The Cassadaga Valley Lady Cougars found themselves on the wrong side of an unstoppable force on Thursday evening - an unstoppable force in the form of 6-foot-1 Janae Hamilton.
Hamilton, who has yet to score fewer than 24 points in a game this season, wreaked havoc all over the court against the designated home squad, scoring points seemingly at will in the paint, from short range and, impressively enough, from beyond the arc on her way to a career-high 35.
That was more than enough to lead the Lady Eagles to a 58-36 victory in the opening round of the 2012 Jack Shop Holiday Shootout at Jamestown Community College's Physical Education Complex.
After grabbing an offensive rebound, Ellicottville’s Janae Hamilton goes back up for two of her game-high 35 points. Defending is Cassadaga Valley’s Shawana Miller. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Rob Tucker
The victory earned the Lady Eagles (3-2) a place in the tournament's championship game tonight at 7:45, where they will host Sherman, a 47-35 victor over Southwestern.
"There was no answer for her on the floor," Ellicottville coach Tim Bergan said of his leading scorer. "I don't know if there's an answer for her in the whole league. She's got a nose for the basket and she's going to find a way to score."
The senior hauled in six offensive rebounds, hit 11 of 22 shots from the field and 12 of 13 from the free throw line, and stood front and center whenever the Lady Eagles put together extended runs.
She scored seven of Ellicottville's first nine - five of those points coming from three fouls - to help the Lady Eagles jump out to an early 9-2 lead, a lead they would hold for the remainder of the contest.
Disastrously for Cassadaga Valley, two of those three early fouls were called on top rebounder Shawana Miller, which forced her from the game and allowed Hamilton even more space down low.
"We didn't have an answer for their size," Cassadaga Valley coach Mark Petersen said, "especially Hamilton. How many times did she go to the line? When Miller went to the bench with two fouls in the first 40 seconds... turn out the lights. I thought (Hamilton) was going to knock down 50."
She didn't quite reach the half-century mark, but her total was just six shy of the Ellicottville school record.
"We went to a 4-out, 1-in with Janae on the inside," Bergan said, describing how his senior had so many opportunities to score. "That's a load (for an opponent) because they have to sag in and help, which not only enables other kids to get some outside shots, but it also, because Janae is such a good rebounder, allows her to get some putbacks."
Despite trailing early, Cassadaga Valley didn't go quietly. The Lady Cougars clawed back with an 8-2 run in the first to make the deficit just two, 14-12, at the end of the opening frame. Then, after Hamilton tallied 11 of her team's 14 in the second, Cassadaga Valley's Heather Ames connected on three straight jumpers from the corner to keep the group within nine at the break, 29-20.
That would be the last time, however, that the Lady Cougars could find it in themselves to fight back.
Hamilton scored 10 more points - six from the line - as part of an 15-3 run over the final five minutes of the third to seal the game. Cassadaga Valley managed to score just 10 more points during the next 10 minutes of play.
"We fought back three times, but then the wheels just sort of fell off," Petersen said. "We kept it close, crawled back a few times but just couldn't get over the hump. All we can do is regroup, come back and have a better game (today)."
NOTES: Kelcie Brown led Cassadaga Valley with eight points and Ashley Carroll had seven. ... Due to the scorekeeper's illness, rebounding and other statistics were unavailable. ... The Lady Cougars will meet Southwestern at 6 p.m. In the second game, Elle Reed poured in 33 points to go along with 16 rebounds, seven steals and four assists for winning Sherman while Emily Wuebbolt was tops amongst Southwestern players with 10 points and 14 rebounds.
J. Hamilton 11 12 35, Hall 1 2 4, Szpaicher 3 1 7, Golley 0 4 4, M. Hamilton 1 2 4, Wilson 1 0 2, Pierce 1 0 2. Totals 18 19 58.
CASSADAGA VALLEY (36)
Carroll 3 1 7, Zink 3 0 6, Burch 2 1 6, Brown 3 2 8, Ames 3 0 6, Miller 1 1 3. Totals 15 5 36.
3-point goals: J. Hamilton, Burch.
Ellicottville14 15 15 14 - 58
Cassadaga Valley12 8 7 9 - 36