Down to the wire

“That was intense.”

Those were the thoughts of Dunkirk head coach Jerome Moss after his Marauders (4-5, 4-9) fell to arch-rival Fredonia (7-2, 10-4), 59-57, during CCAA Division 1 boys basketball action Tuesday night at Dunkirk’s newly renovated gym.

Up 48-41 early in the fourth quarter, the Marauders saw their lead dwindle, before John Piper put the Hillbillies up 53-52 with 1:51 remaining in the game.

After a Jacob Lockett put-back gave Dunkirk its final lead of the night, Piper scored Fredonia’s next four points, giving the Hillbillies a 57-54 lead with time winding down.

“We were up one, we didn’t want to take anything quick, the shot clock was winding down and he stepped up and hit a big fade-away shot on the baseline,” Fredonia head coach Greg Lauer said of the sophomore Piper.

Nick Johnston and Jon Fletcher – who played outstanding defense all night long, finishing with six steals – combined to hit 2-of-4 from the charity stripe to ice the Hillbillies’ seventh league win of the year.

“He’s key for us,” Lauer said of Fletcher. “If he can get some pressure on (the other team’s) point guard, and get them to think about things and turn the ball over once or twice, it’s huge for us.”

The Hillbillies finished 10-of-12 from the line over the game’s final eight minutes while the Marauders missed on their opportunities, going just 1-of-6.

“You’ve got to be able to step to the free-throw line and hit those,” Moss said of his team’s missed free throw attempts. “Because at some point in the game, they can become very important.”

redonia started the game on a 7-2 run, but quickly saw its lead disappear, as Dunkirk went on a 14-0 run over the final 6:20 of the first to take a 14-7 lead into the second stanza.

“It wasn’t like they were just out-running us, or out-playing us,” Moss said of Fredonia. “And I saw that. I saw the fact that we missed a couple of good opportunities and (Fredonia) went up. But I was comfortable with that because we were playing (well). And I had an idea that we were going to come back from that and we did.”

The Hillbillies bounced back in the second quarter, as junior Dylan Meyer scored 14 of his game-high 26 points in the frame, helping Fredonia to a 30-27 lead at the break.

“We weren’t shooting the ball well in the first quarter,” Lauer noted. “And (Meyer) came out and hit some big threes that helped keep us close in that stretch there, where we weren’t defending real well. Dunkirk was scoring pretty easily, and Dylan kept us in there going into that second half.”

Lockett, who was coming off an illness, helped Dunkirk retake the lead, as he scored the Marauders final seven points of the third, as the home team took a 39-36 lead into the fourth.

“I thought that fatigue could have been a problem with him,” Moss said. “So, we brought him in off the bench. I thought he did a great job for a kid that had been down for a couple of days. I thought he did a wonderful job. He gave us all he could give us. I was very proud of that.”

Lockett finished with a team-high 16 points, adding eight rebounds.

“We knew it was going to be a battle,” Lauer said. “I didn’t expect it to be like that, but it certainly was (intense).”

Marquel Ruiz did his part in a losing effort, making the most of his 13 points, the majority of which came following field goals by the Hillbillies.

“I thought Marquel probably played his best game all year,” Moss said of his senior guard. “He really was focused (Tuesday). He really wanted this one being it’s the last time he’ll be playing Fredonia, and he came in really focused to play.”

The win by the Hillbillies was their first in the Marauders’ new gym and the team’s certainly gave the fans in attendance their moneys worth.

“It was gut-check time,” Moss said. “And I thought my kids played one hell of a basketball game.

“It was a wonderful crowd,” Moss concluded. “Everybody was into it and it was a good high school basketball game. Hopefully we can shake this one off and get a couple of more wins before playoffs.”

NOTES: Meyer added six rebounds to go with his 26 points … Fletcher finished with seven points, six steals and five rebounds … Johnston added 10 points, nine assists, five rebounds and three steals in the win … Crossan, who went just 1-of-5 from the free throw line in the fourth quarter, finished with 14 points and a game-high 11 rebounds … Michael Bess chipped in nine points in the loss.