Following the weeks since Chautauqua Lake won a New York State girls basketball title, local restaurants have been proving they can dish it out.
Eateries such as the Crosby Mart on North Erie, Bonars Diner on West Chautauqua Street and Andriaccios Restaurant on West Lake Road have treated the team to celebratory feasts.
The 12-player squad has been given plenty to chew on following their 47-36 win over Hoosic Valley in the Class C title game at Hudson Valley Community College last month.
“It’s been wonderful for the town, the whole community, the school, it’s just been awesome,” said coach Eric Schuster. “It’s not so great for the waistline; the kids can handle it, I can’t.”
The Thunderbirds (24-1) satisfied their hunger for a state title by winning six straight games in the postseason. They ended the season on a 21-game winning streak. Their only loss came against Jamestown, 57-46, in the fourth game of the year.
They were led all year by junior bookends Jenna Einink and Ashton Albanesius. The 6-foot forwards were a matchup problem for most teams not only for their size, but their ability to score, draw fouls and crash the boards.
Courtney Hewes proved herself equally dangerous from the outside, evidenced by her 19-point explosion in the semifinals over Haldane. The team’s starting seniors, Tara Hunt and Ashley Moulton, also contributed valuable minutes.
“It definitely is a pretty special team,” Schuster said. “The couple kids we’re losing,” Hunt and Moulton, “were a big part of our success. Hopefully we’ll have a few kids step up. It’s been kind of nice, the juniors who have been around said, ‘let’s do this for the seniors.’ I heard that on multiple occasions.”
For their efforts the Thunderbirds were also the unanimous No.-1 ranked small school in the final Buffalo News poll. Schuster lauded them for their unselfishness and willingness to play together. “That’s what got them to where they ended up,” he said.
Small school pollsters: Brian Baker (Wilson/Niagara-Orleans League), Keith Falkowski (Burgard/Canisius Cup), Marisa Fallacaro (Eden/ECIC IV), Frank Martin (Allegany-Limestone/CCAA East I), Jeff Collver (Frewsburg/CCAA West I), Nate Cornell (Franklinville/CCAA East II), Fran Snyder (Tapestry Charter/Independent), Keith Junik (MMA).
Hawks No. 1 large
Cardinal O’Hara (27-3) was the slam dunk choice for the No. 1-ranked large school, holding the top spot all season.
“The thing you have to remember is these kids were on the bench a quarter and half for a lot of games because of the large leads we had, and at the same time we played the toughest schedule of anyone in Western New York,” coach Dan McDermott said. “There were sacrifices made as far as individual numbers go because of their willingness to make those sacrifices for the team.”
The Hawks were a balanced team with four to five players in double figures most games. Besides the three 1,000-point scorers, the Hawks also got plenty of quality playing time from seniors Aisha Shabazz and Jailyn Dickson.
The team’s only losses were to Section VI Class AA champion Gates-Chili (despite scoring 79 points), Penfield, another Class AA team in Rochester, and to Franklinville, Pa., in the Martin Luther King Tournament. The Hawks started the season 12-0, lost their last game on Feb. 1 and ended on a 12-game winning streak.
McDermott said he feels his team deserves the No. 1 ranking in the poll.
“That’s our rightful place to be. It’s been a great ride these last couple years,” McDermott said. “Winning the MMA, going to New York City, being first MMA to ever win a Class A title and completing the picture with the Class A Federation, another first for a Western New York team. They’re very proud, and they worked very hard.”
Large school pollsters: Paul Catalano (Kenmore East assistant/NFL), Joe Dougherty (Nardin/Msgr. Martin), Keith Junik (MMA), Jeff Martin (Kenmore West assistant/NFL), Dan McDermott (O’Hara, MMA), Rick Mihalik (Frontier/ECIC I), Sister Maria Pares (Sacred Heart, MMA), Frank Payne (Iroquois/ECIC II), Paul Twarozek (official), Ken Zymroz (official).