RIVALRY, Part II: Lady Marauders win emphatically, 85-52

This one’s for the girls!

OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot Dunkirk’s Kymi Nance (14) drives past Fredonia’s Sydney Bigelow.

When Dunkirk coach Ken Ricker was a player in high school, he switched schools from Dunkirk to Fredonia halfway through his high school career. He still remembers a loss as a Fredonia player against Dunkirk in a tournament game, all these years later, which he calls the worst loss of his life. That’s how much the Dunkirk-Fredonia rivalry games matter to the players and communities involved.

“Those Dunkirk-Fredonia games stick with you,” said Ricker.

Now as the Dunkirk coach, competing in this historic rivalry for the first time on the bench, Ricker orchestrated a moment that will be remembered by the Dunkirk faithful for many years to come.

The Dunkirk Lady Marauders routed the Fredonia Lady ‘Billies, 85-52, at Fredonia High School on Thursday night in a CCAA Division 1 West girls basketball rivalry game.

“I hope this gets the Dunkirk community excited for girls basketball,” said Ricker. “I love being back in this area because Dunkirk is as blue-collar as it gets. We go to work and we earn what we get, and we’re proud of who we are. We played with pride tonight and I hope the community is proud of us.”

OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot Fredonia’s Kazlin Beers (left) defends Dunkirk’s Jessica Beehler as she goes into the paint during a basketball game at Fredonia High School on Thursday night.

After the way the Lady Marauders’ season ended last year, in a blowout loss to Fredonia at Buffalo State College for the sectional title, Dunkirk (9-3, 1-2) had even more motivation coming into Thursday night. Throw in the fact that Dunkirk was swept in the three meetings with Fredonia last year and came in to Thursday’s game off three straight losses, the Lady Marauders had plenty to play for — and it certainly showed.

“We really wanted to get them back for beating us so bad,” said Dunkirk junior Olivia Smith, who was a starter last year in the sectional final for the Lady Marauders.

“I know it meant a lot to them because of how their season ended,” said Ricker, who was at the sectional final game at Buffalo State, working the shot clock. “There’s going to be ups and downs, but (Thursday) we were lucky it was an up.”

After the two teams split the game’s first eight points evenly, Dunkirk went on an 8-0 run, prompting a timeout from Fredonia (4-4, 0-3) at exactly the halfway point in the first frame. Coming out of the timeout, Dunkirk’s Smith drilled a 3-pointer to cap off the run at 11-0 for the Lady Marauders. At that point, Dunkirk held a 15-4 lead over Fredonia. After the first quarter, the lead was up to 26-13 in favor of Dunkirk.

“Dunkirk came in and shot the lights out,” said Fredonia coach Mark Putney. “They just hit 3-pointer after 3-pointer. Hats off to them. They did a really nice job finding their spots and we just couldn’t get out to their shooters.”

Dunkirk continued to pull away in the second quarter. The Lady Marauders held a 37-20 lead with 3:05 remaining in the half, then traded point-for-point until the final possession of the half. Dunkirk’s Smith, despite being closely guarded on the in-bound pass, capped off the first half with another 3-pointer just a moment before the buzzer. Dunkirk led 49-29 at the break, in what Ricker claimed was his team’s best half of the season.

It didn’t get any closer in the second half, either.

Dunkirk poured it on in the third quarter, extending the lead to 30 points with another buzzer-beating 3-pointer, this time by Kymi Nance. The Lady Marauders eventually pulled all five starters near the halfway point of the fourth quarter, to give the young Dunkirk bench extended time on the rivalry stage together for the first time.

Nance led the way with 21 points for Dunkirk, while Nadara Odell had 20. Smith finished with 17 points, with five 3-pointers. Jessica Beehler had 12 points, eight assists and three steals. Odell also had seven rebounds, while Nance had six boards of her own.

“Olivia (Smith) has done it all year. Teams have to account for her. She made 10 in one game and you better account for her out there,” said Ricker. “Kymi (Nance) has changed. In the last two games she has really upped her intensity. That was a big difference in our offense early.”

Fredonia’s Anna Buchanan led the way with 14 points for the Lady ‘Billies, who face Chautauqua Lake next, on Monday at Fredonia High School. Kelly Gullo added 11 points for Fredonia.

“We’re going to regroup and get ready for Monday against Chautauqua Lake,” said Putney. “I’m always proud of my girls.”

The Lady Marauders were 9-10 from the free-throw line in the first quarter on Thursday, after going 11-34 at the line in Monday’s loss against Chautauqua Lake. Dunkirk had 23 turnovers on Thursday, down from 32 on Monday. Dunkirk hosts Southwestern next, on Monday.

Regardless of how the team has improved on the stat sheet and in the standings, what will stand out to the community will be how emphatically Dunkirk changed the recent narrative of the Dunkirk-Fredonia rivalry. Dunkirk proved on Thursday that this year is different, and finally gave the Dunkirk community bragging rights on one of the year’s biggest stages.

“(This win) carries through all the rest of our games throughout the season,” said Smith.

After the game Smith commented about the confidence a win like this gives her and the rest of the team. She said after the game, “We can beat anybody.”

If Dunkirk continues to play like it did on Thursday, she may be right.

Twitter: @bradencarmen