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Fast start propels T’birds past Dragons

February 8, 2017
By Gib Snyder III - , Westfield Republican

Chautauqua Lake went on a game-opening 18-0 run and never looked back Friday (Feb. 3), taking care of Maple Grove, 61-37, during a Division 1 West matchup that doubled as the Cystic Fibrosis Charity Basketball Game at Chautauqua Lake Central School.

"We were coming off a big win against Olean a week-and-a-half ago, so it's really hard not having a game for that long," Chautauqua Lake coach Bill Persons said. "So it was good for us to get out of the gates early."

The Thunderbirds (8-7, 6-2) used an inside-outside game featuring Lakin Gustafson and Jesse Zenns in the low post to dominate the Red Dragons throughout the first quarter.

Article Photos

Photo by Scott Reagle
Maple Grove’s Marissa Schuppenhauer and Chautauqua Lake’s Katelyn Fardink battle for a loose ball during Friday’s Division 1 West basketball game.

"She's been playing big time the last few games," Persons said of Gustafson, who scored 10 of her team-high 14 points over the game's first eight minutes. "She's got a really good (post) move on her and she's starting to square herself up (to the basket) and make some really good shots down low. She just uses her body really well."

Zenns added four points in the frame and Chautauqua Lake took a commanding 22-6 lead into the second quarter.

"To tell you the truth, I wish I knew," Maple Grove head coach Jason Bower said of his team's slow start that saw his team go scoreless until the 1:08 mark of the first quarter. "We've had a problem the last few games getting off to slow starts. I think (Chautauqua Lake's) defense, I'm not going to say it rattled us, but we made a couple turnovers early, our defense broke down, we let a couple easy buckets go in, we got down a little bit and I think that took the wind out of our sails early."

To make matters worse in the second quarter, the Thunderbirds started to connect from beyond the arc, as Katelyn Fardink, Samantha Gleason and Emily Phelps all connected from long range to increase their lead to 35-13 on Fardink's trey, en route to a 38-13 halftime advantage.

"It's huge for us," Persons said of his team's inside-outside game. "We're such a balanced team. We've obviously got size, but we've also got guards that can play well outside. So when they start working good together, it just culminates to an all-around team effort."

Despite being down 25 points to start the third quarter, the Red Dragons (8-9, 2-8) did not give in too easily, as they outscored the Thunderbirds, 13-11, but were still down 49-26 heading into the final stanza.

"That's been our thing lately," Bower said of his team not giving up in the second half. "We're playing in this upper division, tougher league and we've had four tough teams right in a row in Olean, Fredonia, Southwestern and Chautauqua Lake and it's just a gut punch to play those teams that are bigger schools. But I still believe in our team. We're a great team, but we're a young team, and I want them to keep playing and keep having fun and that's all it takes."

Caleigh Swanson led the way for Maple Grove with a team-high 14 points while Riley Caskey added 11 points.

Despite some second-half struggles, there was no question that the Thunderbirds' experience was too much for the youth of the Red Dragons.

"We're looking toward the playoffs," Bower said. "And, like I said, we're a young team. We've got three freshmen and three sophomores and sprinkled in a couple of juniors and seniors. I'm proud of them. They play hard every time."

"We've got a lot of experience," Persons said. "I've got six seniors and they've all been playing with me since the eighth grade, well minus one year. So they know what I expect and I know what I can get from each one of them. Things are really starting to come together for us."

As it is on other nights, and in other communities throughout the area, Friday night was about more than just a basketball game, as donations were collected to help fight cystic fibrosis, a disease that claimed the life last spring of a recent Chautauqua Lake graduate.

"It really is a testament to these girls," Persons said of the charity event. "Jesse Zenns was really the one who initiated and organized the event for us and the girls kind of rallied around her and helped out. And what an awesome experience it was for them to help raise some money for a good cause, and then go out and play the way they did. It was really the frosting on the cake."

For Bower and the Red Dragons, being a part of a fundraising game is becoming old hat.

"When we played Chautauqua Lake at Maple Grove, Coach Persons asked me if we'd be interested in doing it and I said, 'Absolutely.' He said he felt kind of funny asking because we were a part of Falconer's, but I said, 'No, no, absolutely. I'm glad to help out and be a part of it with you guys.'

"I think it's a great cause," Bower added. "I'm glad we got to be a part of it."

NOTES: Gustafson added five rebounds to go with her 14 points. Zenns had a game-high 10 rebounds. Taylor Phelps chipped in 8 points and four assists in the win while Sam Bauer added 6 points, six steals and four assists. Katelyn Fardink had 9 points and seven steals for Chautauqua Lake. Courtney Hemminger led Maple Grove with seven rebounds. Sammy Davis had three steals in a losing effort.



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