SINCLAIRVILLE - A 9-0 run to open the third quarter helped Dunkirk (15-2, 9-2) cruise to its second 20-point win over CCAA Division 1 arch-rival Fredonia this season, 76-56, during boys basketball action at Cassadaga Valley High School.
"I think we forced the tempo in the second half," Dunkirk head coach Jerome Moss said. "Mike Donaldson did a good job pushing the ball and once he was getting to the basket, he was shooting it or he was kicking it out to open players. And we were hitting our shots in the second half and that made the difference."
A three pointer by Nick Johnston stopped the Dunkirk run, but the Marauders picked up the pace again, outscoring the Hillbillies (7-10, 6-6) 12-5 the rest of the way to build a commanding 52-34 lead as the teams headed to the fourth quarter.
OBSERVER?Photo by Sean Pecuch
Dunkirk’s Evan Ahlstrom goes up for a layup in front of Fredonia’s Dylan Meyer (22) during their CCAA?Division 1 boys’ basketball game at Cassadaga Valley, on Saturday.
"Those top two guys played very well at the top in that zone (defense)," Fredonia head coach Greg Lauer said of Dunkirk. "But our guys are more than capable of attacking that and getting down inside in the paint and we just didn't accomplish that (Saturday)."
The first half was much more competitive, as Dunkirk led by just five at the break, 31-26. In the first quarter, Dunkirk started slow, but behind six points from senior Kevin Holmes and four each from juniors Marquel Ruiz and Alex Crossan, the Marauders were able to take a 19-11 lead into the second stanza.
"I was really happy for Alex," Moss said of Crossan, a junior, who was filling in for an absent Josh Mleczko. "We told him (Friday) that he'd be starting and he got himself mentally prepared and came out and gave us a good ball game."
The Hillbillies turned the tables in the second quarter, picking up the pace on offense and defense to cut what was an eight-point Marauder lead to just five as the teams went into halftime.
"We attacked the basket a lot better," Lauer said of his team's play in the second quarter. "Which was the key for the whole game ... We didn't do it the whole game, but in the second quarter, we definitely picked it up, and defensively, we got a couple of matchups that we wanted to get and I think that helped us go on that run there."
"I think (Fredonia) started playing more of a defense that they were moving most of their people in the middle," Moss added. "So we weren't able to get to the basket the way we wanted to. We had to shoot a lot of jump shots and our jump shots weren't going in that well, so that slowed us down a bit."
Sophomore Dylan Meyer had a team-high seven points in the second to help the Hillbillies outscore the Marauders 15-12. Unfortunately for Fredonia's leading scorer, that would be the most success he'd have all game.
"That zone defense really stops the middle very well," Lauer said. "And (Dylan) Meyer wasn't connecting very well on the inside. When he's got those big guys collapsing on him, it's definitely not the open looks he wants to get."
Holmes led all scorers with 29 points - and all rebounders with 10 - to finish with a double-double in his last regular-season game against Fredonia.
"Kevin's a senior," Moss noted. "And we talked about the fact that it's the last time the seniors will be playing against Fredonia and they wanted to come out and play well. And Kevin was very focused (Saturday). I'm very proud of him, as I am of all my seniors."
Fellow senior Mike Donaldson finished with eight points, 11 assists and four steals while Evan Ahlstrom chipped in five points, six rebounds and three steals.
"It's a great feeling," Moss said. "Not only to win, but these guys played very well today. These guys grew up together and they had the opportunity to play against Fredonia again and win the game.
"They graduate in June," Moss added. "This is the game they'll talk about in 10 years."
For Fredonia, Johnston had a team-high 16 points while adding five rebounds and three steals.
"He's only a sophomore and he played tough on Donaldson I thought at times," Lauer said of his sophomore guard. "And offensively, he's our leader to get the offense going."
The Hillbillies did not quit as they played their best basketball over the final eight minutes, scoring 22 points, nine of which came from John Fletcher.
"Our guys didn't quit," Lauer said. "John Fletcher did a nice job in that quarter. He attacked the basket well and the guys played hard to the end. We just couldn't allow ourselves to get down in that third quarter."
However, Ruiz scored 15 of his 19 points in the fourth quarter to help Dunkirk outscore Fredonia, 24-22, for the 76-56 final.
"I think early in a game, like usual when Dunkirk and Fredonia get together, there were some nerves there," Moss said. "And once we settled down, we were able to do what we wanted to do."
Dunkirk's zone defense led to 27 Fredonia turnovers. The Marauders used their size advantage to earn a 33-26 margin in rebounds.
"I think we did a good job defensively," Moss said. "Early on we did some pressing and then we came back to a zone and we were able to move around a lot and get our hands on some balls. We tipped a lot of balls today and I was very pleased with that."
For Lauer's Hillbillies, he knows his young players will learn a lot from the loss.
"The young guys got a lot of playing time," Lauer noted. "And we hope that correlates into something and gives them motivation to come out and take Dunkirk next year."
Although the weather outside was frightful, Moss was appreciative of the support his team received.
"Due to the inclement weather, I knew some people that wanted to come out that were unable to do so," Moss said. "But the fans that did get through the weather and were able to get here, we want to say thank you very much for that. And hopefully they'll show up Monday night in Silver Creek for our 'Senior Night.'"
NOTES: Crossan finished with eight rebounds to go with his eight points ... Fletcher finishied with 11 points, all in the second half ... Meyer finished with 12 points and John Piper chipped in nine points in the loss.