By MIKE MEILER
Niagara Gazette — The Section VI girls basketball playoffs begin for local teams at 7 tonight when Niagara-Wheatfield, seeded sixth in Class AA, hosts 11-North Tonawanda.
The Falcons have been up and down this season, winning seven of their first eight games this season before dropping three straight Niagara Frontier League games — to Lockport, Grand Island and Kenmore West. They responded by winning five of their last six, and closed by getting revenge on Grand Island and Ken West in their last two games.
"We're playing well. We're very positive," N-W coach Diane Fegatilli said." We're recently playing much better team defense — we played extremely well defensively against Grand Island —and it's helped us get ready for sectionals."
Fegatilli points to the contributions from senior guards Rachel Pawlak (19 points per game) and Melissa Smith (17 ppg) as keys to her team's success this year. She also pointed out that sophomore center Allyson Czaja has been "improving game by game."
N-W beat the Lumberjacks twice during the regular season, but Fegatilli said her team won't overlook its NFL rival.
"North Tonawanda's playing extremely well, and they're a team we've seen marked improvement from the beginning of the year to the end of the year," she said. "They played us very, very well the second time, and you can't overlook playing a team for the third time."
On Saturday, No. 3 Grand Island hosts No. 6 Williamsville South in the A-1 quarterfinals, while in Class A-2, 5-Lewiston-Porter travels to 4-Pioneer and 3-Starpoint hosts 6-Cheektowaga. Wilson, the No. 1 seed in Class B-1, hosts 8-Akron at the same time. Niagara Falls, No. 4 in AA, hosts No. 5 Will. North at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
The semifinals for A-1, A-2 and B-1 are scheduled for Wednesday, while Class AA is set for March 1. The finals will take place at Niagara County Community College, A-1, A-2 and B-1 on March 2, and AA on March 5.Follow high school sports reporter Mike Meiler on Twitter @mikemeiler for updates on your local teams.