CCAA girls basketball division races to heat up in the second half

In the home stretch

OBSERVER File Photos by Ron Szot Dunkirk’s Jessica Beehler dribbles the ball upcourt in a game earlier this season. Beehler has shined thus far for the Lady Marauders orchestrating the potent offense.

This past week, Chautauqua County Athletic Association girls basketball divisions finished up their first round of league games. To no surprise, the most competitive division is the CCAA Division 1 West. Currently, Maple Grove sits atop the division with a 5-1 league record, with its only loss courtesy of second place Southwestern, who is 4-2.

Despite having just one loss this season, Dunkirk finds itself in third place, but with one less game played. Dunkirk was supposed to play at one-win Olean on Saturday and likely would have moved into second place.

If you take out the lone game the Lady Marauders scored less than 70 points, Dunkirk has averaged 88.8 points per game. Dunkirk’s only loss came to division-leader Maple Grove, who managed to hold the high scoring Lady Marauders to 65 points in a 68-65 final at Maple Grove.

With no signs of slowing down offensively, Dunkirk should be the favorite to come out on top of the division in the second half. Dunkirk’s starting five of Jessica Beehler, Kymi Nance, Olivia Smith, Nadara O’Dell and Amari Carter all are key contributors, but recently Beehler has been a huge standout on the scoresheet. Beehler has four triple-doubles this season and was two rebounds shy of a quadruple-double against rival Fredonia last Monday.

What really makes the top of the division interesting is the fact that Maple Grove’s only divisional loss came to Southwestern, while Southwestern has lost to both Dunkirk and Chautauqua Lake, and Chautauqua Lake suffered a home loss to Fredonia. In the second half of the league schedule, any of the top five teams could make a run at the division title because of how tight the competition has been.

Fredonia’s Kelly Gullo protects the ball against a Maple Grove defender earlier this year.

After winning just one league game a year ago, the Fredonia Lady Hillbillies have doubled that total with wins against Olean and Chautauqua Lake. But three consecutive losses to the top three teams in the division, including a 96-62 loss to rival Dunkirk has the Lady Hillbillies sitting right in the middle of the division. This Friday, Fredonia will get its chance to get another league win when it plays against Allegany-Limestone, but it certainly will not be a gimme as the Lady Gators have played close games against Franklinville and Chautauqua Lake.

The Chautauqua Lake Lady Thunderbirds have yet to play in a lopsided league game this year with their biggest loss courtesy of Dunkirk 88-77, and their biggest win was over Olean 56-44. If Chautauqua Lake wants to move into the top three, it will need to get a big win against either Dunkirk or Maple Grove. Its first opportunity will come on Friday when the Lady Thunderbirds host the Lady Marauders.

Outside of the tightly contested Division 1 West race, most of the other division favorites are establishing themselves on top. In Division 2 West, the powerhouse Panama Panthers are undefeated at 3-0, but they are joined by Sherman with a perfect league record thus far. The two will meet for the first time on Jan. 28, but Panama’s overall record and recent history makes it quite the task for anyone to try and dethrone them. Locally, Cassadaga Valley is 1-2 in the division and its only win comes against Westfield/Brocton who is yet to get a league victory.

In Division 1 East, Franklinville has been steamrolling the competition with its closest game being an 11-point victory over Randolph, while they also have 20 point victories over second and third place Falconer and Portville. Surprisingly, Silver Creek can be found at the bottom of the division. After starting the season with six consecutive wins, the Black Knights have now lost five in a row. Gowanda is just one game in front of Silver Creek after beating the Black Knights in Silver Creek 50-38 last week. Silver Creek will try to get its first league win on Thursday at Randolph.

Division 2 East, the smallest division, has just two league games played and Ellicottville is the team on top at 2-0. With Ellicottville being the closest team to .500, it’s likely they will go on to win the division. Both Pine Valley and North Collins have one win on the season and don’t have the experience to compete for the division title yet.

With everyone getting today off from school for Martin Luther King Jr. Day, nonleague girls basketball action will pick back up on Tuesday and Thursday will feature several league games.