SINCLAIRVILLE - At the beginning of the season, Cassadaga Valley's Shawana Miller made it known amongst her coaches and teammates that she'd be especially focused on improved play in the paint. More specifically, she wanted to get at least 15 rebounds per game.
And though she hasn't hit the mark over her first three contests quite yet - she reached 14 in the season opener - that doesn't mean she hasn't been making an impact anyway.
"She set a goal for herself for 15 per game," Cassadaga Valley coach Mark Petersen said, "It's a great goal, and by saying it I know she'll get 10 or more, (which is good) because I want her in double figures."
Heather Ames of Cassadaga Valley puts up a shot over Falconer’s Jenna Fellows during the consolation game of the Lady Cougars Tipoff Tournament. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
It's the goal, you see, that's led the senior to what's been an outstanding start, and Thursday evening was no different.
Her squad locked in a back-and-forth battle with Falconer, Miller recorded her third double-double of the season to lead Cassadaga Valley past Falconer, 36-32, in the Lady Cougars Tipoff Tournament consolation game.
The victory was the second in as many weeks for the Lady Cougars against Falconer, improving their record to 2-1. Falconer, meanwhile, is still searching for that first win and is at 0-3.
Miller led the victors in all the major statistical categories but one, netting 13 points to go along with 10 rebounds, four blocks and three steals.
"She's improved leaps and bounds since her sophomore year," Petersen said. "She really has. She's starting to be a force around here in the area around the paint, and she's very good at shot blocking."
After a slow start by both teams in the opening frame - Falconer led, 8-5 - Miller came through with her biggest contributions in the second.
She hit a shot from the block 20 seconds into the period, banked a jumper off the glass a few minutes later and then, as Falconer continued to pile up defensive fouls - the Lady Golden Falcons committed their seventh team foul two minutes into the second quarter - she put together her own 6-0 run, with four of those points coming at the free throw line after she was fouled hauling in defensive rebounds, to end the half with her squad ahead, 15-13.
Miller's teammate Kristi Zink, who tallied 11 points with seven rebounds and three steals, took on an expanded role in the second half to help the Lady Cougars build a 22-17 advantage with a little more than two minutes left in the third quarter, but still Falconer wouldn't go quietly as Abby Courtney drilled a pair of triples one from the left wing and one from the right - within 30 seconds of one another to cut the deficit to just two.
"We'd go up and they'd just come down and stick a three," Petersen said of the back-and-forth nature of the bout. "Then we'd go up by five and they'd stick another three. But high school sports are about facing and overcoming adversity, and we faced it a bunch of times tonight."
And Miller was the one to help them overcome, hitting a deep jumper to snap a 30-30 tie and propel Cassadaga Valley on a 6-2 run over the final four minutes of play to clinch the third-place finish in the annual tournament.
"We were fortunate to come out on top," Petersen said, "because you've got to give the Falconer girls a lot of credit. Both teams just fought and fought."
NOTES: Miller was named to the all-tournament team, as was Falconer's Shannon Gunnell, who led in defeat on Thursday with eight points.
Brooks 2 4 8, Gunnell 3 2 8, McFall 0 0 0, Fellows 0 0 0, Steele 2 0 6, Anderson 1 0 2, Courtney 3 2 8. Totals 11 6 32.
CASSADAGA VALLEY (36)
Miller 4 5 13, Carroll 2 1 5, Zink 3 5 11, Johnston 1 0 2, Ames 0 0 0, Burch 1 1 3, Brown 1 0 2. Totals 12 12 36.
3-point goals: Anderson 2, Courtney 2.
Falconer8 5 10 9 - 32
Cassadaga Valley5 10 10 11 - 36