SANBORN — Thirty down. One more to go.
The Niagara County Community College women’s basketball team continued its perfect season with an 81-50 victory over Jamestown CC on Saturday, improving to 30-0 and reaching the regional championship game for the fourth year in a row.
Unlike the past three years, when NCCC was a visiting underdog in the title game, the Thunderwolves will play on their home floor for Sunday’s 1 p.m. championship game against four-time defending champion Monroe CC, who beat Genesee 83-70 in Saturday’s second semifinal
NCCC swept the regular season series with Monroe, winning 84-79 at home and 71-60 on the road. The Thunderwolves had never beaten the regional powerhouse prior to this year.
“This team has worked incredibly hard to get to this point and I personally just want to see them succeed so much,” said coach Nate Beutel, who was recognized postgame as Region III coach of the year for the third time in six seasons.
The Thunderwolves enter the regional championship game as the only undefeated team in NJCAA Division II and ranked eighth in the national poll. Monroe (18-5) is ranked 12th.
“I told them a week ago after we went 29-0 — don’t break my heart,” Beutel said. “This is the best team we’ve ever had here.”
Posting its 28th win by double figures and 12th by 30 or more points Saturday, the Thunderwolves made a season-high 16 3-pointers on 37 attempts (43 percent) and scored 31 points off of 25 JCC turnovers.
Leading 24-22 after the first quarter and 38-30 at halftime, NCCC broke the game open with a 20-8 third quarter.
“We let the game come to us, we didn’t force anything, we took the right shots and we pushed the tempo,” said Kenetria Redfern, who led the Thunderwolves with 26 points, seven steals and three blocks.
Redfern, a 5-foot-10 sophomore from Cheektowaga averaging 22.2 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 3.3 steals, was selected as Region III player of the year.
“It feels really good,” Redfern said. “My brother (Quintin) has been helping me through everything and he was here. It was kind of emotional for me because he knows all the work I’ve put in. I’ve been overlooked and underrated all of my life, so to get this recognition is really cool. And I couldn’t do it without my teammates.”
“She deserves every accolade she gets,” Beutel said. “The big-time players rise up in the big moments, and she certainly did that.”
Freshman sharpshooter Paige Emborsky (Newfane) hit five 3-pointers and finished with 17 points. Shilah Parker (O’Hara) had 16 points, six assists, five rebounds and four steals while Cori Dickson (O’Hara) added 13 points, eight rebounds, eight assists and four steals.
“It’s really cool for me because I’ve never been on a consistently winning team,” Redfern said. “It’s a breath of fresh air playing with girls that really want to win and want to uphold a certain standard.”