T’Birds open Westfield Winter Classic with win, beat Sherman, 67-58

Chautauqua Lake’s Nate Adams (23) leans into Sherman’s Kameron Ayers (3) as he tries to push the ball up the court during Friday’s game at the annual Westfield Winter Classic. (Photo by Braden Carmen)

WESTFIELD — Chautauqua Lake opened the Westfield Winter Classic in style.

The Chautauqua Lake Thunderbirds came away with a 67-58 win over the Sherman Wildcats on Friday night in a high school boys basketball matchup to open the season for both teams.

Chautauqua Lake (1-0) found itself locked in a tight battle early on, but managed to take a two-point lead at the buzzer of the first quarter on a put back by Devin Putney — the son of Thunderbirds head coach Mike Putney.

“My son is up here because he brings a lot of energy,” said Coach Putney. “He’s more of a defensive specialist, but when he’s expected to score, we expect him to put the ball in the hoop. For him to get that put back, it didn’t surprise me. I was happy for him.”

For the next five minutes, Chautauqua Lake looked like it could not be stopped. The Thunderbirds scored the first 13 points of the second quarter, pulling ahead of Sherman, 31-16. The 15-point advantage was the largest of the first half and tied for the largest lead of the game.

“I put in some bad rotations out there and that’s on me,” said Sherman head coach Cory Emory. “First game, trying to see what’s out there for us, I dug my team a hole. That’s on me, and they hit some shots too, to make that lead what it was.”

Sherman (0-1) would not go quietly, however, as the Wildcats answered with eight straight points of their own. The Thunderbirds held a lead of eight points at the half.

After each team tallied 15 points apiece in the third quarter — a period highlighted by a chase down block off the backboard by Chautauqua Lake’s Nate Adams that ignited the Chautauqua Lake side of a packed Westfield gym.

Though the block was called goaltending, Adams found plenty of other ways to make noise for Chautauqua Lake. Adams tallied a team-high 22 points on the night.

“Nate Adams plays like a beast,” said Coach Putney. “He takes it to the next level.”

Chautauqua Lake pulled away late with a 13-4 run in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Chautauqua Lake newcomer Zach Fischer added 15 points on the night, while Sherman’s John Swabik (23) and Mike Beatman (21) combined for 44 of the team’s 58 points.

“They played a little bit better than we did today, and probably wanted it a little more than we did,” said Coach Emory.

Not only is Chautauqua Lake a tough first opponent for Sherman, but matters were made worse by the fact that the majority of the team had not been together to practice as much as other area teams because of the success of the Clymer-Sherman-Panama football team, who won a state title.

“First game of the year, and we haven’t really been together that much, so I’ll take that for a first one,” said Coach Emory.

Already a tough opponent Friday night, Coach Putney knows that Sherman will only get tougher from here.

“They will be outstanding down the road,” said Coach Putney. “Sherman will be a very, very good team.”

Chautauqua Lake now plays in the championship game of the Westfield Winter Classic tonight, against Westfield.

“Westfield is a great team. They’re big, they’re strong,” said Coach Putney. “It’s the school I teach at, so I always tell them, ‘If we’re not playing you, I’m rooting for you.’ … It will be a great game.”

Tip-off for the championship game is expected around 7:30 p.m.

Twitter: @bradencarmen

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