Battle tested

Fredonia left no doubt they were the best boys basketball team in CCAA West I Friday night, as the Hillbillies (12-3, 8-0) dismantled arch-rival Dunkirk (2-13, 1-8), 60-35, wrapping up their first league title since 2001.

“I certainly loved the way we played defense,” Lauer said. “The whole game we rebounded pretty well and the guys really responded to the fact that we needed to ball-pressure (Dunkirk). Our offense struggled and I think our defense really carried us a little bit.”

Fredonia’s pressure defense helped limit Dunkirk to just five points in the first quarter, as the Hillbillies used runs of 11-2 and 10-3 to build a 21-5 lead heading into the second quarter.

“It was frustrating because we practiced and got ready for it,” Dunkirk coach Steve O’Brien said of Fredonia’s defensive pressure. “We just didn’t execute. We missed a couple of easy layups that sometimes get you rolling, but again, (we’re not taking) anything away from (Fredonia), because they play so hard and take those away from you.”

Sophomore Pat Moore led the Hillbillies with six points off the bench in the first quarter while John Piper had five points and Dylan Meyer and Nick Johnston four each.

“It’s real nice to be able to bring a sophomore in that can hit four 3s for us,” Lauer said of Moore. “(Dylan) Meyer was struggling from the outside and he had to go more inside, and Pat can hit a three and (John) Piper can hit a three. That’s big for us.”

Dunkirk outscored Fredonia 10-9 in the second quarter, but were only able to close the gap by a point as the Hillbillies held a 30-15 lead heading into the break.

“We had a lot of opportunities to get more (points), we just didn’t do it,” O’Brien said. “And (Fredonia’s) pressure didn’t help.”

Meyer, who led Fredonia with a game-high 20 points, scored eight of them in the second quarter, but it wasn’t from long-range, as he struggled to find his shot. But Lauer knows that even if Meyer can’t get a feel for his jumper, he will be able to drive to the basket to make up for it.

“It’s nice when you’ve got a guy that can attack the way Dylan can,” Lauer said. “And get to the rim like he can and score on bigger guys. It’s certainly a big help. He’s a tough kid.”

In the third quarter, Moore again led the way for the Hillbillies, as they opened up a 48-28 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Moore scored eight of his 15 points on the night in the third while Meyer added six more and Piper four.

“We were short-benched and they were not short-benched,” O’Brien said. “They have a heck of a lot of depth and our bench got even shorter with the foul trouble.”

Fredonia only increased its lead in the fourth quarter, as the Hillbillies outscored the Marauders, 12-7, sewing up a long awaited league title in the process.

“They knew,” Lauer said when asked if his team was aware they had clinched the division title. “They keep track of all that stuff and they’re pretty excited about it. But at the same token, they know that Monday is a huge game. We squeaked one out against Maple Grove at their place, and we know they’re going to be gunning for us. And we need that game to really get that one seed or two seed that we want in the playoffs.”

Dunkirk received a strong performance from sophomore Isiah Thomas, who finished with nine points, nine rebounds and five blocks while Richard Pickens chipped in seven points and Esmond Colvin six points.

“Isiah (Thomas) played a heck of a game and Esmond (Colvin) played a heck of a game with four fouls,” O’Brien said. “And I thought Richard (Pickens) played his best game of the season.”

Michael Bess, the Marauders’ hero Wednesday night when he hit a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired in Silver Creek, finished with a team-high 13 points.

“The first thing everybody says to me when they talk to me about Michael is they want to talk about his points,” O’Brien said. “I thought Michael rebounded the heck out of the ball – I don’t know how many he ended up with – I thought he was a force underneath. He played real good defense, he’s all over the floor helping out on offense and he’s a hell of a teammate. He’s a prolific scorer, but Michael does an awful lot of things out on the court that he’s gotten better at this year that I’m happy about.”

Although the Hillbillies won the league title, Lauer – and his players – know there is still much more work to do.

“We look up at the banner and we see we haven’t won a division title in 13 years,” Lauer said. “And the guys certainly want to leave their legacy and their mark and that’s one of the goals. And the other would be to get their year up there for a Sectional title as well.”

NOTES: Meyer added five rebounds to go with his 20 points … Moore finished with four assists and three steals to go with 15 points off the bench … Piper had nine points, Johnston nine points and 10 assists and Cam Voss hauled down nine rebounds to lead the Hillbillies.