Not quite enough
Undefeated Midlakes tops Fredonia Lady Billies in Far West Regionals
HENRIETTA — The Fredonia Lady Hillbillies storybook run through the postseason has finally come to an end.
Saturday night at Rush-Henrietta High School, the Fredonia Lady Billies fell to Midlakes, 70-60, in the Far West Regional state quarterfinal game in Henrietta.
Fredonia (12-13) started the game in an early hole, as Midlakes (25-0) scored the first eight points of the game.
Fredonia answered quickly, however, with Katie Price scoring eight points of her own in the next two minutes of play. Fredonia only trailed by two, 10-8.
After Midlakes scored on consecutive possessions, Price was removed from the floor after picking up her second foul of the first quarter.
With Price on the bench, Fredonia stepped up with seven straight points to take its first lead of the game, 15-14, on a 3-pointer from A’Cetta Farrait with 1:52 remaining in the first quarter.
Midlakes junior leading scorer, Alaina Forbes, capped off the first quarter with a deep jumper just inside the 3-point line, to give Midlakes a 16-15 lead after the first period.
Price returned to the floor in the second quarter and drilled a three with 5:25 remaining in the period to take a 23-21 lead for Fredonia. That shot ended up being the only field goal of the frame for Price, as the Lady Billies headed into the break down by four, 34-30. Price had 11 at the half, while Forbes led Midlakes with 15.
Just as it did in the first half, Fredonia started the second half slow, as well. Midlakes outscored the Lady Billies, 11-4, in the first three minutes of the game to take a 45-34 lead.
Price hit a pair of free throws and a 3-pointer to close the gap slightly, but Midlakes still held its lead for the remainder of the period. The Lady Billies trailed 53-46 headed to the fourth quarter.
At the beginning of the fourth frame, Price shined for Fredonia. The senior leading scorer scored five of the first six points in the quarter to bring Fredonia within a possession. Then, with 6:05 remaining in the game, Price drilled a three to tie the game at 54 apiece.
Forbes answered for Midlakes with a three of her own to reclaim the lead, but Price answered the call, as well, with a three to tie the game at 57-all with 5:25 left on the clock.
Forbes split a pair of free throws on the other end to take the lead, but Fredonia had a chance to take the lead for the first time in the final frame on the next possession.
Hannah Gullo answered the call for Fredonia, knocking down a 3-pointer to give Fredonia a 60-58 lead near the halfway point in the fourth quarter.
Half a quarter away from another Far West crown and back-to-back appearances in the state final four, Fredonia was tasked with shutting down one of the most prolific offenses in the state in Class B.
Fredonia came up just short.
Over and over again, shots rolled in-and-out for the Lady Billies. Shots that went in earlier in the game — and all postseason long — just would not go in for Fredonia.
Midlakes, however, closed the game with a 12-0 run after Gullo’s go-ahead three, to claim the Far West title.
Price and Forbes matched each other with a game-high 29 points. Gracie Morrison was next for Fredonia with 10 points, along with eight blocks. Farrait had seven points and 13 rebounds, while Gullo and Kazlin Beers also had seven points.
“I’m disappointed,” said Fredonia coach Carol Zirkle. “I wanted this team to make it to the next level.”
Fredonia was plagued with two things on Saturday that were uncharacteristic of Zirkle’s team in the postseason. The first was foul trouble. Especially early on, Fredonia had a plethora of fouls. Price, Beers and Morrison all spent time on the bench on Saturday due to their foul totals.
“That’s uncharacteristic for us,” said Zirkle. “I don’t usually have to take those people out.”
The other key statistic that stood out was Fredonia’s turnovers. The Lady Billies had 25 turnovers as a team, and especially early on, seemed overwhelmed by the pressure defense of Midlakes. Fredonia improved over the course of the game, but it just was not enough to advance to the state semifinals.
“We threw the ball away 25 times,” said Zirkle. “In a Far West Regional, it’s tough to have 25 turnovers and come back and win.”
Still, a team that headed into the postseason with a losing record — though against a very challenging schedule — was able to upset two 20-win teams and defeat its biggest rival, Dunkirk, at Buffalo State for the Section 6 Class B1 title. Fredonia’s playoff run just ran out of gas against undefeated Midlakes.
“From starting the season 0-4 when nobody had any faith in us … they came out and they performed,” said Zirkle. “I’m so proud of them. … There’s a lot of players and a lot of coaches that have never gotten to this level. It’s something to treasure. … It’s just hard to believe that basketball season ended.”