Pondering an upcoming championship battle with Chautauqua Lake late last week, Frewsburg coach Jeff Collver discussed what he admired most about the Lady Thunderbirds.
"(Coach) Eric Schuster does a great job of getting those kids to play together as a team," he said. "I think that's one of their strengths."
It turns out that's a considerable strength of his own squad as well.
Annie Berg of Frewsburg drives to the basket against Chautauqua Lake in Saturday’s Section 6 Class C-2 championship game. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
Wavering at times, but never faltering - even as second-seeded Chautauqua Lake threatened to take a late lead - it was that sense of togetherness that led the top-seeded Bears to victory and a Section 6 Class C-2 title, 74-70, at Jamestown High School on Saturday afternoon.
The victory - the Bears' first sectional title since 2010 - means yet another battle with rival Randolph, which captured the C-1 title behind a 53-27 win over Allegany-Limestone, in the Section 6 Class C crossover final. That game is scheduled for Tuesday, 7 p.m., at Jamestown High School.
Collver and crew are just glad to have earned another game, however, especially after the nail-biter that took place on Saturday.
Leading by six heading into the final frame, 60-54, Frewsburg managed to maintain a slim lead until the 1:28 mark, when Ashton Albanesius knotted the contest at 70 with a bucket down low. But as the situation, and momentum, seemed to turn against them, the Bears, Collver noted, kept their heads even as he was losing his own.
"I thought there was a little irony in the fact that I almost lost my mind with the officials and the kids were able to really regroup and refocus," he said with a smile. "They got me back into the game. They were all talking about what we needed to do next and I just bought right in; went right along with them."
Coming out of the timeout, Annie Berg drove the baseline and dropped a runner off the glass to regain the lead, 72-70, and on the ensuing Chautauqua Lake possession Frewsburg reserve Kamryn Gardner drew a charge. The Lady Thunderbirds managed a defensive stop, but on their next offensive trip Tara Hunt's layup attempt refused to fall, leading to a scrum for the offensive rebound that was called a jump ball with 23 seconds to go.
The possession arrow pointed to Frewsburg.
After burning five seconds of clock, Shawna Raymond (16 points, six steals) was fouled, and the senior connected on both ends of the one and one to push the advantage to four points. Jenna Einink would attempt a pair of treys (the second was partially blocked by Raymond) in the waning moments, but neither would go.
"The pressure of this kind of game - it's easy to let it overwhelm you," Collver said. "But our kids made big shots when they needed to. We seemed to be able to refocus when we needed to, even when I was losing my mind a little bit. The kids really stayed together as a unit (tonight)."
Frewsburg, which jumped out to an early lead, 8-0, behind 3s by Emily Hair (16 points, seven assists) and Reyanne Strong (22 points, six steals, four assists), lost the lead only once - at the 3-minute mark of the opening frame - but Chautauqua Lake never fell beyond striking distance.
Trading runs, Frewsburg went ahead 8-0 and then found itself trailing 13-12 over the game's opening five minutes. After Frewsburg went on a quick, 6-0 spree to regain the advantage, 20-15, by the end of the period, it was outscored 10-5, cutting the lead to just two, 32-30, with three to go in the half.
"Chautauqua Lake was so well-prepared for everything we do well," Collver said, "and for us to be able to overcome that and still be able to perform, it was a great performance by our kids mentally. I thought it was the mental game at the end that kind of (clinched it for us)."
The Lady Thunderbirds enjoyed another surge in the third as they scored 15 during a four minute span - it was only the clutch shooting from distance by Strong that kept the Bears ahead - to diminish the deficit to three, 53-50.
Once again, however, Frewsburg answered right back with a 8-2 run to end the frame and maintain the advantage.
"They battled and battled and battled," Schuster said of his team. "(The deficit) was like 3 (points), then 5 (points), (then) 3 throughout the whole third quarter and then, in an instant, we were down eight again."
Chautauqua Lake had another solid opportunity to finally get over the hump and take the lead in the fourth, when Frewsburg committed its seventh team foul just 15 seconds into the period. But the Lady Thunderbirds, over a two minute span, misfired on 5-of-7 free throws.
Chautauqua Lake connected on 16-of-29 free throws (55 percent) while the Bears hit 10-of-11 (91 percent)."
"I (had mentioned) before that that was going to be the end for us once we got into a game like this," Schuster said. "Our free throw percentage wasn't terrible tonight...but Frewsburg, they don't miss."
NOTES: Jenna Einink scored a team-high 19 points with 26 boards, eight assists, four blocks and three steals. ... Five different Chautauqua Lake players scored in double figures, including Courtney Hewes (10 points, six assists), Ashton Albanesius (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Tara Hunt (11 points).
CHAUTAUQUA LAKE (70)
Herrington 0 0 0, Hunt 4 1 11, Moulton 0 0 0, Hewes 4 0 10, Cummings 0 0 0, Milliman 7 0 14, Einink 5 9 19, Albanesius 5 6 16. Totals 25 16 70.
Raymond 5 6 16, Hair 7 0 16, Cass 4 0 8, Strong 7 4 22, Knight 1 0 2, Lynn 0 0 0, Berg 4 0 8, Gardner 1 0 2. Totals 29 10 74.
3-point goals: Hunt 2, Hewes 2, Hair 2, Strong 4.
Chautauqua Lake15 19 20 16 - 70
Frewsburg20 19 21 14 - 73