By Sam Wilson
With three points in two minutes, Marissa Hamilton drew a louder reaction than you’d expect to hear for any opposing player, let alone at the end of a 17-point loss for the St. Bonaventure women’s basketball team.
That’s, of course, because Hamilton, a Great Valley native, drew a cheering section of family behind the University at Buffalo bench and Ellicottville high schoolers in the student section. After starting at Ellicottville Central School, Hamilton made her first appearance at Bona as a Big Four opponent near her hometown last Friday. The Bulls won, 76-59, with their last 3 points coming from Hamilton, a freshman forward, on a free throw and layup.
Hamilton said she likes UB because it’s close to home but “it’s also a city in itself. It’s so big and I love that city feeling, too.”
However, she was glad to hear a warm welcome from her family and former schoolmates.
“It was great to see everyone,” she said. “It’s been a while. It’s been a couple months so it was great to have the support and just the reassurance that I’m doing this for all the right things.”
Another Southern Tier product, St. Bonaventure’s leading women’s basketball scorer this season (entering Friday at 14 points, eight rebounds per game), junior Randolph native Mckenna Maycock played just seven minutes against Buffalo dealing with an undisclosed leg injury. Graduating two years apart, while two of the area’s best high school scorers in recent memory (Maycock holds the Western New York career scoring record, while Hamilton owns Ellicottville’s school record) didn’t face each other in high school.
“We never played against each other but we scrimmaged each other,” Hamilton said, “I just have a lot of respect for her and it’s great to have people from around here that I know playing at the Division I level. It was great to see her today, too.”
UB coach Felisha Legette-Jack said she’d like to play all 14 players each game, but it’s on the starters of her veteran-laden team to build a lead and give the youngsters playing time.
“When I go home tonight and talk to my husband, the things I’m going to think about (are) Mariah (Suchan) didn’t play, Courtney (Wilkins) didn’t play enough minutes,” Legette-Jack said. “There’s five kids that didn’t get enough minutes. Our start has got to be better. We had a good start, we let it slip away, we’ve got to stop that. We’ve got to pour it on so that everybody can have that opportunity. To have Marissa, who’s from this area, whose dad (Kenrick) went to St. Bonnie, jump in that game and take that shot and have an opportunity to say that she’s still standing and she’s still here, I’m just so proud of her growth. She’s going to get better, there’s going to be a day she comes through this building and it’s going to be even better.”
Off to an 8-2 start and picked to win the East Division of the MAC, UB has aspirations of returning to the NCAA Tournament after making it in 2016. Hamilton is happy for now to play any role the Bulls need.
“We have a senior-led team,” Hamilton said, “there’s a lot of older people on my team and it’s great to win, so whatever my coach feels that needs to happen, needs to happen. It’s just great seeing them excel because it makes me better, too.
“Our motto is ‘Sweep the Shed’ and we pride ourselves on that. We all do our part, and my part is to be there for them and be out there when I need to be.”