The Lake Shore girls basketball team won’t forget what it did so far this week.
First, the Eagles knocked off top-ranked Amherst in the Class A-2 playoff of the Section VI championships on Sunday.
Then on Wednesday night, Lake Shore took care of the No. 2-ranked Williamsville South in the Class A final. The Eagles did it in a convincing way, too, with a 63-49 win at the Buffalo State Sports Arena.
“That’s two of the best (teams) that’s out there,” said a very pleased Danielle Arnone, the Lake Shore coach.
“We knew this is what we wanted for the end of the season. You can only take one game at a time, but you are hoping and wishing. We knew the last two games were going to be big battles, but the girls worked and hustled. They wanted it more. … I’m very proud of my girls. They did a great job.”
This sort of week has been on the minds of guard Tashawni Cornfield for a long time.
“We thought of this months ago,” she said. “Our team has a great connection. We’re like a family. We know we’ve got good shooters, rebounders.”
It didn’t take very long for Lake Shore to show that it was ready for this game. The Billies jumped out to a 9-4 lead after a little more than four minutes, only to see the Eagles close the quarter with a 10-0 run to take the lead for keeps.
The way that the quarter was played, though, was a good clue as to what was ahead in the game. Williamsville South never could get a transition game going, frequently turning the ball over to a swarming Lake Shore defense before it could get off a shot.
“We knew they were going to create chaos,” Billies coach Kristen Dolan said. “And I tried for the last couple of days to tell them, you’ve got to keep your composure. We talked about being physical, being strong with the ball, being smart — don’t force it, let things develop.
“We just had some brain freezes. … No one had a great game (for us) on the offensive end. They hit their shots.”
The game featured two players who clearly deserve consideration for the top individual honors in girls basketball in Western New York. For Lake Shore, Cornfield turned in an amazing performance to lead the way. Yes, she had 25 points, but it was how she got them that was so impressive.
The 5-foot-7 junior did more than hit some outside shots when the opportunities came up. Cornfield also drove into the lane fearlessly where, surrounded by taller players, she put up some unlikely looking shots at strange angles that found their way to the bottom of the basket. It certainly ranked as one of the most spectacular performances in recent memory.
Cornfield had help. Her sister, Noelani, had 13 points, while Sophie Snyder added 15. That’s a lot of production from the team’s three guards.
“They are absolutely awesome athletes,” Arnone said. “They’ve got the raw talent that everyone wants on their team. They’ve also got big anticipation skills. You can’t teach that. It’s natural.”
Amari DeBerry of Williamsville South, who finished with 24 points, kept the Billies relatively close. Even so, the Eagles made her work for everything she got on this night.
“We talked about the fact that she’s only one person,” Arnone said. “We wanted to go at her and make her make decisions.”
Lake Shore only led by 27-25 at the half, but slowly and surely pulled away the rest of the way. The Eagles were up by seven (41-34) after three quarters, and Williamsville South could never get closer than six the rest of the way.
“They deserve it,” Dolan said about the Eagles’ victory, which duplicated a win over the Billies in the same round of the playoffs three years ago. “We didn’t play well. Hats off to them.”
Now Lake Shore is on to the Far West Regionals. The Eagles will play a team from Section VI on Saturday night at Buffalo State.
And they now have the chance to make it an even more memorable week.
“We’re grateful to be here,” Arnone said. “The girls are going to go hard, and we’ll just hope for the same outcome.”