Keller, Ficarro compete at NCAA meet
By Rob Tucker
Special to the OBSERVER
SINCLAIRVILLE – Knowing she would be stepping onto the court as a high school basketball player for the last time later that evening, senior Shawna Raymond finagled some extra warmup time within the friendly confines of the Frewsburg High School gym on Wednesday afternoon.
Whether those extra shots had anything to do with her performance at Cassadaga Valley Central School during the Chautauqua County Exceptional Seniors Girls All-Star Game is debatable; that it was an award-winning showing, however, is not.
For when it was all said and done, the 5-foot-3 guard, who averaged 20.7 points to go along with 6.4 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game this season for the Section 6 Class C-2 champions, had poured in a team-high 20 points for the Blue squad to cap her high school basketball career just about the best way possible – by earning the game’s Most Valuable Player award.
The one thing she couldn’t manage, however, was leading her squad to victory. That honor went to the White team, the designated home squad, 69-61.
“Shawna Raymond is a really great player, an exceptional one,” White Team coach Brent Deuink said. “One of our defensive goals was to make sure that one of our top defenders was on Shawna at all times.”
That didn’t slow her down much, of course, and on the way to her final tally Raymond connected on a game-high three shots from beyond the arc.
“She had a very nice game,” Blue coach Jack Weaver said with a smile.
But in a game where enjoyment is paramount, the final score was just about the least important aspect of the evening.
“It’s just a fun night,” said Deuink, who has been involved in the game for at least 10 years. “It’s good stuff. They’re all really good kids and I’m proud of them. It’s just great to be affiliated with something like this.”
While Raymond – who was the lone Blue team member to reach double figures – did all she could to push her crew ahead, the White team was packed with too much firepower.
Sherman’s Elle Reed, who finished with eight points, kicked off the scoring for the group with a pair of triples while Jamestown’s Karisha Tapia chipped in with two more baskets to give the White team an early, 12-6 advantage.
Dunkirk’s Lacey Clark answered with a bucket down low and then Raymond hit an elbow jumper and a trey on back-to-back possessions as part of an 11-0 run that gave the Blue team its first lead of the night with 12:36 left in the opening half, but the White team couldn’t be deterred.
The decisive moment before intermission came with just over a minute to go when Jamestown’s Rosa Velazquez – her White team trailing by one, 28-27 – made a steal and scored on the fast break. Tapia followed with a 3-pointer from the right wing and then Velazquez sunk a half-court shot at the buzzer to turn the one-point deficit to a seven-point lead.
The White team would lead for the remainder of the evening.
“I though Rosa’s sequence at the end of the first half really turned (the game) around for us,” Deuink said. “She makes a steal, goes the length of the floor and then later hits a 3. So all of a sudden, what could have been two more points for them is a seven-point deficit. And it pretty much stayed there the rest of the way.”
That wouldn’t be all for the Lady Red Raider as she rebuilt what had been a slim lead to a more comfortable 10 points midway through the second half when she netted eight straight points.
Velasquez would finish with a game-high 22 points, Tapia added 15 more and Dani Reinwald of Clymer finished with 10 points as 10 different players scored in the victory.
“The whole team played great,” Deuink said. “We got contributions from everybody.”
NOTES: Fredonia sophomore Morgan Genovese won the halftime 3-point contest, snapping Elle Reed’s (she did not participate) two-year winning streak.