Weekly Feature

2018-11-29 / Sports

West girls basketball aiming to compete


Meghan Gill, shown here putting up a shot in the paint during a game against Lancaster last season, will look to showcase her improved game this winter as one of West Seneca West’s returning players to the girls basketball team. File photo by Jake French Meghan Gill, shown here putting up a shot in the paint during a game against Lancaster last season, will look to showcase her improved game this winter as one of West Seneca West’s returning players to the girls basketball team. File photo by Jake French West Seneca West girls basketball’s Ashley Bonetto knows that being competitive in ECIC I play is a daunting task for every school year, but the second-year coach and her players are heading into the 2018-19 campaign with a positive mindset that they hope translates into more wins this season.

“The way we’re looking at this year is that everything is better,” Bonetto said. “We understand that our league is tough, but we’re expecting to compete this year and feel that divisional games are winnable if we go into them ready to play. We only lost one player from last year’s team, and as our chemistry on the court has been shaping up to be a lot stronger this year, we know we have a great opportunity in front of us this season.”

A number of key players from last year’s squad are back and looking to drive the push for improvement, including seniors Chloe Solomon, Madison Vanderlip, Da’Janai Hall, Nicolette Loffredo and Payton Bernardoni. Solomon has been on the varsity squad since her freshman season, while Vanderlip and Bernardoni have been varsity players since their sophomore season. Hall and Loffredo, meanwhile, are marking their second season of varsity play this winter.

“Chloe is very versatile; she sees the floor well – which helps her do a great job of reading defenses – and she has a good shot to complement her ability to drive to the basket,” Bonetto said. “Madison, who like Chloe was a starter last year, plays great defense and is a great threat for us on the offensive end of the court as well, and Payton plays great defense and does a great job of driving to the basket in the lane, too. Da’Janai was a starter for us last year as well, and her ability to take the ball to the basket makes her very hard to defend. Her speed and quickness helped lead her to a lot of steals on defense last season, which I believe will carry over to this year.

“And Nikki has worked extremely hard in the offseason and has been doing a great job leading the team. She leads by example and by using her voice keeping everyone motivated and positive. Nikki has a great mid-range jumper and is very strong on the boards, both of which should help us nicely.”

Returning juniors who are also aiming to be as productive as they were last season, if not even more productive, include Meghan Gill, Sam Sigler and Miranda Held. Gill, who at 6-feet tall is the tallest Lady Indian, and Sigler, who checks in at 5-11, should give West a strong presence in the paint this season, while Held’s skill and versatility gives her the flexibility to play any position on the floor.

“Meghan has shown tremendous progress over the past year,” Bonetto said. “She’s strong inside but also has the ability to shoot the ball outside, so we’re looking for her to be a dominant force for us this year. Sam should be a force down low for us, too. Between Sam and Meghan, we have the potential to do a lot of damage on the boards. And Miranda, she can handle the ball just as easily as she can post up in the paint and rip down rebounds.

“This team could be special because of the amount of returners coming back from last year's team, and not only that, but eight out of 12 girls on the roster started more than once at some point on last year's team,” Bonetto continued. “The girls have really started mesh together and learn how each other play so that they can feed off of that.”

Sophomore Cierra Smith, meanwhile, highlights the influx of new players to the varsity level this season. The guard “has a great shot that makes her a real threat any time she is on the court,” Bonetto said.

“Cierra is going to draw a lot of attention this year with her ability to shoot the ball,” Bonetto said. “Overall, we’re all learning to use our individual strengths for the betterment of the team. We have a lot of speed that we intend on taking advantage of this season on the court, especially where our defense is concerned. We spent a lot of time in the offseason breaking down the things we needed to change in order for us to compete, so we know what needs to change from our perspective to be more competitive.”

West, which scrimmaged Holland and Cleveland Hill this week, will open its regular season Wednesday by facing Depew in the first round of the annual West Seneca Tip-Off Tournament, held this year at East. The Lady Indians will then face either Eden or their crosstown rival hosts two days later before beginning league play against Williamsville North on Dec. 11.

“I think this team is going to surprise a lot of teams this year; I’m predicting that teams aren’t going to be able to look past us this year like they may have in the past,” Bonetto said. “There is a different vibe with this year's team, a good one. The energy is high and the girls are excited. They are doing whatever it takes to get better individually and as a team. As a coach, I have a lot of different options to attack each game. We are not a team that is going to rely on one individual player, which makes us very strong.

“We just need to continue to learn from each game and focus on what our strengths are as a team so that we can use those to our advantage,” Bonetto continued. “If we can continue to work as hard as we have been and continue to push each other at practice and hold each other accountable, we will get the success we are striving for. We are definitely more confident as a team coming into this season, and we are hoping that that continues to grow as the season goes on.”

email: jnadolinski@beenews.com

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