Finally back to work

With first place in CCAA West I on the line, the Fredonia Hillbillies (6-3, 3-0) hosted the Silver Creek Black Knights (6-3, 3-1) on Thursday in a game which may be a preview of a playoff matchup in February.

In the end, it was the Hillbillies who stole the show with a gritty, high-energy 62-49 victory over the defending Far West Regional champion Black Knights.

“I’m very pleased with the way we came out defensively,” Fredonia coach Greg Lauer said. “Forty-nine points is the lowest point total we held anyone to all season and we held them to 15 points total in the second half. The guys really responded. They really wanted this game and they were up for it. The energy was where it needed to be.”

The energy the Hillbillies brought was the difference in the game. Fredonia consistently beat Silver Creek to loose balls, out-hustled them up and down the court and played suffocating defense.

Nick Johnston’s on-ball defense frustrated Silver Creek’s guards all evening and kept the Black Knight offense from establishing a rhythm.

“In the beginning I though we were a little too hyped up because the game was a big game,” Silver Creek coach Rob Genco said. “We went down real quick, but fought our way back to go up at halftime. We got in foul trouble. They did a nice job flopping, but they beat us to spots and played very well fundamentally. I loved their energy and effort. I think we needed to play against a high-energy team like that.”

Fredonia opened the game on a 10-0 run in the first three minutes. Silver Creek quickly stormed back with a 7-0 run of its own, but found themselves trailing 17-11 after the first quarter.

Halfway through the second quarter, with the score sitting at 27-17 in favor of Fredonia, it appeared the game was on the brink of becoming a blowout. The momentum was on the side of the Hillbillies and Silver Creek’s standout center Billy Brooks had just picked up his fourth foul.

That’s when the Black Knights went on another hot streak.

Silver Creek closed the half on a 17-5 run sparked by Kaine Kettle’s 3-point shooting. Kettle hit two 3-pointers and converted another three-point play to give the Black Knights their first lead of the game with less than a minute left in the half and a 34-32 lead at halftime.

‘”We should be winning the game, not losing,”‘ Lauer told his team at halftime. “We had a stretch there in the final three minutes where Silver Creek really turned it on and just exploded on us. We weren’t ready to handle that. We were up 10 and next thing we knew, we were down by two to start the second half. But we came out and were ready to go and get back to where we started the game.”

With Brooks in foul trouble, and unable to be aggressive at either end of the floor, the Hillbillies took advantage in the second half.

“Absolutely (we wanted to go after Brooks early),” Lauer said. “If he’s in the paint, it totally changes the game. We wanted to get him in foul trouble, but their coach never took him out. He stayed in the game the whole time. At halftime, we said ‘We’ve got to get this guy out of the game.’ And we were never able to do it. He’s a big factor offensively, too.”

“He had four fouls in the first half and if he comes out in the first 30 seconds of the third quarter and fouls out, I look like a goofball coach. But he made it to the end of the game,” Genco added. “He just had to alter shots and not block them. It’s a learning experience for him, too. He can’t chase those blocks and get himself into foul trouble.”

Fredonia outscored Silver Creek 17-11 in the third and took a 49-45 lead into the final quarter.

It was in the final quarter where the Hillbillies took full control. Fredonia held the Silver Creek offense to four points the entire fourth quarter while Dylan Meyer took over offensively with eight of his team-high 19 points.

Meyer pulled down six rebounds to go with his 19 points. John Piper added 18 points including three 3-pointers. Johnston’s defense stole the show, but he also contributed 13 points and six assists on the offensive end. Cam Voss led the Hillbilly rebounders with eight boards.

Despite playing more than half the game with four fouls, Brooks managed to record a triple-double by scoring 20 points, pulling down 22 rebounds and blocking 15 shots. Kettle added 11 points while Brennan White scored five points to go with five assists and five rebounds.

Silver Creek’s next game is Saturday ay home against Randolph.

The Hillbillies are set to host Southwestern on Monday, Jan. 13.