Down 15 halfway through the fourth quarter, Gowanda (2-11, 0-7) made a furious rally, but fell five points short, as Dunkirk (4-8, 4-3) hit its free throws down the stretch to pull out a 77-72 win in CCAA Division 1 boys basketball Friday night.
"We made a run at them at the end," Gowanda head coach Andy Bobseine said. "It just wasn't enough. Our third quarter haunted us again."
After sitting out much of the first half in foul trouble, Marauders' big man Alex Crossan made his presence known, scoring 10 points to help Dunkirk to a 53-43 lead.
Dunkirk’s Jacob Lockett goes up for a shot during Friday’s CCAA?Division 1 boys high school basketball game against Gowanda.
"Alex came up big in the second half," Moss said.
"He got two early fouls and sat most of the first half. In the second half he came up big going to the basket like he should. Unfortunately, he ended up fouling out and I think if he were still in the game, we would have pulled away. But the guys came off the bench and did a good job without him. That's what you've got to do."
Crossan added six more of his 18 points on the night in the fourth quarter before he fouled out. And without Crossan down low, Dunkirk saw its lead dwindle, as Gowanda took advantage.
"We rattled off a few threes," Bobseine said. "We were looking for our shooters. My 4-man and my 5-man made some good picks to free up the outside shots. We were able to nail them, it just wasn't enough at the end of the day."
Gowanda's Chase Williams, who finished with a game-high 27, scored 11 points over the final eight minutes, helping to cut the Marauders' lead to four at one point.
"He's kind of the heart of the team," Bobseine said of Williams. "He brings it every game. He's a junior and he's going to be back with me next year. He sets up the offense and at the same time, when we need a big shot, he's always there."
Michael Bess, who had a team-high 24 points, hit 4-of-6 free throws down the stretch however, helping Dunkirk hold on for the win.
"I think the kids played a good game," Moss said. "They played a steady game. We had a slow start, but we were able to come around and we stayed with it. We could of choked at the end, but we did end up hitting some big foul shots at the end and that shows that the team is coming through for us."
Gowanda led 10-7 after the first quarter, but was unable to take advantage at the foul line, connecting on just one of the six foul shots they took.
"That was huge," Bobeseine said. "Between the missed free throws - and I think we counted seven missed layups - that was the difference."
The Marauders shook off their slow start, outscoring the Panthers, 25-18, behind 13 points by Bess and another eight from Marquel Ruiz.
"They were huge," Moss said. "Michael Bess is playing some very good basketball these days. He's probably playing the best basketball of the year right now. Maruqel Ruiz came through with some big shots. I really take my hat off to him. He's another one who had the flu pretty bad last week, so he's just coming off of that and he was able to come out and do a good job for us."
Ruiz finished with 17 points while Jacob Locket added eight in the win.
Zach Stevens had a big game for the Panthers, scoring 18 points and grabbing 20 rebounds, helping his team stick around.
"Zach Stevens has been great all year," Bobseine said. "He continues to improve on the block each and every day. Even his high-post game now ... He's developed a nice shot from the outside and when he's clicking on all cylinders he's tough."
Another bright spot for Gowanda was freshman Lucas Brawdy, who chipped in 13 points and four assists.
"He continues to step up in the fourth quarter," Bobseine said. "He's just another one of those underclassmen that puts in the hard work even at the end of the game and continues to fight for it."
As for the Marauders, who have had their struggles this season, Moss is happy with how his team has been playing lately.
"I feel like we've made some improvements since the beginning of the year," Moss said. "I think we're getting better every time we hit the floor and I think (Friday) was another example of that."
NOTES: Along with his 18 points, Crossan finished with 13 rebounds, three assists and three blocks ... Bess chipped in four blocks to go with his 24 points ... Ruiz added four assists and four steals ... Lockett hauled down eight rebounds along with his eight points.