By STEFAN GESTWICKI
OBSERVER Sports Reporter
SINCLAIRVILLE - Cassadaga Valley had no problem advancing to the Section 6 Class C-1 semifinals, Saturday, with its 46-18 dismantling of No. 6 Barker.
OBSERVER?Photos by Lisa Monacelli
Cassadaga Valley’s Brook Draggett works on a Barker defender, during their Section 6 Class C-1 girls’ basketball quarterfinal Saturday, at Cassadaga Valley Central High School.
The No. 3 Lady Cougars sported superior rebounding and a relentless defense, a combination that all but had the game won by halftime.
"It's a nice solid win by the kids," Cassadaga Valley coach Mark Peterson said. "I'm proud of them."
Taylor Storer set the tone early for the Lady Cougars. The speedy point guard got to the foul line twice in the first 45 seconds. While Storer knocked down two of her four free throws, the bigger impact was felt by Barker, as senior forward Daniela Senior was forced to the bench with two quick fouls.
"She's probably one of our hardest workers," Barker coach Jeff Costello said of Senior. "She plays aggresive. She bangs bodies down low. Taking her out of the game wasn't going to hurt us offensively, but it hurt on the defensive end."
With Senior on the sideline, Cassadaga Valley's Shawana Miller and Brook Draggett were able to impose their will on the much-smaller Lady Raiders.
Miller snagged three offensive rebounds in the first three minutes of the game. She was a huge factor with eight points and 13 rebounds - seven at the offensive end.
Draggett was just as good, netting a team-high 14 points with eight rebounds - four offensive.
"We didn't do a very good job of keeping them off the boards," Costello continued. "They definitely have girls that aggresively go to the basket. They picked up a lot more (rebounds) on both ends of the court."
"(Offensive rebounding) is something that we've been stressing all week," Peterson added. "The last couple games, we were getting one shot at the basket and not getting any offensive rebounds. That was a key we really stressed. The kids did a nice job today. They really did."
By the time Miller and Draggett were done dominating the first quarter, the Lady Cougars enjoyed a 17-5 advantage.
For Barker, the situation only got worse in the second quarter. The Lady Raiders mustered just a single point while the deficit continued to grow.
The tenacious Lady Cougar defense caused turnover after turnover. When the Lady Raiders were able to actually get a shot off, it was either strongly contested or simply didn't fall.
"I think we struggle to score and because of that, it snowballs," Costello commented. "We got good looks. We set some nice screens and were getting some halfway-decent looks at the basket, but things just weren't falling for us."
Storer was a major reason Barker never got going offensively. Her aggresive play led to nine steals, which she routinely turned into easy points at the other end. She finished with eight points and four assists, but was much more of a factor than stats can show.
"She's the straw that stirs the drink," Peterson said of Storer. "When she's on her game, she's tough. She opens up a lot of things."
The Lady Cougars held a comfortable 28-6 lead at halftime.
"That's always huge," Peterson commented on the early lead. "You want to get out of the gate and we did. We missed a few layups early on, too. We have to work on that - full-speed layups."
While the Lady Raiders never really threatened a comeback, reserve player Julia Atwater provided Barker with a little spark in the second half. Atwater was aggresive in the post, got to the line twice and scored four of her team-high eight points in the third quarter.
"I thought MacKenzi Strickland and Julia Atwater, especially in the second half, played well down low," Costello said. "They got some second-chance opportunities and scored some points for us."
Atwater was also the team's leading rebounder with five. Strickland and Heather Mason each had four.
Already up 39-11, Peterson opted to pull Storer, Draggett and Miller moments into the fourth quarter - a tactic that allowed some younger players to get varsity playoff playing time.
"Two girls off the jayvee team, I got in about the last three-and-a-half minutes," Peterson added. "That was huge for them. They got their feet wet playing a little bit of varsity. It worked out well for us."
Kristy Zink scored the first five points of the fourth quarter for Cassadaga Valley to up the lead to 44-11. Zink finished with 10 points.
Barker scored the next seven points, but never got within 25 points of the Lady Cougars.
Cassadaga Valley's semifinal matchup is against No. 7 Salamanca, Thursday, at Chautauqua Lake. The game is scheduled for 6 p.m.