EDITOR'S NOTE: The following story on Fredonia native Michael Heary first ran in December 2006 to commemorate one of the greatest individual performances in Western New York high school basketball history. With Fredonia High School taking part in this weekend's United Way Tip-Off Tournament at Jamestown High School, it seemed only appropriate to dust off this account one more time.
Michael Heary has worked for Baltimore-based CDS Logistics & Transportation Solutions Inc., for the last year and a half. As a generator program manager, he's responsible for getting product from point A to point B as efficiently and as quickly as possible. It's a job the Fredonia native and U.S. Naval Academy graduate loves. But for all his success, first as a Navy Lieutenant and now in the business world, he'll likely never "deliver the goods" quite like he did on one early-December night in 1993.
Then a senior at Fredonia High School, Heary was a 6-foot-5 guard, who possessed the basketball skills, savvy and confidence that made him crave the big moment like few others, before or since. A returning all-Western New York guard, Heary had already made a name for himself during a varsity career that began as an eighth-grader.
Clockwise from top, Michael Heary was inducted into the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame in 2009 after turning in outstanding careers at the U.S. Naval Academy (bottom right) and Fredonia High School (bottom left).
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg (top)
Photo courtesy of U.S. Naval Academy (bottom right)
P-J file photo (below left)
The reigning two-time Post-Journal Player of the Year, he entered the 1993-94 hoops season with lofty goals, both for himself and for his team.
But when he and the rest of the Hillbillies boarded the bus for Traditional High School in Buffalo on Thursday afternoon, Dec. 8, 1993, no one could have envisioned what Heary was going to do later that night. You had to see it to believe it.
"It was one of those nights," Fredonia coach Dave Polechetti said.
But 62 points?
"It's funny," said Heary, now 30, married, the father of a young daughter and living in Annapolis, Md. "When I first started at the Academy, all my buddies thought I had played a school for the blind. They would always get on me. They'd say, 'You must have played a bunch of nobodies.'"
For years, Traditional High School produced some of the best basketball talent in Western New York. Few could argue that when the 1993-94 season tipped off. In fact, their roster included a pair of sophomores, point guard Jason Rowe and wing Damian Foster, and a senior Adrian Baugh, who would all later earn Division I college scholarships.
Typically, games involving Yale Cup teams - of which the Bulls were a member - were played in the afternoon after school. But for one of the few times, the non-league encounter with Fredonia was played at night.
"I remember the gym being wall-to-wall people," Heary said. "It was potentially a fire-code violation."
Ironically, the one to figuratively catch fire was No. 24 - Heary.
"He was fearless," Polechetti said. "I would say he was a real warrior. He is the nicest person, a real gentleman, but when it came to competition and the whistle sounded and the ball was tossed up, there wasn't anybody more competitive than Michael Heary."
The statistics didn't lie: 21-of-34 shooting from the floor; 15-of-19 from the free throw line; a Chautauqua County record 62 points. He scored 13 in the first quarter, 12 in the second, 12 in the third, 23 in the fourth and two in the overtime before fouling out.
Traditional coach Joe Cardinal could only sit and watch. Nothing he tried defensively could stop Heary.
"I've never seen anyone do that," Cardinal told The Post-Journal after the game. "I've seen kids get 70 points, but never quality points. We had people hanging on him all night."
Noted Heary: "As the game wore on, guys came on that were like fullbacks on the Traditional football team. They were not as talented basketball-wise, but they were just stronger or potentially more physical. ... There was a little bit of everything."
Needless to say, nothing worked.
"Michael earned those points," Polechetti said. "... He would take the ball from the wing and he would drive, and if he had the drive he'd go. If not, he'd stop and pop his jump shot. Classic."
Oh, by the way, Traditional, behind 35 points from Rowe, 30 from Foster, 21 from LaVar Frasier and 10 from Baugh won the game, 110-106 in overtime. Mike Haight and Ryan LaMattina added 17 and 13 points respectively for Fredonia.
The outcome, however, was a mere afterthought. Years later, people who witnessed it still are amazed at Heary's brilliance that night.
"I think everyone there felt they saw something they'd never see again in a high school game, said Fredonia High graduate and current Jamestown High School teacher Ken Ricker, who was at the game with some friends. "It was pretty much a culmination of all Heary's work."
For Heary, who had poured in 42 points against Traditional the year before when the two teams hooked up at Fredonia, the game was as much about respect earned both individually and as a team, as it was points scored.
"As the years go by, that's what became the lasting image," he said.
Speaking of lasting images...
When Heary fouled out one minute into the overtime, two men, who had been rooting for Traditional all game from their seats under one of the baskets, stood up and performed their best we-are-not-worthy bows. It was the ultimate sign of respect to the kid from rural Chautauqua County.
But there was more.
When the game ended, the Traditional players mobbed each other at one end of the court. But instead of joining the Bulls in celebration, their fans made a beeline to Heary as he slowly walked to the locker room.
All they wanted to do was shake his hand.
"The Traditional crowd just kind of mobbed Michael," Polechetti said. "I'll never forget that."
Once showered and in their street clothes, Heary and his teammates received a police escort as they walked from the locker room to the school bus.
"The further removed you are," Heary said, "the more you start to understand the significance of the night."