With a 59-25 win at Orange on Wednesday, Chagrin Falls’ girls’ basketball team secured its first Chagrin Valley Conference title since 2015.
The Tigers, 15-3 overall and 7-0 in the CVC Chagrin Division, close out their conference schedule at Hawken on Saturday but will win the title outright even with a loss to the Hawks.
“It’s super exciting,” said Chagrin Falls coach Brittany Laseak. “You want to set realistic goals for your time, but at the same time, I wasn’t sure what to expect because we graduated five seniors. We didn’t know what we were getting into, but they definitely bought in and were excited to come in and work with each other every day. Now we have the results to show for that.”
Chagrin Falls won three straight CVC titles from 2012-2015 with Hallie and Hannah Thome on the roster. The Tigers finished 29-1 in league play during that stretch.
The Tigers made two runs at the title since, once in 2015-2016 when they finished 10-4 in league play and split with eventual champion Perry, and again in 2019-2020 when they went 10-3 but finished second to West Geauga.
“We’ve had some great teams in the past,” Laseak said. “I think about the Class of 2020 that we had and the class of 2016. Those were really good teams but the conference was just super-competitive, and it still is now. It’s kind of crazy because on any given night, anybody can win, but we found a way to get the job done.”
Chagrin Falls’ success was the result of each player understanding her role and putting forth maximum effort each night.
Sure, the Tigers have sophomore Lilly Stukus, an honorable mention All-Ohioan as a sophomore, on the roster, but Stukus, who leads the team in scoring with 17.3 points per game, has plenty of complementary pieces around her.
Senior Jenna Santamaria averages 8.9 points per game, senior Elana McGinnis drops in 7.6 per contest, and senior Kate Bartlett has averaged 7.4 points this season.
McGinnis and Bartlett lead the team in field goal percentage with a mark of 46 and 44 percent, respectively.
Bartlett is the team leader in rebounds with 6.8 per game and McGinnis has posted a team-high 2.5 assists per game.
Stukus is the team leader with 2.6 steals per contest and Bartlett has averaged a team-high 1.1 blocks per game.
“We found a formula that works,” Laseak said. “We found rotations that work and we found people that click with one another and they kind of figured out where they will on this play or where she’s going to rotate defensively. It’s a very, very intelligent group of girls and not just their basketball IQ. They listen and take in what we’re saying, so when you go through a scouting report, it’s like, ‘Okay, this is what we have to do to get the job done,’ and they just go out and execute. They’ve really bought into our defense and know that offensively, sometimes shots fall, sometimes they don’t, but you can always fall back on your defense. That has really carried us over the course of the season.”
Chagrin Falls has outscored its opponents this season 888-606 (49.33-33.67).
Despite their success, the Tigers aren’t done yet.
They hope to close out the conference schedule with an unblemished record, and then they have their sights set on a long postseason run.
“We just keep saying we’re not done yet,” Laseak said. “We have more great things to accomplish and they’re excited about that because they want to spend as much time together as possible, and they want to play together as much as they possibly can. Each game is a new opportunity, whether it’s a CVC game or not. Every day is an opportunity to get better, as cliché as that sounds, but they really do look forward to seeing each other. It’s not a group that comes in and dreads practice. They look forward to it.”
Perry locked up the Lake Division with a 6-0 mark. The Pirates have two conference games remaining but hold a two-game advantage over second-place Edgewood with two wins over the Warriors.
Richmond Heights is well on its way to winning its first conference championship in a number of years as the Spartans are 7-0 with three games remaining and a two-game lead over Brooklyn, who the Spartans swept this season.
Kirtland’s win over Berkshire on Wednesday left the Valley Division up for grabs as the Hornets now are 5-1 with two conference games remaining while the Badgers are 4-1 with three league games left on the docket.