Conventional wisdom says that seniors Janae Hamilton, Elle Reed and Dani Reinwald shouldn't get along.
Each the main threat on a trio of teams with Section 6 Class D title aspirations (and beyond), they've spent the better part of two months battling not only for individual supremacy, but, and most importantly to them no doubt, Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 4 dominance as well.
Attend a Sherman-Clymer, a Clymer-Ellicottville or an Ellicottville-Sherman game, however, and you're likely to see something rather curious - while two of the three will be out on the court, fighting tooth and nail to get the win, the third will be in the stands amongst the spectators, not just scouting the league's, and her own, biggest threats, but rooting for them as well.
Clockwise, from the left, Sherman’s Elle Reed, Clymer’s Dani Reinwald and Ellicottville’s Janae Hamilton are among the Section 6 girls basketball leaders in several statistical categories. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photos by Rob Tucker (Reed and Hamilton) and Scott Reagle (Reinwald)
As longtime Sherman coach Mel Swanson said, "Sometimes the best rivals are friends."
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The three haven't always been adversaries. In fact, during the summer, they're just the opposite, and play together as teammates on the same AAU basketball team.
It's where the rivalry gained that extra aspect that it is so often lacking - friendship.
"They get along great," the group's AAU coach Ken Ricker said. "They really do. Normally a Clymer girl and a Sherman girl aren't supposed to be buddies, but together they were just a great group."
And together they won tournaments.
In their first tournament together with Ricker as head coach, the trio led the squad to the finals, where Hamilton and Reinwald accounted for 40 of a total 60 points and a whopping 30 rebounds. In another tournament, after a teammate was hurt, Reed shifted seemlessly between point guard and shooting guard, providing points and leadership along the way.
"They were that team," Ricker said of the trio's importance. "Those three were really special, and together they were incredible. Separately they're incredible, too, but together they were an awesome group."
All told, Ricker and the squad won three tournaments, and Reed, Reinwald and Hamilton have been rooting for one another - when they're not squaring off in the arena, of course - ever since.
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Neither Ricker nor Clymer coach Scott Neckers can recall a time when this much talent was packed into one division.
"Not since I've been in girls basketball, which has been about nine years," Ricker said. "They're dominant for that level. They aren't just good, they're beyond great."
Added Neckers, "There's always been good players and good teams in Division 4, but I can't remember a time (when there were three) this good."
The statistics back up those claims.
Through 12 games Reed, the defending Division 4 player of the year, is averaging a whopping 32.167 points per game, a number tops amongst the whole of Section 6. She also leads the section in total steals (81) and points (386), is second in total assists (69) and an impressive - for a point guard - eighth in total rebounds with 142.
Reinwald, who led the Lady Pirates to a Section 6 title a year ago, is fifth in points per contest (22.0), second in rebounds (182), and sixth in total points (220), and Hamilton, who was the Division 3 player of the year last season, is behind only Reed in scoring average (27.0), is third in total points (297) and 11th in rebounds with 133.
Other accolades and highlights?
All three have tallied over 1,000 points for their careers. In just her second game of the season, Reed set a new Sherman record by pouring in 38 points in a single game. Since then, she's already topped her own record twice, upping the number, by last count, to 42. Reinwald recently became the Lady Pirates' all-time leading rebounder, topping the 34-year-old record of 814 and Hamilton has netted at least 30 points in over half of her games this season.
"They are very special players for this area," Ricker said. "They're leaders, great kids and great players."
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While the competition amongst themselves has led in part to these astronomical numbers, it's had another effect as well, improving not only Reed, Hamilton and Reinwald's play each night, but their teammates' as well.
"They make their teammates better," Swanson said, "and I think it's made all three of our teams much more competitive. I would say we're much better all around. The league is certainly the most competitive it's been in the last four or five years."
Thus far, none of the three have yet managed to gain the upper hand in the talent-laden division.
Sherman is 6-1 in league, its lone loss coming to visiting Clymer on Jan. 15; Clymer, too, has one loss - to Ellicottville - and Ellicottville has likewise suffered just a single league defeat at the hands of, you guessed it, Sherman.
With each squad set to play one another one last time during the regular season's final two weeks, it's shaping up to be quite a finish.
"There's going to be some great ballgames," Neckers said. "We already played Sherman and that was a great atmosphere. And with Ellicottville it'll be the same."
Added Ricker, "It's going to be a fun ride this next month and a half, I'm just glad we get to appreciate (these three players and the race) a little bit longer."
For The Record
386 points (1st) *69 assists (2nd)*81 steals (1st) *
142 rebounds (8th) * 32.167 ppg (1st) *
220 points (6th) *182 rebounds (2nd) *22.0 ppg (5th) *
297 points (3rd) *133 rebounds (11th)27.0 ppg (2nd) *
* Section 6 rank (courtesy of sectionvsoccer.net)