T’birds claim first place

BEMUS?POINT?- Nearly a year ago a young, up-and-coming Chautauqua Lake Lady Thunderbirds squad rode into the gym on the Dutch Hollow Road sporting an impressive, and unblemished, 13-0 record, but left that very same gym later in defeat.

This time around, they wanted to make sure history didn’t repeat itself.

A perfect 10-0 heading into their Division 3 girls basketball battle with Maple Grove on Thursday evening, the Lady Thunderbirds did just that. Employing the right amount of pressure at key moments while also getting some big shots from a few, slightly less familiar faces in the second half on the way to a 53-37 victory over the Lady Dragons (7-5, 5-2).

“Still perfect,” Chautauqua Lake coach Eric Schuster said of his team, which improved to 11-0 overall and 7-0 in league. “This is a very tough place to play and we told the girls – we’ve been talking about it all week – that last year we beat them at our place and then they handed us our first loss here. We didn’t want that to happen again.”

Thanks to their play in the first and third quarters, it didn’t.

Starting the game, as it has been apt to do this season, in a full-court press, Chautauqua Lake racked up steals and fast break points, which led to a pair of sustained runs in the first quarter. Keyed by post players Jenna Einink and Ashton Albanesius, the Lady Thunderbirds went on an 11-5 spree over the game’s first four minutes before surrendering back-to-back Maple Grove buckets, but then put together a 9-3 run over the next 3 minutes of play to take build a 21-12 advantage.

Einink, who hauled in a team-high nine boards, tallied six points and Albanesius, who would finish with eight rebounds, netted five during that opening eight minutes. The pair would finish with a game-high 11 points apiece.

A solid lead in hand, Chautauqua Lake eased up on the pressure in the second, though that, combined with Maple Grove’s renewed focus on slowing Einink and Albanesius, resulted in both teams mustering just eight points apiece during the period, making the score at the break 29-20.

That focus on the paint, however, opened things up for the Lady Thunderbirds’ perimeter shooters; in particular, Sydney Milliman and Jessica Herrington.

With more space on the outside, Milliman drilled a trey from the right win 10 seconds into the second half, then scored on a fast break layup – following, thanks to the reinstituted press, a steal by Einink – 15 seconds later to push the lead back to 17.

Maple Grove soon regained its composure, however, and cut the deficit to nine behind an 8-0 run of its own, but Chautauqua Lake never let it get closer than that as Herrington scored down low after another steal (Chautauqua Lake finished with 16 steals and ended up forcing 28 Maple Grove turnovers) and then capped the 17-point quarter off by swinging through the lane and draining a triple from the corner with 1 left to put the game from reach, 46-30.

“(Maple Grove) did a good job of keying on our posts,” Schuster said. “They gave a lot of help at the high post on Jenna when we were in our zone offense and we told the kids that if they were going to sag and you have an open look, just be confident and don’t pass up a good shot.

“And we hit some big shots at big points in the game. Jessie came into the game in the third quarter, hit a couple of shots, Milliman did, too. We came out of the half and it was just boom, boom, boom.”

Milliman finished with eight points, including a pair of 3s, all of which were scored in the second half while Herrington came off the bench and netted seven – five in the third period alone.

Despite having a number of contributors (five players scored at least six points) Maple Grove could never really get in sync offensively. The main reason for that, coach Mary Bartkowski noted, was Chautauqua Lake’s pressure during the odd quarters.

“Definitely there were more turnovers in the first and third quarters due to their pressure,” she said. “I think that was the difference in the game.”

NOTES: Courtney Hewes had seven assists, five steals and six points for the victors. … Leading the Lady Red Dragons was Lauren Nickerson, who had nine points and three rebounds. … Nickara Liddell chipped in with six points and five rebounds.

Pine Valley 50, Franklinville 36

SOUTH DAYTON -Things weren’t going Pine Valley’s way early on, but the Lady Panthers (4-3, 6-6) came on strong through the final two quarters to earn a 50-36 victory over Franklinville (1-6, 5-8) in Division 3 girls action.

Pine Valley took an 8-5 lead after the first period, but Franklinville broke things open with a 19-7 run in the second to hold a 24-15 lead at the half.

From that point on, however, Pine Valley took control.

“The girls came out more focuses in the second half,” said Pine Valley coach Tim Nobles. “We made too many mistakes, poor passing, giving the ball away in the first half, but I was proud the way the girls stepped it up. As bad as we looked in the first half, that’s how good we were in the second.”

Kaitlyn Hoth scored 12 points, Alex Bentham added 11 points and had three steals, Kayla Mansfield scored 10 points with eight rebounds and four assists and Laural Killock also netted 10 points and had six boards and six steals.

For Franklinville, Jen Blum poured in 10 points and Anna O’Neil also had 10 points and collected nine rebounds.