When looking at tonight's CCAA West I girls high school matchup between the Dunkirk Lady Marauders and the Fredonia Hillbillies, one might think this game will be lopsided.
Fredonia sports a 10-2 overall record and an 8-1 league record. On the other hand, Dunkirk is just 1-10 on the season.
However, Dunkirk has been in nearly every game this season. Lost in triple overtime to Silver Creek earlier in the season and in overtime to Falconer just last week.
Fredonia’s Morgan Genovese, left, and Dunkirk’s Sarah Hanlon, right, will be key players in tonight’s Dunkirk at Fredonia girls high school basketball game.
"I know we are 1-10, but we are a deceiving 1-10," Dunkirk coach Sarah Burnett said. "We have been real competitive and played with teams for 2 1/2 to 3 quarters. We just can't put a fourth quarter together. I think we are much better than our record says we are."
One of those games where Dunkirk played three strong quarters was the first meeting between these two teams, in which the Lady Hillbillies prevailed, 53-43.
After a ferocious pace to start the game, the Lady Hillbillies ended the first quarter with a slim 13-11 lead, before taking a 26-22 lead into the break.
Dunkirk eventually cut the deficit to one point in the third quarter, but Fredonia went on a 12-0 run to put the game out of reach.
"It was a close game," Fredonia coach Carol Zirkle recalled. "Dunkirk is very physical and athletic. They play man-to-man. Morgan (Genovese) was in foul trouble. We didn't play as well as we would have liked at times."
That game was also a turning point for Fredonia as leading scorer Morgan Genovese was in foul trouble for much of the first half and scored just four points through three quarters, before erupting for nine crucial points in the final frame.
"It forced the rest of the team to step up and it developed confidence," Zirkle said. "It benefited our team quite a bit."
Now with more players contributing offensively, Fredonia has other options to use.
"We are going in to play our game," Zirkle said. "We need to set good screens and see what comes. Morgan got put on the bench because of fouls and we didn't execute our offense. Hopefully we execute and see who we can get open. We have second, third, fourth and fifth options. Morgan knows if someone else is scoring, it takes off the pressure from her and it will open her up."
This time around, the Lady Marauders are hoping to shut down Genovese for four quarters.
"I was very pleased with how we guarded her the last game," Burnett said. "She is someone you have to worry about and she makes the most of her opportunities when she has the ball. We need to try to limit her touches."
The Lady Marauders will also look to their seniors to step up in their final Dunkirk-Fredonia rivalry game.
"I really have been challenging the seniors," Burnett said. "I hope they step up because it is their last Dunkirk-Fredonia game. We need their energy and intensity. If they do that, the rest of the team will follow.
"We need Maddie Crandall to step up, also," Burnett added. "She is going to be playing with a lot of emotion. Maddie is such an intelligent player. She knows basketball so well. She has brought a spark to our team throughout the season."
And Zirkle knows not to take Dunkirk, or anyone in CCAA West I for granted.
"I think that our whole league is one where any team can win on any night," she said. "I think they have been very close. No one is taking them for granted because we know how tough they can play. We know they are going to come in determined and we know they want to beat us. They are a team with different girls who can step up."
As for Fredonia's keys to success, it's all about fundamentals.
"We need to play our basketball game," Zirkle said. "We need to execute the fundamentals and play the defense we are capable of. We have to do what we do, and do it well. It's the little things that make teams successful. We have to make sure we force their players to their weak hand, box out, get rebounds and take care of the basketball, and we have to do it consistently with intensity and enthusiasm."
Dunkirk is looking at this game stress free, feeling all the pressure is on the Lady Hillbillies.
"It is nice because going into this game, we have no pressure on us," Burnett said. "That's going to play into our advantage. Our girls can just play. Anything can happen in a Dunkirk-Fredonia game. We are going in with the expectation that we can beat Fredonia."
The game will be televised on Access Channel 5 in Fredonia and Channel 12 in Dunkirk. The game starts at 7:30 p.m., and will be called by Ed Eaker.