Fredonia advances to B-1 Finals, will face Olean Saturday

BUFFALO – After struggling to find their offense in the first half, the No. 1 Fredonia Hillbillies (16-4) exploded for 25 points in the third quarter as they cruised past No. 4 Tonawanda (12-8), 59-39, during Section 6 Class B-1 boys basketball semifinal action at Buffalo State on Tuesday.

“We talked in the locker room about moving the ball better and pushing the ball up the floor,” Fredonia head coach Greg Lauer said of the adjustments his team made at halftime. “I thought we were just too passive and kind of played (Tonawanda’s) game. I think they wanted to slow us down, because we like to run and we kind of got into that flow with them. So we came in the locker room (at halftime) and just said we’ve got to push (the ball) more.”

John Piper, who battled an illness all day during classes, came out strong in the third quarter, scoring 10 of the Hillbillies’ 25 points in the third quarter. But Piper wasn’t alone, as senior standout Dylan Meyer chipped in 12 of his game-high 25 during the third frame to help Fredonia to a commanding 48-26 lead heading into the final quarter.

“They’re our go-to guys,” Lauer said of Piper and Meyer. “And they kind of picked it up when we needed them to. Dylan needed to hit some threes and he did that in the third. And Piper, he was deathly ill in class (Tuesday) and we didn’t know if he was going to be able to go, and he came out and just gave us a great performance. He got his energy going and he really didn’t show any signs of being sick.”

The fourth quarter was a mere formality and late in the quarter, the Hillbillies began to celebrate their second-straight trip to a Sectional final, having lost last year to Buffalo East in the Class B-2 final.

“They’re excited,” Lauer said. “They’ve been looking forward to it all year, but we’ve been trying to keep them grounded and telling them to take it one step at a time, but it’s finally here and we have a chance to go for another Sectional title.”

Early on, however, Fredonia struggled to find its rhythm from the floor as it held a 13-8 lead after the first quarter and a 23-17 lead at the break.

“These guys put a lot of pressure on themselves to succeed and get back to the finals,” Lauer said. “And I think they came out and were a little bit too tense to start the game. We just had to keep reminding them to get back into our game and attack the basket.”

Cam Voss did his part to keep the Hillbillies ahead and Tonawanda off the scoreboard as the 6-foot, 1-inch junior picked up blocked shot after blocked shot, and several key rebounds.

“He dunks the heck out of the ball in practice,” Lauer said of Voss. “He’s got great springs, great lift and long arms. He’s got everything a shot blocker would want, except being 6-foot, 7-inches. But he makes up for it with his ability to get off the floor quick.”

Voss finished with 15 rebounds and a season-high 11 blocks on the night, coming five points short of a triple-double.

“He was huge (Tuesday),” Lauer said. “We put him in a help-side role, we didn’t really put him on a man per se, we kind of said, ‘You’re going to help on Connor Pumm, or Tristian Boling.’ And he did that. Those guys didn’t get any clean looks. To have 11 blocks – I don’t think he’s had 11 blocks all year (in a game) – and I don’t know how many points he had, it could have been close to a triple-double, but it was a fantastic game for him. He really helped us control (Tonawanda) defensively inside.”

Tonawanda had trouble hitting its mark all night and was never able to figure out Fredonia’s defense.

“We knew we wanted to pressure (Tonawanda) a lot,” Lauer said. “We watched film on them and Nick (Johnston) really wanted to get up in Ben Stich’s face and make it hard for him to start the offense and I think he did a really good job with that. And then once (Tristian Bolling) got the first pass, we were up pressuring him and they really couldn’t get that flow in their offense going. They were constantly trying to force shots and get looks that probably weren’t there.”

Up next for the Hillbillies will be the No. 2 Olean Huskies (17-3), who eased past No. 6 Depew (10-11) in Tuesday night’s other B-1 semifinal. The two former CCAA Division 1 foes will square off at Buffalo State on Saturday at 1:45 p.m.

“We’ll take a look at the film from the Olean-Depew game from (Tuesday),” Lauer said. “And we’ll just look at offensive sets that they run and defensive sets that they run and we’ll look at other tape we have. Really, at this point, it’s not about fundamentals, it’s about prepping for that next game and what (our opponent) can do to us and what we can do to them.”

NOTES: Piper finished with 14 points Meyer added seven rebounds to go with his 25 points Nick Johnston had seven points and eight assists Tristian Boling led Tonawanda with 19 points.