One point short
EDITOR’S NOTE: The following article — the last of a four-part series — appeared in The Post-Journal in March 1994, the day after the Fredonia boys basketball team appeared in the state Final Four semifinal game.
GLENS FALLS — At various times in their postseason odyssey to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class B Final Four, the Fredonia Hillbillies appeared to be on their last legs.
Lackawanna thought they had their number.
Ben Franklin did, too.
Still, the Hillbillies survived, almost willing themselves to victory.
“We hung when things didn’t look good and, fortunately, we were able to be there at the end to win the ballgame,” Fredonia coach Dave Polechetti said. ”
But the Hillbillies’ tightrope walk ended Saturday afternoon at the Glens Falls Civic Center in the state semifinals.
Leading by as many as 10 points midway through the third quarter, the Hillbillies (20-7) couldn’t put Central Square (24-1) away and the Redmen rallied in the final 12 minutes to nip Fredonia at the wire, 64-63.
The victory vaults Central Square into the championship game at 2 p.m. today against defending champion Norwich, which dispatched Westbury, 75-62, in the other semifinal.
Mike Heary who scored a game-high 34 points, had two shots in the final 12 seconds, but couldn’t get either one to fall, ending Fredonia’s season one win short of its goal.
“We played in spurts,” Polechetti said. “We didn’t play consistently for 32 minutes. We had some good spurts and we had some very, very bad spurts. You have to give (Central Square) credit, they didn’t quit.”
Early on, the Hillbillies appeared in control, leading 8-2 after four minutes, but they soon found out the Redmen, who shot poorly early, weren’t Region 2 champions by accident.
By the end of the first quarter, they’d trimmed the margin to 16-12 and actually led, 32-30, at halftime following Tim Scott’s layup at the buzzer.
Scott had 10 first-half points, while Kevin Moyer and Keith Moyer had 9 apiece.
Heary led Fredonia with 15 points and Ryan LaMattina had 7.
“We’ve played real well in our last eight or 10 games, and today we were weak,” Central Square coach Nick LaPre said. “We didn’t play as well as we could have. (But) our guys are tough. They’ve won 24 games. … They didn’t think of losses. They just play and play and play.”
And Fredonia couldn’t shake them, even after a 16-4 run to start the third quarter gave it a 46-36 lead, thanks to 8 points by LaMattina and 6 by Heary.
The Redmen responded with a 13-4 surge of their own in the final three minutes of the period, keyed by Scott’s 6 points and Keith Moyer’s 5.
In the fourth quarter, the lead changed hands five times and was tied twice, but the shot of the day came from Kevin Moyer, who drilled a 3-pointer from the corner with 1:32 remaining for what proved to be the game-winner.
The Redmen had a chance to pad their lead, but Kevin Moyer missed the front end of a one-and-one with 28 seconds remaining, giving the Hillbillies an opportunity to win.
And the choice to do that was — no surprise — Heary.
“It’s been our game all year (to) go with Mike,” Polechetti said. “He was a big part of us getting here, so we were going to go with him down the stretch.”
Heary’s baseline jumper hit the rim and skipped into the corner where Central Square’s Josh Loughnot chased down the rebound and was fouled. He, too, missed the free throw, Fredonia’s Mike Spacc grabbed the rebound, got the ball to half court and called a timeout with five seconds remaining.
After the timeout, LaMattina inbounded the ball to Heary, who had rubbed off two picks, drove the baseline and put up a running eight-footer that hit off the front rim, Mike Haight’s tip was off the mark and the buzzer sounded, ending the Hillbillies’ season.
“We were right there in a position to win the game at the end and, unfortunately, we just didn’t get enough,” Polechetti said.
The Hillbillies were led by Heary with 34 points and LaMattina with 17. LaMattina shot 7 of 9 from the field, including 3 of 4 from 3-point range.
“Ryan really carried us early,” Polechetti said.
But Haight struggled.
The 6-foot senior guard managed just 4 points on 2 of 12 shooting after recording a career-high 34-point explosion in the Far West Regional.
Scott led Central Square with 21 points, Keith Moyer had 20 and Kevin Moyer added 17. Scott, who fouled out with 1:47 remaining, also grabbed a game-high 13 rebounds.
The Redmen shot 26 of 60 from the field compared to 24 of 58 for the Hillbillies. Central Square also held a 35-33 rebounding edge. Haight paced Fredonia with 11.
“I don’t think they were kidding when they said they were a mirror team of us,” Polechetti said. “We were two very similar teams that like to play the same style of basketball. Unfortunately, we came up on the short end. We had chances to win. We just didn’t get it done.”