By Dave Ricci
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — Every game, Alanna Herne wears her maroon and white “CS” wrist band to honor the memory of the late Chris “Mr. Tonawanda” Slauson.
The No.3 seed Lady Warriors honored Chris in the best way possible when they dismantled No.4 Bennett 62-31 to win the Section VI Class B-1 title at Buffalo State College on Sunday night.
The victory marked the first ever sectional title for the Lady Warriors basketball program. Herne knew their No.1 fan was watching and smiling.
“Oh absolutely,” Herne said. “I wear this arm band for a reason, just so he's with us. He's the No.1 Tonawanda fan, so I like to represent him on my arm.”
Their heads still spinning moments after raising the championship plaque, everyone was still trying to process what they had just done.
“You don't really understand it until the last 10th of a second buzzes,” Herne said with a smile. “It's unbelievable, really. I don't know any other way to explain it.”
“It's unbelievable,” added fellow senior Savanna Baughman. “We worked our butts off every day in practice. We all hustle and we worked hard to get where we are. So now that we made it and we actually are champions, it feels great.”
Tonawanda now moves on to play B-2 champion Wilson in the overall Class B title game that will be played at Buff. State Wednesday at 5 p.m.
“I don't know if it's really set in yet,” said Lady Warriors coach Jay Hall. “I think when they get home and all of a sudden the phone starts ringing from everybody congratulating them, I think it'll finally set in.”
Bennett jumped out to an early 5-0 lead as both teams struggled with big game jitters and playing on a bigger court. Once the Warriors acclimated themselves to their surroundings they were able to set the tone of the game. Kalyn Compeau (19 points) opened the scoring for THS and Herne's 3-pointer gave the Warriors a 9-7 lead at the end of the first.
The Tigers were able to keep the game close thanks in part to the work of 6-foot-1 Danyae Barclay (16 points). But as the game wore on Tonawanda's overall team speed, especially from its guards, made it a very long night for the Tigers.
Three-pointers from Compeau and Herne (18 points/five assists/four steals) extended Tonawanda's lead to 20-14 midway through the second, and the Warriors (16-4) never looked back.
As expected, Baughman (12 points/15 rebounds) and Paige Hill (five rebounds) drew the assignment of marking Barclay and did a good job of keeping her in check. Much like the semifinal win over Buffalo Arts, Tonawanda's depth proved to be a factor, and Bennett's starters ran out of gas and its bench could not match the Warriors.
“It's not just the starting five,” said Herne. “It's everyone. Everyone contributes to our win, and if it wasn't for how hard we work in practice we wouldn't have gotten better throughout the year.”
Coming off of back-to-back league titles the last two season the Warriors dealt with unforeseen circumstances that led to their playoff hopes being dashed in the quarterfinals both seasons. This season the resolve was more than just about a third ECIC IV title.
The true mission was to prove the critics wrong and see it all the way through to a sectional title.
Knowing they were on the cusp of history, Hall said the key to the game was to treat it like any other one.
“Play your game. It's just another game all year,” said Hall. “We've dealt with pressure the whole year. We've been the underdogs most of the year.”Follow @tonanewssports on Twitter for complete high school sports coverage.