BUFFALO - Down 53-43 with seven minutes remaining in regulation - and its season - No. 4 Fredonia (16-4) fought its way back, earning a thrilling 66-62 win over No. 1 CSAT (16-4) during Section 6 Class B-2 semifinal action Tuesday night at Buffalo State.
"It was incredible," Fredonia head coach Greg Lauer said after the game. "They just fought and fought back. These guys are just an incredible team together. It was an amazing game."
Up 64-62, and facing a CSAT inbound play under the Eagles' basket, the Hillbillies' Jon Fletcher stepped in and stole the pass, drawing a foul. The senior then hit a pair of free throws to send Fredonia to the Class B-2 final, which will be held at Buffalo State on Saturday, at noon.
OBSERVER?Photo by Gib Snyder III
Members of the Fredonia Hillbillies celebrate after defeating No. 1 seed CSAT in the Section 6 Class B-2 semifinals at Buffalo State.
"We sit there and we preach ball-pressure on that inbounds pass," Lauer said. "And (Fletcher) finally did it and he got his hands up and that was huge to help us out."
The Hillbillies entered the fourth quarter down six, 47-41, and soon found themselves in a 10-point hole after Jaquille Peay's basket gave the Eagles their biggest lead of the game with 7:00 remaining.
Then, Fredonia embarked on a 14-5 run over the next 4:37, cutting their deficit to one, 58-57.
"I think it was just two good teams going at it," CSAT head coach Mike Mills said of the fourth quarter. "And we just could not stop that ball from going down low and into the middle."
With 1:33 left in the fourth quarter, Dylan Meyer gave the Hillbillies a 59-58 lead, their first since they held a 36-35 edge midway through the third quarter.
Peay and Meyer traded buckets, leaving Fredonia up 61-60. However, CSAT's Darnell Carson, who finished with a game-high 32 points, connected with 42 second left for a 62-61 CSAT lead.
"It seemed like whatever he wanted to do, he was going to do," Mills said of Carson. "If he wanted to score, he was going to score it, and if he wanted to pass to Jaquille (Peay), that was there."
To this point, the lead had changed hands three times in less than a minute. It changed just once more.
John Piper, who had struggled all game from outside the paint, connected on his biggest 3-pointer of the season, to give the Hillbillies a 64-62 lead with 29 seconds remaining in regulation.
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"We were kind of motivated going into this year," Lauer said. "We scouted these teams and we knew that we could play with anyone within the section and it certainly paid off. We had the goal of getting here and we kind of had to re-evaluate our goals and say that we can get farther than just getting here. And the guys stepped up and did it."
Strong defensive pressure and Fletcher's two free throws sealed the deal for the Hillbillies, who will play either No. 2 Cleveland Hill (17-1) or No. 3 East (13-6) in the finals.
After falling behind 8-2 early, the Hillbillies used a 12-2 run - highlighted by nine points from Piper - to take a 12-10 lead, finishing the first eight minutes up 16-14.
"We preached taking the ball to the basket against (CSAT's) zone (defense)," Lauer said. "And (Piper) did that early. He got hard to the rim and hit some free throws. He was a big jump start to our offense."
The second quarter played out much like the first, as the teams went back-and-forth, with Fredonia taking a 32-31 lead into the break.
A big reason for the Hillbillies' success in the second stanza was the play of sophomore Cam Voss, who scored six points off the bench.
"He stepped up real big (Monday) for us," Lauer said of Voss. "He did a good job defending the big guy and his rebounding was huge."
The Eagles looked to be every bit the No. 1 seed they were in the third quarter, as they held the Hillbillies to just nine points while scoring 16 of their own.
In the end, Fredonia's ability to get the ball in down low to Meyer proved to be too much for CSAT to handle, as the junior scored 11 of his team-high 24 points over the game's final eight minutes.
"We just kept going to him," Lauer said of Meyer. "I thought eventually they would take him away and they didn't. And he just kept going and going and he was just huge to keep us in that game."
NOTES: Meyer finished with 12 rebounds to go with his 24 points ... Piper finished with 22 points and three rebounds ... Voss hauled down seven rebounds, as he finished the game with eight points ... Fletcher had five rebounds, three assists and three steals ... Nick Johnston chipped in six points and four assists ... Carson had six assists to go with his 32 points ... Peay finished with 18 points and a game-high 16 rebounds.