Berg steps up as Fredonia takes down Dunkirk
If someone had told Dunkirk coach Luke Gullo before the game that Fredonia star Tyler Putney would only score 7 points, Gullo probably would have liked his chances. Fredonia would need a lot of secondary scoring to overcome Putney being held and check.
And that’s exactly what the Hillbillies got.
Despite Putney having a weighted blanket draped on him, Fredonia just scraped by the Marauders, 69-62, in Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 West play at Fredonia High School on Friday night, bringing the first iteration of 2021 rivalry week to a close.
“It definitely had the Dunkirk-Fredonia flair with the back and forth,” said Fredonia coach Nick Bertrando. “Luke (Gullo) is doing a great job. His kids battle and they’re moving in the right direction.”
Dunkirk got off to a hot start, as they scored the first seven points of the game, with Dunkirk’s Donnie Lockett specifically starting off red hot. Lockett ended the first quarter with 11 points, as both teams ended up trading basket for basket down the stretch, with Dunkirk holding a 19-14 lead after one. With the Dunkirk defense having to key in on Putney, it left a lot of open shots for the Hillbillies, and senior Michael Berg was the most proficient recipient in the first half.
“I said after Nick Whitfield went down, we have to find other guys who can step up,” Bertrando said. “I know we have those guys. The guys are thrust in the position of having to step up and they’re coming into their own and playing within their skill sets.”
Berg ended the first quarter with six points, and got off to a roaring start in the second, scoring eight points as part of an 11-0 run near the beginning of the second quarter. As a team, Fredonia capitalized on having the open man, sinking seven 3s in the first half overall, three of which came from Berg, who knew pretty early his number would be called, ending the first half with 14 points.
“I felt locked in,” Berg said. “I knew it was going to be a big game, it’s a big rivalry. I knew they were going to play Tyler hard and I knew I needed to step up and hit some shots, and they went in. They were leaving me wide open, and I just thought ‘I have to make it.'”
But the Marauders didn’t lay down. After the big Fredonia run, Dunkirk ripped off seven in a row of their own, to retake the lead 29-27. Five of those points came from senior Christian Ortiz, who scored 13 in the first half, and overall played the best game of basketball he’s ever played.
“I definitely agree,” Ortiz said. “I definitely pulled off some big boy moves. I surprised myself with some of those moves, I kept thinking ‘Woah, where did those come from?’ I’m definitely still learning the game and we as a team have come a long way since last year.”
The teams continued to trade blows for the remainder of the half, with Dunkirk still holding the 36-33 halftime edge.
In the third, Fredonia came out firing.
The Billies opened the third quarter scoring 13 in a row, with Putney finally getting some space, scoring four of his seven points in that spurt. And with Dunkirk now not leaving Berg open, senior Ethan Fry was now the beneficiary of the focus on Putney, scoring six of those 13 points. It’s the same story the Marauders have faced all season: Letting one quarter get away from them.
“It’s that one spurt that gives us problems,” Gullo said. “But it’s becoming less and less, and our kids keep battling back.”
Dunkirk, however, has battled all season and they continued to battle, despite trailing by as many as 13 points in the third, they inched back at the end, with Dunkirk’s Amarion Tell hitting a buzzer-beating 3 to end the third, closing the deficit to 55-48.
Though they kept battling, that 13-0 run would ultimately be the deciding run of the game.
The Marauders cut the deficit to as little as five points at the start of the fourth, when Tell hit another 3 and got fouled, converting the four-point play to make it 57-52 in favor of Fredonia. Fredonia punched back with a different guy, Gabe Schrader, who hit two 3s of his own from the far corner to regain the lead, 63-52. Dunkirk cut it back to five again, with Tell draining another 3 and Ortiz scoring three more of his 20 points on the game. Unfortunately for the Marauders, they could never get it closer than five down the stretch, with Ortiz scoring four more to keep the deficit where it was before Fredonia was able to put the icing on the game.
Berg ended the game with 22 points for the Billies while Fry scored 16 and Schrader added 14 for Fredonia in the win.
“Putney being taken out was something we struggled with early on,” Bertrando said. “But we were able to get more guys involved and take advantage of the opportunities with so much defensive focus being put on Tyler.”
It really was the Ortiz show for Dunkirk, who was excellent all game, scoring 20 points and hauling in 13 rebounds. He was challenged by Gullo before the game to do two things, despite the loss, Ortiz did exactly what was asked of him.
“I challenged him to score 20 points and hold his counterpart under 10,” Gullo said. “Our team had a maximum team effort and Christian Ortiz led the way.”
Lockett and Tell each ended with 13 points, the former of which added six boards and three assists. Tim Brown scored eight points and added 10 boards in the loss, and while the Marauders have been competitive in every game they’ve played this season, Gullo is getting tired of the moral victories.
“It’s interesting, the kids sustained that maximum effort longer tonight than they have, against a much better team than we’ve faced yet,” Gullo said. “It wasn’t enough, and we’re tired of saying how close we’re coming.”
As far as the overall game, both teams made it rain from beyond the arc. Fredonia buried 11 from downtown, while Dunkirk connected on 10 of their own.
Fredonia (6-2, 3-2) will next take on Salamanca on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Fredonia High School while the Marauders (2-5, 0-5) look to rebound against nonleague Silver Creek today at 2:30 p.m.