High school basketball: Frontier League girls favorites deliver clean sweep of titles

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WATERTOWN — There were no underdog tales in the Frontier League Playoff Championships for girls basketball Saturday afternoon at Jefferson Community College, as all four No. 1 seeds emerged from their respective contests with double-digit victories.

Thousand Islands claimed the “C” title, Indian River the “A”, Sackets Harbor the “D” and South Jefferson the “B”.

THOUSAND ISLANDS 48, BEAVER RIVER 38

Senior Ashlyn Eyles scored her 1,000th career point and the Vikings claimed their 10th consecutive “C” Division crown with a hard-fought victory over the Beavers.

Unbeknownst to her, Eyles needed only six points to achieve the landmark, but it had to come against a Beaver River team that had allowed her only nine total points in the previous two meetups. The motivated guard was up to the challenge, however, as she sank a 3-pointer with one minute, 51 seconds remaining in the second quarter to reach 1,001 career points.

“I didn’t know it was happening at first, because I didn’t know how many I had to get,” Eyles said. “But, I knew deep down I wouldn’t be here without my team. They’ve helped me gradually get better, and that’s helped a lot.”

Eyles joins teammate Anna Hoover, who accomplished the feat on Dec. 20, 2017, and four other Frontier League players — General Brown’s Kylee Rosbrook, Indian River’s Paige Leonard, and the Sackets Harbor duo of Jamie Lynn Mendelson and Hailey Martin — in crossing the highly regarded threshold this season.

Eyles’ 11 total points went a long way for TI (17-2 overall), which has battled illness for two weeks and consistently found an energetic Beaver River squad (13-7) nipping at its heels throughout the game. After the Vikings raced out to a 9-0 lead, the Beavers stabilized and brought the deficit to eight at the end of the first quarter, which would also be the margin at the end of the second and third quarters.

Beaver River’s Emma Puddington, who crossed the 1,000-point plateau last season, kept her team in the game with her persistent post play. Puddington, who earned “C” Division MVP, produced 20 points and 17 rebounds.

“Emma is consistent, has been consistent since Day 1 when I first started coaching her,” said Beaver River coach Don Neddo — who saw his daughter, star guard Sierra Neddo, lose her senior season due to a knee injury. “It’s been a year filled with adversity but yet we’ve had players that have stepped up and done a really nice to fill that gap.”

Despite whittling down their deficit to as little as one point, the Beavers couldn’t complete the push past the Vikings. With Beaver River forward Elaine Roberts experiencing foul trouble, the Vikings attacked the paint late in the game in order to seal the win. Courtney Evans-Eppolito finished with 15 points and 12 rebounds, while Hoover chipped in seven points and 10 rebounds.

“They don’t really have a lot of post players who can guard all three of us (herself, Eyles and Hoover) at the same, so we talked a lot about capitalizing on that,” Evans-Eppolito said.

The victory put the finishing touches on TI’s “decade of dominance,” as it has won both the regular-season and playoff “C” Division titles each season while winning every single divisional game in the last 10 years.

“When I first started coaching, I never thought I’d be able to say that we’d have a whole decade of dominance, if you will,” said TI coach Pete Pettit, who is in his 20th year. “Just kids loving the sport as much as me, coming to prepare, winning for 10 years in a row. … It’s just an amazing streak, and I’m fortunate to be a part of it.”

SACKETS HARBOR 53, COPENHAGEN 39

The Patriots staked their claim to the “D” Division throne by defeating the No. 2 Golden Knights and sweeping them in Frontier League play for the first time since 2008-09.

“It’s hard to beat a team three times, so when we finally came through it felt good,” said point guard Kelsey Gonseth.

Sackets Harbor (19-1), which extended its winning streak to 16 games and earned its fourth playoff title in the last decade, utilized an electric 23-7 second quarter to zip past the Copenhagen (13-8).

“That was a strong quarter for us,” said Sackets coach Ryan Tastor. “We were really able to push the ball, attack the basket, get some layups, get out and run, which we really feel is a strength of ours.”

The Patriots’ starting five delivered a balanced effort — “D” Division MVP Hailey Martin logged 17 points and 10 rebounds, Jamie Lynn Mendelson contributed 13 points and nine rebounds, Gonseth added 10 points and nine assists, and Brooklynn Newcombe and Annika Menapace scored nine and four points, respectively.

Together they overcame Copenhagen’s Katie Best, who continued her recent tear with a 29-point, nine-rebound performance. Over the past five games, Best is averaging 23 points per game.

“She’s really stepped up it this year,” said Copenhagen coach Natalie Scott. “In years past, she sometimes would get down on herself, but that has not happened to her this year.”

It was a satisfying win for the Patriots, who exacted revenge for a 49-40 playoff final loss last season.

“It’s a great feeling, they’re a tremendous team,” Tastor said. “(The Golden Knights are) extremely well-coached, they’re prepared every season, every game. They always have a great game plan, and to beat them makes you feel good because you know you had to earn it.”

INDIAN RIVER 50, IHC 26

Not even an unexpected first-half fire drill could cool down red-hot senior Paige Leonard, who scored 30 points to lead the top-seeded Warriors to the “A” Division championship over the third-seeded Cavaliers.

With 2:07 left in the first quarter and Indian River up 11-7, the gymnasium fire alarms began to blare and forced a temporary evacuation.

“I was a little worried about the girls getting their sneakers wet in the snow, so thankfully they didn’t have to stay out there too long,” said Indian River coach Jim Whitley, who has coached basketball for more than 20 years. “But that was a rarity, I’ve never seen that happen before. We’ve had that happen at Indian River during practice on a below-zero day, but never during a game.”

The delay lasted about 15 minutes before the resumption of play, which began with Leonard taking the inbound pass in for a bucket and bringing her total at the time to 10. She finished the quarter with 14 and the half with 21.

“She’s been a great leader. And she’s not all about points,” Whitley said. “If you look at the Section 3 leaders, it’s not just points, it’s rebounds, it’s assists, it’s steals, it’s whatever.”

Leonard, who received “A” Division MVP honors, also logged 12 steals and eight rebounds for the Warriors (14-6). Nia Gray added nine points and eight rebounds.

Josie Barton and Julia O’Brien both scored eight points for IHC (6-12).

SOUTH JEFFERSON 50, LOWVILLE 21

The Spartans smothered the second-seeded Red Raiders with their trademark defense and won the “B” Division Championship in the final game of the day.

South Jefferson (18-1) instituted a full-court press from opening tip, which frazzled Lowville (12-8). The offense parlayed those stops into an 11-0 run which set the Spartans up for the rest of the game.

Jenna Zimmerman led all scorers with 15 points for South Jefferson, while Abby Piddock and Alyssa Stevenson contributed 11 and 10, respectively. The Spartans, who held Lowville to just three points in the second half, claimed their second consecutive title.

Caroline St. Croix led Lowville with nine points.

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