By Jeremy Izzio
CANANDAIGUA - The Chautauqua Lake Lady Thunderbirds survived a third-quarter scare against Section 5's Keshequa Lady Indians Saturday to come away with a 76-62 victory in the Class C Far West Regional Championship.
Photo by Scott Reagle
Members of the Chautauqua Lake Lady Thunderbirds celebrate after defeating Keshequa, 76-62, Saturday in the Class C Far West Regionals at Finger Lakes Community College. Chautauqua Lake now advances to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Final Four next weekend at Hudson Valley Community College.
With the win, the Lady Thunderbirds travel to Hudson Valley Community College next weekend in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C Final 4 at 12:30 p.m.
"It's exciting for our girls because it's the first time," Chautauqua Lake coach Eric Schuster said of his team's victory in the Far West Regional. "We just didn't know what to expect. I give Keshequa a lot of credit. They were a little scrappier than I thought they were. I knew they played good defense, but they really, really doubled down on our posts and made it difficult for us."
Chautauqua Lake jumped out to an 8-1 lead in the first three minutes en route to a 17-9 lead after the first quarter.
The Lady Thunderbirds hit the glass aggressively early on and used quick outlet passes to get out and run on the Lady Indians. They continued to use a high-tempo attack in the second quarter and held a 33-25 lead at halftime, but Schuster knew the second half could be a different story.
"I told them at halftime that they didn't play their best basketball, but we were still up by eight," Schuster said. "(Keshequa) came down and hit some big shots (in the second half). I was worried."
Schuster had reason to be worried as Keshequa opened the second half on a 14-4 run and took its first lead, 39-37, with 3:48 left to play in the third period.
Back to back 3-pointers by Megan Green put Keshequa ahead, but Chautauqua Lake quickly tied the game at 41-all.
Jenna Einink's field goal on the next possession gave the Lady Thunderbirds a 43-41 lead, a lead they wouldn't relinquish the rest of the contest.
With the game on the line, and Chautauqua Lake holding a slim 49-44 lead to begin the fourth quarter, Einink and Ashton Albanesius took over.
All season long it has been the two junior post players who have led the Lady Thunderbirds at both ends of the floor and Saturday was no different.
Albanesius scored 14 points in the final stanza and Einink scored 10 as the Lady Thunderbirds opened up a sizable lead and eventually came away with the 13-point win.
"They've been here for awhile now," Schuster said of Einink and Albanesius. "This is Jenna's fourth year and Ashton's third. They've been doing it all year and they were big. Whether it was the big basket or the big foul. They went to the line a ton tonight and carried us like they have all season long."
Keshequa managed to give Chautauqua Lake all it could handle, but in the end, it came down to size and defense.
"We switched to the diamond-and-one (on defense), which helped us for a while," Schuster said. "We tried to keep them guessing as much as we could by using about three different defenses.
"I think the key was going back to the box-and-one with about five minutes left in the third quarter," Schuster added. "We were able to get the lead back up to about eight and that was it; the rest was history."
Einink led all scorers with 29 points while pulling down a game-high 19 rebounds. She also made eight assists to go with three steals. Albanesius finished with 23 points and eight rebounds and Ashley Moulton added eight points and seven rebounds in the win.