Jenna Einink and Chautauqua Lake are heading back to Troy, but this year they’ve got some Section VI company coming with them.
With their senior standout leading the way with 20 points, the defending Class C girls basketball state champion Thunderbirds beat Mynderse, 56-44, to cap off what is believed to be a historic performance in the Far West Regionals by Section VI.
Section VI beat Section V in four of the five Far West Regional games at Buffalo State Sports Arena, which is believed to be the best performance ever by Section VI against its counterparts from the Rochester area. Williamsville South (Class A), East Aurora (B) and Panama (D) also won Saturday, with the five games attended by a total of 2,150.
In the annual playoff round which determines the representatives for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association final four, Section V has dominated, going 96-51 in the round entering this year. Section VI had won only two of the last 15 games over the last three years. Since the five classification format began in 2004, Section VI has never won four of five games. Section VI officials also do not believe that it has ever swept the regional games.
Chautauqua Lake can give its Section VI teammates an idea of what it is like to play for the state championship at Hudson Valley Community College – the Thunderbirds won the Class C title there last year, and it was an obvious and attainable goal to go back.
“It’s their mind frame,” said Chautauqua Lake coach Eric Schuster. “I think they’d be very disappointed if we didn’t make it back to states. We’ll be back at it on Monday.”
The Thunderbirds (23-1) will play Section III (Syracuse area) champion Cooperstown in the semifinals at 12:30 p.m. Saturday. Cooperstown beat Section IV (Binghamton area) representative Watkins Glen, 46-34. The state title game will be played at 11:45 a.m. next Sunday.
“To go back again is so unreal,” said Einink. “I can’t believe we get this chance. We’ll just take it one day at a time this week and see what happens. It has definitely been a goal. We try not to talk about it. We definitely had some pressure, but at least we took it one game at a time and that’s all I can ask for.”
Einink, an All-Western New York second-team selection last season, did a little bit of everything for the Thunderbirds. The 5-foot-10 senior had 18 rebounds, nine blocks and four assists for her team while banging down low on some possessions and handling the ball as a point guard on others. She was called on to run the point when senior captain Courtney Hewes got in foul trouble.
“I’m really proud of my team for the way we handled the pressure,” said Einink. “Point guard is obviously a little tougher for me, but if coach asks me to do anything, I’ll do it.”
In what was a physical, hard-fought game all night, Chautauqua Lake took a 16-13 lead after one quarter that included a highlight play on its second basket when Hewes (13 points) hit the basket of the day: After a behind-the-back dribble got her into the lane, she had her off-balance flip fall in while being fouled.
Chautauqua Lake then gained a cushion it would sustain throughout the game with a 15-10 second quarter that put it up, 31-23, at halftime. It was up 43-32 after three quarters and held on despite Mynderse getting to within five in the final two minutes. Freshman Jesse Zenns had 12 rebounds to go with four points while senior Ashton Albanesius had 10 rebounds with five points.
Mynderse (19-7) was led by Divya Tewari, who had 13 points.