Thunderwolves win Region III championship
Turning back a strong second half challenge, the top seeded Niagara County Community College women’s basketball team captured its first ever Region III championship by defeating visiting No. 2 Monroe Community College 78-68 this afternoon.
Up by as many as 18 early in the third period, Niagara saw Monroe rally back to within two late in the final stanza. However, the Thunderwolves answered back with a clutch 10-2 run to close the game, including five each by MVP Kenetria Redfern (Cheektowaga) and Shilah Parker (Cheektowaga), to claim their elusive first regional crown.
“Finally, and it’s even sweeter by beating Monroe,” said Thunderwolves Coach Nate Beutel of the win which ended Monroe’s four year reign as regional champions. “I’m just so proud of this group. They work so hard. They really deserve it.”
Redfern finished with a game high 30 points as Parker had 15, Cori Dickson (Cheektowaga) 10, Aubrey Halloran (Albany) 9, Paige Emborsky (Newfane) 8 and Molly Mahony (Lancaster) 6.
In all the Niagara lineup has a trio of former Niagara-Orleans League players including Emborsky, Caitlynn Snook from Albion and Ellie Todd from Roy-Hart.
Emborsky, Dickson and Halloran were all named to the All-Tournament team as were Lyrik Jackson and Cierra Harrison from Monroe who led the Tribunes with 17 and 12 points respectively.
Staying undefeated on the season at 31-0, the Thunderwolves will next compete in the national championship tournament in Arkansas beginning on March 19.
Jumping out to a 10-0 lead at the outset, Niagara held an 11 point, 20-9, lead at the end of the opening period. Redfern had a jumper, a three and a layup, Parker two threes, Halloran two layups and Emborsky a three during that stretch.
The teams traded baskets throughout the second period which ended with Niagara still up by 11 at 43-32. Redfern scored 9, Dickson 7 and Emborsky 5 in the stanza.
The Thunderwolves then boosted the advantage to 18, 50-32, at the outset of the third period after a three by Dickson and jumpers by Redfern and Parker.
However, Monroe came storming back.
The Tribunes got right back in the game by putting together a 13-0 run, including two threes by Zorria West and one by Harrison, to cut the deficit to five, 50-45.
A late three-point play by Redfern though helped Niagara hold a seven point, 56-49, lead at the three-quarter mark.
Two layups by Redfern and a rebound bucket by Halloran put the Thunderwolves back up by nine, 64-55, midway through the final stanza.
The Tribunes though came battling back one more time with an 11-4 run, including a three and a two by Harrison and a pair of baskets by Zairea Hannah, to slice the deficit to just two, 68-66.with two minutes remaining.
The Thunderwolves though weathered the storm.
Redfern scored on a layup and then Parker hit a huge three to give Niagara a little breathing room at 73-66. Two free throws each by Parker and Redfern then put the Thunderwolves up by 11, 77-66, to finally put a lock on the hard earned victory.