T’birds move on, Pope hits 2,000 points
MAYVILLE — Growing up in Ripley, Devin Pope was a manager for the girls basketball team as Sam Eimers worked her way to 2,018 career points.
Friday night, the Chautauqua Lake senior made some more history of his own.
Pope scored 29 points, eclipsing the 2,000-point plateau in the process, as No. 4 Chautauqua Lake held off a pesky No. 12 Salamanca en route to a 60-56 Section VI Class C quarterfinal victory.
“She was my role model when I was little. Just that she was even here today in attendance to watch was awesome,” Pope said of Eimers. “I’ve always looked up to her. It’s 2018 … so I was hoping it would all just mesh together and happen.”
With 1:11 remaining in the third quarter, Pope grabbed a rebound on a missed free throw and scored on a putback to reach 2,000 points.
“I’m glad to get it at home in front of the home crowd. The whole game, the gym was electric,” Pope said. “I knew I just needed one more because I heard everybody flipping out.”
He became the fourth player in Chautauqua County history to reach the milestone, joining Jamestown’s Maceo Wofford (2,258), Fredonia’s Michael Heary (2,235) and Maple Grove’s Chris Secky (2,067).
“Those are (three) great players. Maceo is a beast still until this day,” Pope said. “Michael Heary played DI, too, so it’s just awesome that I’m one of (four).”
Pope’s 2,000th point gave the Thunderbirds a 46-42 lead, but there was still work to be done for them to advance to a fourth straight sectional semifinal.
Zach Fischer’s bucket just before the third-quarter buzzer gave the hosts a 48-44 lead and Chautauqua Lake stretched that lead to seven on a Pope 3-pointer with 3:42 remaining. But the Warriors, who rallied from a 15-point deficit Tuesday against Portville and beat No. 5 Silver Creek at the buzzer Wednesday, did not go away.
Tyler Hedlund’s runner in the lane with 16 seconds remaining pulled Salamanca within three before the Thunderbirds’ Alex Gleason hit a free throw with 15 seconds remaining to put the game away.
“Alex Gleason really turned his game up. It was huge for us,” Chautauqua Lake coach Mike Putney said. “Alex has been up and down throughout the year … but he never gives up.”
With the win, Chautauqua Lake advances to Wednesday’s 7:45 p.m. Class C semifinal against No. 1 Randolph, which beat No. 9 Buffalo Academy of Science, 81-52, in another Friday quarterfinal.
“Tyler Hind is a great player. … It starts with him being very humble. He goes out and works very hard,” Putney said of the Cardinals’ leading scorer ” … He’s the leader of that team, even at a young age he has been. It’s great to see.”
Pope finished with 12 rebounds and three steals while Nate Adams had 7 points and 12 rebounds. Kyler Majka chipped in with six assists.
“He does everything. … He’s the first out there to do those little things …. getting the rebounds, making the passes, getting the steals,” Putney said of Pope. “… Yes, he’s an outstanding basketball player, but he’s one truly great young man.”
Hercules Rasha led Salamanca with 24 points and seven rebounds while Hedlund had 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
“I’ve never been more proud of a team in 11 years of coaching,” Salamanca coach Adam Bennett said. “To beat Silver Creek the way we did up there and then come in here – these are the defending sectional champions with a 2,000-point scorer on their home floor – and we have a chance to win it at the end, I couldn’t be more proud of their fight, their effort and their intensity.”
The Warriors got out quickly on the Thunderbirds on Friday night, answering an opening Pope 3-pointer with a 10-1 run. Collin Wood’s free throw eventually tied the game at 15 with 1:03 left in the first quarter before a Braden Siebert bucket gave Salamanca a 17-15 lead after eight minutes.
Pope and Brian Anderson scored on consecutive possessions to open the second quarter and give the Thunderbirds their first lead since 3-0. Chautauqua Lake extended its lead to 28-20 on back-to-back baskets from Pope, and eventually a Fischer 3-pointer gave his team its biggest lead of the night at nine.
“(Fischer) hit huge shots,” Putney said. “Kyler Majka in that first half was able to find guys left and right.”
The Warriors fought all the way back to tie the game at 36 with 6:05 left in the third quarter and took two more short-lived leads on a pair of Rasha buckets midway through the period.
Chautauqua Lake went 22 of 55 (40 percent) from the field, including 5 of 19 (26 percent) from 3-point range while the Warriors were 21 of 58 (36 percent) from the field and 4 of 16 (25 percent) from deep. The Thunderbirds turned the ball over 19 times, but outrebounded Salamanca, 41-28.
“I didn’t want it to end here,” Pope said. “Two-thousand is great but the real goal is to just keeping winning and keep going on as far as we can.”
NOTES: Other Section VI members of the 2,000-point club include Cheektowaga’s Dominick Welch (2,376), Burgard’s Rich Campbell (2,355), Traditional’s Damien Foster (2,324), Traditional’s Jason Rowe (2,286), Burgard’s Marcus Whitfield (2,285), Bennett’s Curtis Aiken (2,162), Park’s Chris Moore (2,161), Lackawanna’s Ray Blackburn (2,039), Traditional’s Greg French (2,029) and Traditional’s Don Juan Tyson (2,023). … Wednesday’s 6:30 p.m. semifinal will feature No. 2 Allegany-Limestone and No. 3 Tapestry.