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Weather pushes girls basketball playoff games to today

Silver Creek’s Jaylah Cossin (above) looks for a shot in a game earlier this season. OBSERVER File Photo.

Thursday night originally had five girls basketball playoff games on the slate, but a blizzard sweeping across Western New York had other plans.

Instead, the games were moved to tonight, and while snow and cold put the first round of games in peril, a few of the games should bring the heat — should they be played. In the event that the games originally scheduled for Thursday be moved again, they will most likely be played Sunday afternoon.

The 3-seed and 6-seed matchup in the Class C-1 bracket looks on paper to be the best game, as the 6-seed Silver Creek Lady Black Knights travel to Cassadaga Valley High School to take on the 3-seed Lady Cougars, in a battle of two teams who finished the regular season at 11-9.

The struggle for the Lady Black Knights on the season was their record in league play, as they finished just 3-7 in CCAA Div. 1 East. The Lady Black Knights started off their season with seven consecutive wins right out of the gate, before really sputtering for the remainder of the year. Coach Tammy Rice’s team at times played sloppy, making several mental errors, committing turnovers, and struggling find a rhythm on offense. That type of behavior is not normal from both a team of seniors and a team coached by Tammy Rice, so while the 6-seed in the bracket may have been earned, it isn’t necessarily telling of how the team will perform.

The Lady Black Knights have a good mix of experience, as they have Chloe Barrett, Phoebe Kingsfield, Kiera Brennan, Jaylah Cossin, and Libby Lawton all in their normal rotation as seniors. But the player that drives the team is sophomore Abby Rice. Typically, as Abby Rice goes, so do the Lady Black Knights. Rice’s mix of height, speed, athleticism, and court vision combine to make a player who is a triple-double threat every time she steps on the court. Despite the disappointing regular season, the Lady Black Knights are a team with the tools to make a surprise deep playoff run.

Chautauqua Lake Lady Thunderbirds’ Lily Woodis battles for a ball with Dunkirk’s Kymi Nance during a game earlier this season at Dunkirk High School. OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot.

Cassadaga Valley finished their league play much cleaner than their first round opponent, ending with a 6-4 record in CCAA Div. 2 West, though it didn’t always come easy for them either. The Lady Cougars had a couple close calls in games on the season, against some of the teams at the bottom of the standings. The most notable of those games came on Jan. 31 when they narrowly got by the Westfield/Brocton Lady Wolverines, 38-37. Despite the best efforts of the Lady Wolverines, who drew up a fantastic inbound play to take a 37-36 lead with under 10 seconds to go, Cassadaga Valley’s Kaylee Pattyson was able to sink the game-winner at the buzzer.

The matchup of Pattyson and Abby Rice will be the pivotal point of the game. While Cassadaga Valley has been the more complete team all season, Abby Rice is a hard player to stop when she’s on. Lady Cougars coach Todd Fryberger will have a lot to handle in the Lady Black Knights, but Fryberger has an experienced team in his own right. Juniors Pattyson, Brielle LeBaron, and Sarah Meder are joined by seniors Meghan LeBaron and Bella Ruiz, forming a more than capable five to make a run.

The Chautauqua Lake Lady Thunderbirds will also host their first round playoff match, earning the 2-seed in the Class C-1 bracket, despite being a team full of youth. With only one senior on the team, Kyleigh Perdue, Lady T’Birds coach Bill Persons came into the 2019-20 season with a very young team, though in this case, that doesn’t mean inexperienced. Sophomore point guard Alexis Jacobson has four years of varsity experience, while the other two pieces of Chautauqua Lake’s big three, Lily Woodis, a sophomore, and Rebecca Henry, a junior, provide the perfect mix of experienced youth. They still did go through some growing pains, including when Jacobson missed a handful of games due to injury in the middle of the season. But if any team can deal with injuries, it’s Persons, who is one of the best coaches around. Chautauqua Lake will host Catt./Little Valley, who were just 6-13 on the season, which gives Chautauqua Lake a good chance to advance past the first round.

The Gowanda Lady Panthers also find themselves in the C-1 bracket, coming in as the 8-seed after finishing the season at 4-14. Gowanda is taking on the 1-seed Portville Lady Panthers, who ended 14-5. Gowanda entered the season with first-year coach Ross John. Though inexperienced, he’s been around high school basketball for his entire life — and fortunately, he came in with a star player. Gowanda junior Miya Scanlan, who is already committed to play college lacrosse, is one of the best athletes in Chautauqua County, which is excellent for a first-year coach. Scanlan missed some time with injuries herself, but when she did play, she was outstanding. She was able to out-duel Abby Rice and the Lady Black Knights, which proved to be Gowanda’s signature win on the season. Scanlan found her way to the 1,000-point club with one year left to play, and similar to Silver Creek and Abby Rice, when you have a player like Scanlan, anything is possible.

The Westfield/Brocton Lady Wolverines also have a first round game, but their road is about as hard as it can get. The Lady Wolverines have the 8-seed in the Class C-2 bracket, meaning they get the toughest draw. That draw is especially tough when the draw is the 18-2 Holland Lady Dutchmen. Holland rolled over competition all season long, with their only losses coming to City Honors and Eden, with only one of those losses being in league play. Conversely, the Lady Wolverines didn’t win any games in league play, finishing 0-10 in league and 5-15 overall. It was a disappointing season on most fronts, except for the emergence of freshman Haleigh Dellow. Dellow quickly found the favor of her coach Dave Mathews, and became a player that Mathews is expecting growth out of. While a majority of the team is seniors, Dellow is certainly a player to look for in the future. Upsets can certainly happen, though with a team as strong as Holland, Westfield/Brocton has their work cut out for them.

Westfield/Brocton Lady Wolverines’ shoots a 3-point shot during a game earlier this season at Westfield Academy. OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen.

The Pine Valley Lady Panthers are in the Class-D bracket, hosting the first Class D playoff game as the 4-seed. Despite the fact the Lady Panthers finished the season 2-18, both of their wins came in league play, giving them more power points than the Clymer Lady Pirates, who are the 5-seed. The game is effectively a play-in game, as the winning team will take on the 1-seeded Panama Lady Panthers next week at Jamestown Community College. While Panama is one of the best girls teams in the area — who finished 18-2 — for Pine Valley’s first year coach Eric Span, this opening matchup will be a good piece of learning for his young team in what is a winnable playoff game.

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