TROY — Gas up the fire trucks; there’s going to be a parade.
There was great cause for celebration on Sunday when the Chautauqua Lake girls basketball team ended its school’s wait to crown a New York State champion after it beat Hoosic Valley, 47-36. The Class C title game was played before an estimated 800 at Hudson Valley Community College.
Chautauqua Lake has had a few winners in individual sports, but not a team sport since the school was born from the merger of Chautauqua and Mayville in 1993-1994.
The state title is the 12th for Section VI, and the first since Clymer won Class D in 2009-10. Chautauqua Lake (24-1) ended the season on a 21-game winning streak. It’s been an impressive postseason run for a team that came out of sectionals as the No. 4 seed in Class C-2.
“It’s unbelievable. I keep telling people this hasn’t sunk in yet,” coach Eric Schuster said. “These kids just play so hard and so often. Our kids are state champions and no one can take that away from us.”
Junior forward Jenna Einink was named the Class C Tournament MVP. She cited her teammate Courtney Hewes as being just as deserving after her 19-point showing against Haldane in the semifinals.
“This is amazing, I don’t even know what to say, I’m so proud of them,” said Einink, one of three underclassmen who start. “We defended really well and we attacked the basket. That’s what we do best; it worked the whole season.”
Junior forward Ashton Albanesius grabbed 17 rebounds and led all scorers with 16 points, including 8 of 10 from the free-throw line. She was named to the all-tournament team. Einink finished with 13 points and had 14 boards.
The pair helped the Thunderbirds outrebound Hoosic Valley, 47-26. They were also largely responsible for outscoring the Indians, 26-8, in the paint.
Hoosic Valley of Section II did not resemble the team that 24 hours earlier had eliminated previously undefeated Harpursville, 55-44, in its semifinal. Chautauqua Lake held Hoosic Valley’s leading scorer and co-captain, Lauren Madigan, to 10 points.
The Indians looked out of sync while managing just 14 points in the first half, unable to find the soft spots in the Thunderbirds’ 2-3 zone. Hoosic Valley was just 10 of 46 for the game from the floor.
Chautauqua Lake led by nine points at halftime, and 11 after three, but Hoosic closed the gap. The Indians scored the first five points of the fourth quarter and got as close as 35-29, but the Thunderbirds regained their footing and finished the job.
“We struggled offensively and I ran out of answers almost,” Schuster said. “What we tried to do is spread them out because we like to run a lot of two-man game where we’re screening and rolling. They did a nice job of doubling the basketball and that gave us fits.”
But when the game was on the line in the last four minutes the Thunderbirds responded. Albanesius continued to score and made free throws while Hoosic couldn’t muster the offense to cut into the deficit.
“Our kids are gritty, they hung in there,” said Schuster.
Soon the starters were coming off the floor to warm applause from their many fans.