Heary leads ‘Billies to ’94 B title
AMHERST — Mike Heary has had his share of eye-popping scoring outbursts this season.
There were the 62 points at Traditional.
The 47 at Dunkirk.
The 44 at Allegany.
And then there are games like the one the Fredonia Central School senior put together Tuesday night at Alumni Arena.
“When I play my best is when I do this,” Heary said after his 28-point, 10-rebound, 10-assist masterpiece lifted the Hillbillies to a 73-57 victory over Niagara Falls in the Section VI Class B championship game. “I think when I score a lot that’s nothing great to me. I like doing this part of the game, getting everyone involved, rebounding and scoring. That’s what makes me who I am, I think.”
And it was his brilliant effort in the first quarter last night that vaulted the hot-shooting Hillbillies into a 23-10 lead, one they never relinquished en route to the convincing win.
Fredonia (19-6) now advances to the Far West Regional for the first time in its history and will play the winner of Pittsford-Sutherland/Ben Franklin winner at 5 pm. Saturday at Alumni Arena for the right to advance to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association semifinals next week in Glens Falls.
No boys basketball team from Chautauqua County has ever accomplished such a feat.
“It’s a dream come true, but hopefully the dream’s not over,” Fredonia coach Dave Polechetti said. “I’m sure the competition will be keener at the next level, (but) in one game anything can happen when you have a player like Michael. He’s carried us before, and with the other kids chipping in, who knows?”
One thing’s certain: The Hillbillies will be tough to beat if they can bottle their first quarter last night and save it for Saturday. All they did in that period was hit their first seven shots, press the daylights out of the Power Cats (20-3) and feed off Heary, who wanted to make amends for missing the final five minutes of the B-1 championship game against Lackawanna after fouling out.
“I felt like I let my team down a little bit,” Heary said. “They tell me I’m the horse and I’m not in the game at crunch time. … I feel I let them down a little bit, but they came through for me and I just wanted to come out and play my best tonight.”
In the first quarter, Heary personally accounted for 17 of the Hillbillies’ 23 points. He scored 11 and made three beautiful passes that resulted in layups.
“Mike’s teammates bailed him out Saturday and I had a feeling that Mike would come out real big,” Polechetti said. “He had a second-chance opportunity and you could see right from the very beginning he was into this game. He was going to be sure he made his mark in this game and, obviously, he did.”
The game was played on relatively even terms the rest of the way – Fredonia outscored Niagara Falls, 50-47 – but the Power Cats had dug themselves too big a hole.
“(Heary) did whatever he wanted,” Niagara Falls coach Dan Venuto said. “We didn’t check him all night. I don’t think our kids realized who he was; we didn’t check him. Maybe we should have put a star on him. This way we would have checked him harder.”
Heary’s two free throws with 2:35 remaining in the second quarter moved him ahead of Curtis Aiken (1,162) and into third place on the all-time Western New York scoring list. Heary now has 1,175 points.
“At this point in the season, I just want wins,” said Heary, who had his first triple-double of the season. “As long as I can prolong the end of my career, I could care less about triple-doubles and high numbers. I just want ‘Ws’ at this point in the season.”
And with the way Fredonia is playing, anything’s possible.
Mike Haight chipped in with 16 points, Ryan LaMattina had 9 points and 10 rebounds, Mike Spacc added 4 points and eight assists, Chris Kubacki had 7 points and Brian Mierzwa 5.
“It’s amazing,’ said Heary, who shot 11 of 18 from the floor. “We talked about the weakness of not really having a real big man. That may come back to haunt us a little bit, but we don’t care. This team has got a heart the size of a big man. We’re not going to give up. We’ll play hard right to the end. The regional is going to be tough, but we’re going to fight. We’re going to play hard.”
Venuoto didn’t think the Power Cats, who were led by Shaun Caffee and Wally Reynolds with 15 points apiece, Darris Thomas with 11 and Demond Burch with 10, did that.
“We were on an emotional high,” Venuto said. “We just won the B-1 title. We thought if we won the B-1 title we’d reached a goal and we kind of let down.”
The Hillbillies who lost to Grand Island in the Class B title game in 1992, weren’t about to let that happen again last night.
“The last time we played in this game against Grand Island, we didn’t get off to a good start,” Heary said. “Emotionally we were drained. … We said we had to come out and get that game (the B-2 title contest) behind us, because there could be bigger and better things for this team.”
It appears Fredonia is headed in the right direction.
NOTES: The Hillbillies shot 32 of 58 from the field and held a 32-23 rebounding edge. … Ahead of Heary on the all-time WNY scoring list are Ritchie Campbell (2,355) and Marcus Whitfield (2,285). … Pittsford-Sutherland (23-0) will take on Ben Franklin (21-2) at 5 p.m. today at the Rochester War Memorial. … Doug Wojick, an assistant coach at the Naval Academy, was in attendance to watch Heary. Navy head coach Don DeVoe may make a personal visit for Saturday’s game, Heary said.