BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — The sting of Section VI title game losses lingered over the past year for Depew and Southwestern’s girls basketball teams. Stepping over those stumbling blocks on this season’s championship quests brought elation to both schools Sunday at Buffalo State Sports Arena.
Depew beat defending champion Lewiston-Porter 44-30 to win its second Class B-1 title in four years, while Southwestern secured its fifth B-2 crown in seven seasons with a 64-48 win against Eden. The sectional champions will now meet back here at 5 p.m. Wednesday for the overall B title and another chance to play at Buff State in the Far West Regionals on Saturday.
“All year long, Eden was that team we were working extra hard to get back here and beat,” said junior guard Reece Beaver, who led Southwestern with 25 points. “Every time we ran that final sprint in practice, we’d say ‘this is for Eden.'”
Depew (21-2) challenged itself in non-league play and went unbeaten in winning its ECIC III division, all the while longing for another opportunity against Lew-Port.
“These girls battled all year with the goal of getting back to Buff State and being able to play this team again,” Depew coach McKenzie Bezon said. “I’m so excited for them. They put it all out there on the court.”
Depew, the No. 5-ranked team in the state in Class B, overcame a slow start in falling behind 10-1, while lead guard Kaylee Krysztof shook an elbow to the face that left a large welt under her eye.
“This was the goal,” said Krysztof, a Binghamton recruit who was nominated for the McDonald’s All-America game. “Everything beyond this game is a bonus. But going to states sounds awesome. We want to see how far we can go.”
While Krysztof struggled to score with her usual ease, junior center Mia Vannelli powered the Wildcats with 20 points and a season-best 19 rebounds. Vannelli, who has committed to play softball for Stony Brook, posted her 12th double-double this season and is averaging 16.6 points and 16.3 rebounds during the sectional playoffs.
“Mia was great. She did the dirty work for us, got the rebounds and buckled up inside,” said Krysztof, who finished with 13 points, bringing her career total to 2,371, which ranks sixth on Western New York’s all-time list.
Southwestern (17-5), ranked 22nd in the state in Class B, gradually asserted its will after a close first quarter to avenge last season’s loss against 13th-ranked Eden.
“It’s a great feeling,” coach Kay Sirianni said. “We’ve been working to get back here against Eden all season long. It was about beating this team, but it was also about using that to get better to be able to get here.”
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Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.