Varsity Basketball Mid-Season Update

SEM’s basketball team has its eyes on the playoffs.


At 3:30 PM the bell rings and 15  girls rush to the locker room to get changed for practice. Everyone one of them has a jump in their step as they don’t want to keep their coaches waiting. It is then just a short bus ride to Knights of Columbus on Kenmore Avenue where their practice begins. Walk into the gym and see the orange and blue floors just waiting to be used. (The SEM team uses Knights of Columbus gym to practice because the SEM gym is not a full-sized.)

Emma Donovan ’20 listening  to the captain’s pep talk before each game. Photo by Michele Goldarb.

Girls suit-up to and hope today will be a fun practice with few or no sprints. Once the girls are finished stretching it’s time for warm-up drills: layups, Niagara Shooting, Three on Two and elbow shooting is what every girl concentrates on.

Captains keep the team on track, as too much goofing around or a missed lay-up could result in a dreaded sprint. “Everyday we follow the same routine. It helps us stay focused and as Troy Bolton would say get our heads in the game,” said captain Alison Gareis ’17.

For the past three months SEM’s varsity basketball team has been practicing every day to prepare for their weekly games. Over these months the team has had 11 games – all hard fought. The dedicated work the girls have put into the season seems to have paid off – their record now stands at five wins to six losses.

Coaches by Eva Cunningham and Kacie Mills put in countless hours to practice and thinking of just the right plays which will help the team succeed. “All of the girls’ dedication to practicing pays off. I see each individual girl is improving with her skills,” said Eva. “They play well together and click not only on the court but also off the court.”

Michele Goldfarb
Coaches Eva Cunningham and Kacie Mills motivating the girls playing defense.


SEM’s team belongs to the Monsignor Martin High School Athletic Association (MMHSAA). The other schools in the league are Sacred Heart, Nardin Academy, Mount Saint Mary’s, Park School, Cardinal O’Hara, Mount Mercy Academy, Niagara Catholic, Park School, Saint Mary’s of Lancaster and Christian Central Academy.

SEM is in 8th place just behind Nardin Academy, which we have yet to play. Along with playing schools in their league, the team has also played some non-league schools: Tapestry, East High School, North Collins and John F. Kennedy High School.  The only team that the team was unable to beat in non-league play was Tapestry. Harry Scully Jr., the Buffalo News photographer took pictures at the Tapestry game on Friday, February 3!).

Sam Burlow ’17, one of the three captains of the team is very proud of the team so far this season.  “Everyone on the team has given it their all in every game,” she said. Sam has been on the team since freshman year and has been the starting point guard ever since. Sam enjoys being on a team that has fun and also gets down to business when they need to. Sam has high hopes for the end of the season. Last year the basketball team advanced to the Semifinals which Sam hopes to do again. “I want this team to show all of the other team in our league what we are capable of. Making it into playoffs two years in a row would show the other MML teams that we are a force to be reckoned with.”

Lilly Johnsen ’20 playing defense against JFK High School. Defense was one of the key factors for the 43-25 win.

Hannah Garis ’17 was new to the team this year. Even as a joining senior she has shown the underclassmen what it means to be on a team. This year Hannah was the co-captain of the varsity field hockey team which has allowed her to set an example to all of the underclassmen that is on the basketball team. “If  you practice hard you have nothing to be afraid of when you get on the court,” she said. The work ethic she had in field hockey carried over into this basketball season.

The team is made up of people from every grade: six seniors, one junior, three sophomores and four freshman. Each girl has bonded with one another regardless of what grade they are in. The friendships that each girl has with one another has helped them play well together on the court.

Coming on the team being a freshman can be scary but Lilly Johnsen ’20 explained that the girls who were already on the team were very accepting. “Being a freshman on a varsity team was hard at first, but all of the girls, especially the seniors, made it fun. Not only did the seniors motivate me but they helped me work on the plays when I didn’t understand them.”

As the season comes to the close the girls are hopeful with their playoff chances. The seniors are excited to see where the team will go after they graduate – it has been a great four years for some of them. Yes, they will be sad when they play their senior game February 13 against St. Mary’s of Lancaster. “I hope a bunch of girls come to support the seniors. Having classmates cheer for you really motivates the whole team to play their hardest. This game is the last for the seniors and they want it to be memorable.”

SEM Seniors from left to right: Hannah Garis, Anna Earle, Sam Burlow, Alison Gareis, Grace Gallagher, and Fatima Siddqui. Photo by Michele Goldfarb.