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Dunkirk earns fourth straight win in rivalry series vs. Fredonia 70-64

Back-to-back rivalry sweeps

Dunkirk’s Kymi Nance fights through Fredonia defenders Anna Buchanan (left) and Nagely Vazquez (right) for a shot attempt during Tuesday’s CCAA West 1 Division girls basketball game at Fredonia High School. OBSERVER Photo by Ron Szot.

Dunkirk’s five senior starters have all been through ups and downs in their girls basketball careers as Lady Marauders. From a one-win freshman season to a sophomore season that saw rival Fredonia end the Lady Marauders’ hopes of a Sectional title in the championship game at Buffalo State College, Dunkirk’s five seniors have plenty of sour memories involving their rival Fredonia Lady ‘Billies.

Tuesday, after a half of play, it looked as if Dunkirk’s quest for back-to-back series sweeps of Fredonia was in jeopardy, and a shot at a league title was hanging in the balance. Fredonia held a double-digit lead on its home floor over Dunkirk after a 17-2 run in the second quarter, which sent the Lady ‘Billies into halftime with echoes of elated screams emanating from the Fredonia locker room.

But Dunkirk wouldn’t give in just yet.

The Lady Marauders responded with an incredible third quarter where they outscored the Lady ‘Billies 29-8 to take back the lead and never look back. Dunkirk finished out the game in the fourth quarter to earn a 70-64 victory over Fredonia in Tuesday’s CCAA West 1 Division rivalry game at Fredonia High School to send the Dunkirk senior starting five out with back-to-back perfect seasons against their cross-town rivals.

“This means a lot. This shows us where our potential is at,” said Dunkirk senior Kymi Nance. “We’ve gotten a lot better over the years playing together.”

Dunkirk's Kymi Nance goes up for a layup while Fredonia's Kazlin Beers defends. OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen.

Dunkirk coach Ken Ricker said coming into the game, “You can never be sure of what to expect. I’ve been going to these games since I was a kid, and as soon as you think you know what’s going to happen, it turns out you knew nothing.”

He was right.

In the first half, both teams started off about as even as can be. Fredonia (10-6, 5-4) had a pair of three-point leads at 9-6 and 12-9 in the first quarter, but neither team had a lead of more than a single possession. Dunkirk (16-1, 8-1) managed to pull even in the final minute on a Nadara O’Dell layup to tie the score at 16-all after the first quarter.

“It was a great game. It was fun to coach in,” said Fredonia coach Dan Vona. “My girls were excited even after the game. They knew they gave 110 percent tonight. … I’m really proud of them.”

In the second quarter, Olivia Smith hit the first of her four 3-pointers in the game to give the Lady Marauders their largest lead of the first half, 19-16, just a minute into the period. With a one-point lead, 21-20 with 4:51 left in the first half, Smith stepped to the free-throw line to shoot three shots. Surprisingly, Dunkirk’s sharp-shooter missed all three shots — and if that wasn’t surprising enough, Ricker’s stance of “if you think you know, you don’t,” was proven even more over the ensuing stretch.

Fredonia's Kazlin Beers (right) dribbles while Dunkirk's Jessica Beehler defends. OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen.

Fredonia grabbed the lead right back and just couldn’t miss. The Lady ‘Billies went on a 17-2 run over the next three minutes of play to turn the one-point deficit into a 14-point lead with just over a minute to go in the half. On the run, Fredonia hit a trio of 3-pointers, including a pair from junior Samantha Tabone. After the buzzer signaled the end of the first half, Fredonia led 39-26.

“Sam Tabone had her breakthrough game tonight. She really rose to the occasion,” said Vona. “We all rose to a different level tonight. … Their confidence is as high as it has ever been.”

Coach Ricker told his team at halftime that their goal in the third quarter was to cut the deficit in half by the end of the period. Not even he was prepared for what Dunkirk responded with in the third frame.

Within the first three minutes of the second half, Dunkirk cut Fredonia’s lead down to just four points after a 9-0 run began the period. Smith hit her third 3-pointer of the game in the run, that featured Kymi Nance’s absolute takeover of the game. Nance doubled her point total from six to 12 with three layups in the run, then proceeded to add 10 more points after that in the frame.

“I told them our goal was to get it down to six points,” said Ricker. “Then, early in the quarter it was down to four already and I said, ‘Okay, time for new goals.'”

Dunkirk coach Ken Ricker smiles after the third quarter of Tuesday's game. OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen.

A buzzer-beating 3-pointer capped off a 16-point quarter for Nance, in which Dunkirk outscored Fredonia 29-8 in the period.

“I had to do what I needed to do to get us back in the game,” said Nance. “In a rivalry game like this, it’s nerve-wracking. I think we all could feel that. Once we were able to shake that off, we were able to play at our own pace.”

Coach Ricker joked that he didn’t realize who his team was after 26 points in the first half. But Ricker — who was feeling under the weather all game — was feeling a lot better after 29 points in the third quarter alone. Dunkirk led 55-47 after the third quarter and played a nearly even fourth quarter on the way to the victory.

“My girls came out and worked in that third quarter,” said Ricker. “I said when I took this job, Dunkirk is a blue-collar town. The people go to work and get their job done, and my girls did that in the second half tonight.”

Fredonia came close to coming back, down six points in the final minute with a 3-pointer in the air that bounced off the rim, then off the top of the backboard and through the net. Sadly for Fredonia, it was correctly called out of bounds and Dunkirk closed out the final moments of the game.

Nance led all scorers with 29 points in the win, with Smith adding 12 of her own. O’Dell, Jessica Beehler and Amari Carter all had nine points each for Dunkirk.

Fredonia was led by Nagely Vazquez with 20 points, while Kazlin Beers had 18 points and Tabone added 17 points.

Dunkirk now keeps its sights on a league title, which would be the first since 1991, with three games remaining. Winning two of the three would clinch the league title after Maple Grove’s loss to Olean on Tuesday. However, even winning one of three would at least clinch a share of the title, but Nance didn’t pull any punches on what an undisputed league crown would mean to her.

“We need to finish strong so we can finish in first place in the league by ourselves,” said Nance. “We don’t want to share it with anybody.”

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