Everyone knew how good Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division I champion Olean was when the state’s No. 1 Class B team arrived at Buffalo State on Monday evening.
But Fredonia showed that CCAA I is more than just the Huskies.
In a tremendous tipoff to Championship Week at Buffalo State, fourth-seeded Fredonia knocked off top-seeded and defending champion Charter School for Applied Technologies, 66-60, in the Class B-2 semifinals.
The Hillbillies overcame a 32-point game by CSAT senior Darnell Carson as well as a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter and prevailed in a back-and-forth battle in the final minutes of the game. Junior Dylan Meyer had 24 points and 12 rebounds, sophomore John Piper had 22 points and senior Jon Fletcher had a key steal before hitting two game-clinching free throws in the final seconds.
It is the first championship game berth for the Hillbillies since 1997, when they lost to Traditional in the B-2 final.
“It’s huge,” said Fredonia coach Greg Lauer. “These guys were 7-12 last year, and to get to this point, and to now be playing for a title — it’s an incredible group of guys. The guys just fought back. It was just a fantastic game.”
In the second game of the night, Olean – the defending overall B champion, season-long No. 1 in The News small school poll and CCAA I champion – delivered a very business-like, 72-51 semifinal victory over fourth-seeded Maryvale.
Top-seeded Olean will face second-seeded Lackawanna (17-3) in Saturday’s Class B-1 championship at 1:45 p.m. at Buffalo State.
The Steelers, runners-up in ECIC IV, put together a second straight victory rooted in defense and hustle over a good team from ECIC III as it ran away from third-seeded East Aurora, 68-55, in the final game of a tripleheader played before an estimated combined crowd of 2,500.
Fredonia (16-4) will play for the Class B-2 championship at noon Saturday at Buffalo State against either Cleveland Hill (17-2) or East (13-6).
Fredonia and CSAT played a tight game throughout but Carson kept pushing CSAT, which led, 47-41, after three quarters. The Eagles went up, 53-43, a little over a minute into the fourth quarter on a great wraparound pass from Carson to freshman Quinton LaMar. It was one of countless drives by Carson in which he crossed over defenders near the top of the key and either drove for scores or dishes to teammates.
However, Fredonia clawed back with a 12-3 run to make it 56-55 with less than three minutes to play. After Carson gave CSAT a 62-61 lead with 42 seconds left, Piper swung the game around with a three-pointer to put Fredonia up, 64-62. CSAT came upcourt and had the ball deflected out of bounds under the Fredonia basket with 17.7 seconds to play. After a timeout, CSAT’s inbound attempt was snatched out of the air by Fletcher, who was guarding the inbound passer.
Fletcher was then fouled, and he sealed the game by hitting both free throws to make it a four-point game with 16.3 seconds left.
Senior Jaquille Peay added 18 for CSAT (16-4), champion of the Niagara-Orleans League.
Lackawanna, which routed Depew in the quarterfinals, jumped to leads of 20-9 (first quarter), and 31-21 (halftime) before scoring the first six points of the third quarter. The lead would grow to 18 in the third and was 53-38 heading to the fourth.
Senior forward Shaquille Brooks had 17 points, senior Ahmad Abdo had 14 while junior Cam Smith and sophomore Damone Sylvers had 13. The guards kept getting to the basket, with Brooks or senior Deron Adams (seven points) often there for rebounds and putbacks.
“We’re going to make mistakes on the floor, but if the effort is there and the hustle is there, then we can’t complain a whole lot,” said Lackawanna coach Tim Foley. “I think we can improve on today, and we’re going to have to if we’re going to have a chance against the top-ranked team in the state.”
Brendan Cox (26 points), Ian Allen (15) and Kevin Tierney (12) accounted for all but two of the total points for East Aurora (13-6).
For Olean, Wil Bathurst had 26 points while fellow junior, the 6-foot-7 Sam Eckstrom, had 23. Junior Nick Schmidt had 15, including three three-pointers.
Fourth-seeded Maryvale (13-7) was led by junior Edward Smith’s (13 points).