It’s all theirs
JAMESTOWN – If you were to tell Chautauqua Lake coach Eric Schuster his team would turn the ball over 31 times and his defense would hold Tapestry Charter to just 32 points in Wednesday’s Section 6 Class C crossover championship game and still win, he would have told you there was zero chance of that happening.
However, that’s exactly what happened as the No. 4 Lady Thunderbirds breezed past the No. 2 Thunderhawks, 66-32, at Jamestown High School’s McElrath Gymnasium.
With the win, Chautauqua Lake advances to its first Far West Regional in school history, which will be played at 7 p.m., on Saturday at Finger Lakes Community College.
“One of our main focuses was to stay out of foul trouble, and we didn’t do that, and the other thing was we knew their bench was thin,” Schuster said. “We had to run them and we certainly did that in the first quarter.”
The Lady Thunderbirds used a strong transition game as they scored 10 points quick points, led by Ashton Albanesius’ eight points.
Tapestry Charter was plagued by poor shooting all night as it missed several open looks under the basket.
“Watching them on film, they just look to press the rebound,” Schuster said. “Three or four girls crash the boards. I said if we can get the rebound and get a good outlook pass, we should have good numbers going the other way and that’s what happened.”
The second quarter did not resemble that of a Class C championship game as both teams turned the ball over multiple times and could not hit many baskets during a sloppy eight minutes.
Chautauqua Lake turned the ball over 21 times, with a majority of those turnovers coming in the second quarter.
A large part was the fact Courtney Hewes had three fouls and was relegated to the bench. With Hewes on the bench, the Lady Thunderbirds received an admirable performance from Taylor Phelps who finished with 10 points.
“She played with ice water in her veins (Wednesday),” Schuster said. “I thought she was aggressive. Any time she had an open look, she looked to attack or shoot.”
Despite Chautauqua Lake’s struggles to take care of the ball, it held a 32-19 lead at intermission.
The Lady Thunderhawks’ top trio of Shaquana Owens, Adila Gathers and Nia Carver were ineffective throughout the game and did not receive much help from the rest of the team. The trio combined for 26 of the team’s 32 points and Owens could never find her rhythm beyond the arc.
Defensively, Gathers, who was very effective in guarding Silver Creek’s Jordan Brooks, was no match for the duo of Albanesius and Jenna Einink.
“It surprised me,” Schuster said. “I thought Gathers did a great job on Brooks. I thought they would play us man-to-man. They matched up pretty well with us. They didn’t press a lot and they sat in that 2-3 zone.”
The Lady Thunderhawks could only cut the deficit to 13 in the second half, but consecutive treys from Phelps and Tara Hunt extended the lead 44-25 in the final minute of the third quarter.
The fourth quarter was a mere formality as the game was all but over. Albanesius added eight more points to her 15 on the night and the frame was highlighted by a trey from reserve Katie Doyle, to make the score 63-28.
“Katie is one of those kids we talk about,” Schuster continued. “I get on her a lot and it’s in a good way. I think it’s more motivation for her. I told her to just take care of the ball. She did that and knocked down a 3-pointer. She had an open look and buried it. She is such a great kid. She is big for our team when she does well because the crowd goes wild and they just love Katie Doyle.”
With 2:28 left, Schuster pulled his starters to a standing ovation from the Chautauqua Lake faithful.
“It was great,” Schuster said. “They deserved it. Even my bench players come out and they hustle and work so hard. They deserved the time.”
Now the Lady Thunderbirds prepare for a trip to Finger Lakes Community College on Saturday for a 7 p.m. contest against a Section 5 opponent.
“It’s huge,” Schuster said. “I told the kids at the beginning of the year, I want to go to states, but our goal right now is to get out of the Section and we did that. Anything from here is a bonus. Just the way these kids are playing, anything can happen in this tournament. I can see it in their eyes. They really want this. It’s been awesome.”
Notes: Along with her 15 points, Albanesius had 11 rebounds. Einink led the way with 21 points, 15 rebounds and six assists. Taylor Phelps had 10 points for the winners. Hewes finished with six assists. Owens and Gathers each scored 10 points in a losing effort.