TROY - The wait for a New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class C girls basketball championship is over for the residents of Mayville after the Chautauqua Lake Lady Thunderbirds ended their season with a brilliant 47-36 victory over Hoosic Valley of Section 2 on Sunday afternoon at Hudson Valley Community College.
After struggling early on during a semifinal meeting on Saturday with top-ranked Haldane, Jenna Einink returned to form in the biggest game of her career to claim Most Valuable Player honors thanks to her 11-point, 15-rebound double-double.
Not to be outdone, fellow junior Ashton Albanesius was named to the All-Tournament Team after collecting 16 points and 16 rebounds of her own in the title game.
Photo by Jay Young
Ashton Albanesius of Chautauqua Lake puts up a shot between Hoosic Valley's Laura McGreevey (21) and Sam Carlo (5) during the NYSPHSAA Class C girls basketball championship game at Hudson Valley Community College on Sunday.
Stellar play from inside the post paved the way to the victory and it was a fitting end to an excellent season from the Lady Thunderbirds.
It was a silky left-handed lay-in from Einink with three minutes to play in the game that really sealed the deal for Chautauqua Lake.
The Lady Thunderbirds picked up their first lead in the closing seconds of the opening quarter on a 3-pointer by Einink, who then shut down any possibility of a comeback with her late drive to the hoop in the final eight minutes.
After Einink's push to the basket in the fourth quarter, it was Ryleigh Hawkins who came off the bench and nailed another huge basket in the lane to give the Lady Thunderbirds a decisive 42-29 win.
Even though it was a 10-point victory on paper, there were times during the first quarter when it looked like Chautauqua Lake was going to have some trouble keeping pace with the Lady Indians. But the adversity was no match for hard work.
"You know what? Our kids are gritty and they hung in there,'' coach Eric Schuster said. "With about four minutes left, it was like, 'We have to come up with some answers here.' They weathered the storm.''
He added, "These kids just play so hard and so often, if there is a team that deserves it more than us then I give them credit because I'm telling you our kids play basketball all the time. We're state champions and no one is taking that away from us."
Once again, Chautauqua Lake fans and parents filled the stands at HVCC to try and give their team some of the comforts of playing at home, and they were well-rewarded for making the drive to Troy.
Laura McGreevey was able to put Chautauqua Lake in a hole early by burying a pair of treys to begin the game, but there was never any panic by the Lady Thunderbirds.
Sitting in a six-point hole, Einink then claimed a pair of buckets in the post to shrink the Lady Indians' lead to 6-4.
Then with time winding down in the first quarter, Einink fired up her contested 3 that struck the back of the rim and found its way through the net on a second bounce as time expired.
For a moment as the ball bounced off the rim, you could almost hear the collective gasp from the stands, but all you could hear after were screams and yells.
The shot ignited the Lady Thunderbirds' bench and gave Chautauqua Lake its first lead of the game at 11-10.
After that shot fell, there was no way that Schuster's team would leave Troy without its first championship.
"Oh, I was hoping that was going in," said Einink after the game, sporting a bloody lip as her MVP souvenir. "If it didn't, I was still going to keep playing hard, but (after the shot), I was like, 'We got this, we're going to win this.'"
The bucket spurred on the Chautauqua Lake offense as the team went on a six-point run to begin the second quarter with buckets from Albanesius and Ashley Moulton.
Moulton once again stood tall in the paint defensively during her final game and pumped in eight points and five boards on her way to claiming the Sportsmanship Award, an honor that also went to Sam Carlo of Hoosic Valley.
Albanesius' work in the paint gave her plenty of opportunities at the foul line and the junior came up big hitting 8-of-10 shots to help maintain the lead in key moments.
There was some concern from the Chautauqua Lake bench following a string of turnovers in the third quarter that gave the Lady Indians some momentum, but a timeout by Schuster was enough to refocus his team during the most crucial minutes of the afternoon.
"Well, I told (the girls) every time we foul, it's going to stop the clock and it's going to put them to the line, so we just have to play good defense,'' he said. "Even if they get a decent look, if it goes in it goes in, if it comes off the iron, we have to rebound and take care of the basketball.''
Lauren Madigan of Hoosic Valley did her best to shrink the margin, but struggled from the line late in the game, ending the contest just 6-of-13 at the charity stripe. She would go on to post a team-high 10 points and nine rebounds and earn an All-Tournament Team spot.
Guards Courtney Hewes and Tara Hunt stepped up big for Chautauqua Lake in Saturday's semifinals and were just as important on Sunday, applying defensive pressure constantly and smoothly working the ball in the half court.
Hawkin's clutch bucket in the fourth quarter would be her only one of the night, but it sure came at the right time.
"Ryleigh came in, I don't know if Ryleigh played a minute, but you know what, (her shot) was probably the two biggest points of the game with 1:20 left when she hit that little floater right on the baseline,'' Schuster said. "That was big for us.''
Hunt finished the game with an efficient seven points while Hewes' only points came from clutch free-throws in the final minutes.