in the first 2:19 of the final quarter, which allowed the Bengals to shoot a pair of free throws each time they were fouled the rest of the way.

The Lady Bills struggled with fouls throughout the game as they sent the Bengals to the line 30 times, including 10 each in the first and fourth quarters. However, Tamarac converted just 14 of those attempts.

“Foul trouble has been a problem for us,” Derwin said. “We were able to manage it tonight.”

Johnstown outscored the Bengals by a 19-17 margin in the final quarter to seal the first-round victory.

With the win, the Lady Bills improved to 11-0 in games in which they have held the opposition to 50 points or fewer.

“Defensively, we were pretty good at times,” Derwin said.

Johnstown (12-9 overall) advances to face second-seeded Fonda-Fultonville (18-3 overall) in the quarterfinals Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. The Lady Braves posted a 46-31 victory over 15th-seeded Glens Falls in their first-round contest. The Lady Bills and Fonda-Fultonville split their two regular-season meetings, with each winning in their home floor.

“It will be interesting,” Derwin said of his team’s third meeting with Fonda-Fultonville. “It should be a good, competitive game.”

Johnstown 69, Tamarac 49

Tamarac 13 7 12 17 — 49

Johnstown 18 21 11 19 — 69

Tamarac

Bucciero 1-0-3, Cellucci 1-0-2, Faraj 5-6-16, Machnick 2-4-8, Sorel 6-5-17, Wagner 1-0-3. Totals 16-15-49.

Johnstown

Lee 4-2-11, Mraz 1-0-2, Pratt 1-0-2, K. Sasaki 1-0-2, Tesi 3-2-8, VandeWalker 8-3-26, Wilson 5-7-17.

3-point goals: Tamarac 2 (Bucciero, Wagner); Johnstown 9 (VandeWalker 7, Lee, Mraz).

By Paul Wager

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