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Lake Shore’s youth movement pays off with A-2 title

Late in the third quarter of Sunday’s A-2 title game, the realization began to set in: not only was Lake Shore going to win its second straight girls basketball championship, but it could be several years before someone knocks the Eagles from their perch.

Up 10 points against Kenmore East, Lake Shore coach Andrea Conrad entrusted the floor to four eighth-graders, who ran the half-court offense with incredible savvy. The ball worked its way to Jaydn Jones, who drilled a three-pointer to push the lead to 13. The way Kenmore East’s offense was fighting it Sunday, this one was all but over.

Lake Shore went on to win, 64-49, as eighth-graders Tashawni and Noelani Cornfield, Sophie Snyder and Jones combined for 28 points.

“I’m pretty sure it’s unheard of,” Conrad said of rolling four eighth-graders in a championship game, though she’s been doing it all season. “We live and die with their mistakes. If they make one error, they make three good plays. If they can really increase their basketball IQ and learn the game a little more to go along with their physical talent, they’re going to be unheard of and unstoppable, in my opinion, in the future.”

As if having twins in the backcourt isn’t enough to aid their cohesion – Tashawni is seven minutes older than Noelani – all four eighth-graders play AAU together in the offseason with I-90 Elite, facing older competition from across the country.

“All the eighth-graders have experience,” Tashawni Cornfield said. “But it’s kind of hard because we all get so wound up in everything. If one of us gets yelled at we all freak out.”

Lost in all of this is that Lake Shore’s upperclassmen are pretty darn good, too. Shayla Scanlan, a junior, scored 14 points while classmate Raeann White added 11. The team’s lone senior, Kelsey Eggleston, had all seven of her points in a key second-quarter stretch when Kenmore East’s offense was starting to come to life.

Even more important is how well the upperclassmen have handled letting younger players run some of the show.

“I thought it was going to be an issue, but honestly they don’t care,” Conrad said. “They want to do whatever they have to do to win. They don’t care who it is, what grade.”

Lake Shore (18-4) opened the third quarter with an 11-0 run to pull away from East. Kiaja O’Neil scored a game-high 17 points for the Bulldogs while Kendall Mills added nine.

“We made too many mistakes,” said Kenmore East coach Jack Blanch, who remains tied for fifth on Section VI’s all-time girls basketball wins list with 332. “You can’t make that many mistakes. You can’t shoot 12-for-30 from the foul line. It wasn’t one thing. There was too many.”

Lake Shore will meet A-1 champ Williamsville South on Wednesday at Buffalo State for the right to represent Section VI in the Far West Regionals. Lake Shore’s four losses this season all were against Williamsville South and East, who played for the A-1 title.

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