Hillbillies down St. Mary’s in home opener, 65-53

OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot Pictured above is Fredonia’s Nate Shuart (42) trying to muscle through a defender during the Hillbillies 65-53 win during their home opener on Monday night.

The electricity was in the air during the Hillbillies boys basketball team’s home opener on Monday night. Hosting St. Mary’s in a non-league game with little on the line, the Fredonia faithful still showed up big to bring their support, as the ‘Billies, fueled by the crowd powered past the Lancers, 65-53.

“Between the Orange Bowl and the gymnasium here it gets super loud. Our fans are hands down the best,” said Fredonia head coach Nick Bertrando. “I will put them up against anyone out there and I definitely think that helped supercharge the environment tonight and really give us that adrenaline and energy really needed tonight.”

Early in the game it was a gritty defensive battle, as both teams struggled to find the basket in the early going. Fredonia was strong defensively in the first half as their big men controlled the airways making sure nobody was getting an easy layup. After the first quarter it looked like it may be a defensive battle, St. Mary’s led 12-11.

“We’ve been working really hard after our first game where we really got torched from the outside and inside. We really wanted to make a point of cleaning that up,” said Coach Bertrando. “Anyone that we go against we really want them to work for every single basket and not give them those easy opportunities.”

However, in the second quarter both sides began to find their scoring touch. The ‘Billies began to find success from long range and their size down low generated some hard fought put-backs. Fredonia began to pull ahead as St. Mary’s could not find success in the paint. Nate Shuart helped lead the ‘Billies throughout the first half, by the end of the game Shuart had 14 points along with nine rebounds.

At halftime Fredonia was on top, 32-26.

Early into the second half, St. Mary’s tried to find any way they could to get back the lead. The Lancers leading scorer — Brady O’Brien, clearly frustrated — found himself in foul trouble early, getting his second technical within the first minute of the third quarter. Without their star player, St. Mary’s was unable to find any bit of success down low as freshman Nick Whitfield was not letting anyone get easy buckets in the paint. Whitfield grinded out five defensive rebounds on the night and four big blocks, where after each one the crowd erupted in complete pandemonium.

Fredonia continued with the lead, entering the fourth up 41-37. Down in the fourth, St. Mary’s did not make it easy on the ‘Billies as they did not give up, managing to keep the lead below double digits. The game was very back and fourth as neither team saw

When it seemed the Lancers might put on a comeback, they were sat right back down as Kaleb Rybij put up a back breaking 3-pointer with less than two minutes remaining to secure the Hillbillies’ victory. Rybij led Fredonia on the scoresheet, providing 17 points. Behind their roaring crowd down the stretch the ‘Billies held off the opposition cruising to the win.

“We kept taking hits, and to St. Mary’s credit they took everyone of our punches they responded and kept coming back,” said coach Bertrando. “Those are the type of games in this type of atmosphere that down the road are really going to pay dividends, to be able to stay poised. Essentially to finish things out.”

Fredonia (2-1) will host Frewsburg on Wednesday at home as they look to continue their early success.

“Overall a great team effort,” said Coach Bertrando. “Between the stands and the energy our bench was bringing, a great team win here. A great way to kick off the home opener.”