Senior moment

Dunkirk holds off Allegany-Limestone

Dunkirk senior Alyssa Salerno smiles as she embraces a teammate after the Marauders defeated Allegany-Limestone 32-31 on Senior Night in Dunkirk on Tuesday. OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen

Senior Night is always a night that athletes remember forever. Dunkirk made sure of that Tuesday night.

The Marauders held off the Allegany-Limestone Gators in the final seconds of a one-point game to secure a 32-31 victory in a Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 West girls basketball game at Dunkirk High School.

“I knew it was the most important game of the year for them. … It’s Senior Night, it’s the game that you want to show off your best abilities for everybody,” said Dunkirk head coach Quinn Bankoski. “It makes me really happy to know that’s something they will never forget. … They earned that game all by themselves.”

The memory couldn’t have been scripted much better for the Dunkirk seniors.

“It feels amazing with these girls. It’s an amazing feeling,” said Dunkirk’s Ana Rodriguez.

Dunkirk’s Alyssa Salerno, left, and Allegany-Limestone’s Madison Callen battle for a rebound during Monday’s game. OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen

Dunkirk (10-8, 4-4) led for more than five of the first eight minutes of the game, but the score was within four points the entire opening period. After Allegany-Limestone (2-15, 1-7) closed the quarter with a 3-pointer in the corner as time expired, Dunkirk’s lead was cut to 10-9 going into the second quarter.

After the score was evened at 10-all, Dunkirk managed a four-point possession with just over six minutes remaining in the first half. As she was falling down in the paint, Ana Rodriguez found Gracey Kenner for a layup plus the foul. Kenner missed the free throw, but Emily Pacheco converted a second-chance layup to suddenly put the Marauders back up by four points. Pacheco stretched the Dunkirk lead to six points later in the period, but the visitors answered and cut the lead back down to just a single point. After Shyla Karin split a pair of free throws with four seconds left in the half, Dunkirk took a 17-15 lead into halftime.

Allegany-Limestone’s Madison Callen scored the first six points of the second half as Dunkirk went cold from the field to give the Gators a four-point lead, 21-17, halfway through the third quarter.

But then, Rodriguez answered back.

Dunkirk’s senior leading scorer took over the second half of the third quarter with a 3-pointer banked in off the glass, a layup plus the foul that led to a converted 3-point play, and a free throw with 32 seconds left in the quarter to account for seven of the nine Dunkirk points in the period. The Marauders led 26-23 with one quarter left to play.

Dunkirk’s seniors are pictured during Senior Night festivities Tuesday night at Dunkirk High School. OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen

“I made a lot of mistakes during the game, but my teammates all had my back. They picked me back up and made me want to keep going,” Rodriguez said.

In the final period, Allegany-Limestone took a one-point lead 27-26 with 5:46 left in the contest, then both teams went the next three minutes without scoring. Dunkirk’s second prolonged cold stretch of the game left the home team trailing by a point with less than three minutes remaining.

With 2:27 left in the game, Dunkirk got its first tally on the scoresheet as Shyla Karin was fouled and made the first of two free throws to tie the game at 27-all. Another Dunkirk offensive rebound put Karin back at the line shooting two more free throws. She again split the pair, which put Dunkirk ahead 28-27 with just over two minutes remaining.

With 1:37 left in the game, Dunkirk senior Alyssa Salerno got an offensive rebound and put it back up for a layup to extend Dunkirk’s lead to 30-27. Salerno didn’t light up the stat sheet with points on the night, but her 4 points were boosted by a stellar performance on the boards with 13 rebounds, including five offensive rebounds, none bigger than the one that led to her putback in the final minutes of the contest.

With a 30-27 lead, Dunkirk’s defense turned up the intensity, as the Marauders forced a shot-clock violation with just over a minute left in the game.

After Allegany-Limestone made a layup with 24 seconds left, Rodriguez was fouled and made both clutch free throws to lead 32-29. Allegany-Limestone landed a floater in the lane to cut the Dunkirk lead to 32-31. Then, the Gators forced a turnover on the inbounds pass after a timeout to regain possession, with five seconds left, down by a point.

But just like an earlier game in the season against Olean on the same Dunkirk gym floor, the Marauders forced a miss in the final seconds and hung on for a one-point victory.

“I told them, ‘Way to play Dunkirk basketball out there,'” Bankoski said. “The way it’s been going lately with such close games, I said ‘you guys are going to kill me.’ … But if that’s what we have to do to win, so be it.”

Rodriguez led Dunkirk with 11 points, along with a team-high six assists. Salerno’s 13 rebounds led Dunkirk, while Pacheco added eight rebounds to go with 6 points. Karin had 9 points, four rebounds and three steals in the victory. The Marauders were without second-leading scorer Molly DiCara, who missed the game with an injury.

Dunkirk only played seven players with six of the seven players to see the floor — Rodriguez, Salerno, Pacheco, Siera Jacques, Kenner, and Risel Alfaro — celebrating their Senior Night. Shyla Karin was the only junior to play in the game for Dunkirk. Five of the seven players to enter the game played at least 25 minutes.

“It’s fun to see everybody work together,” said Bankoski. “It’s fun to watch and it’s fun to coach.”

Up next, the Marauders travel to Olean to take on a Huskies team that Dunkirk beat at the buzzer of their last meeting on Jan. 19. An Olean potential game-winning jumper was no good as Dunkirk held on for the 57-56 victory. The win gave Dunkirk a winning record after one win over the last two seasons prior.

“This year, it’s a huge difference. All the girls are working very hard, and as you can see, they all stepped up,” said Rodriguez.

Allegany-Limestone is in action Friday at home against Fredonia in league play. The Gators beat Fredonia 44-35 in their last meeting.


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