The top-seeded Silver Creek Black Knights have had very few nights this season in which they had to fight for a win.
There is a first time for everything and Friday night at Jamestown Community College was their time to fight as they held off the third-seeded Portville Panthers, 49-40, in the Section 6 Class C-2 boys basketball finals.
Anyone would be hard pressed to find a better starting five than Silver Creek's. However, depth has been an issue for the Black Knights. And after 6-foot-7 post player Billy Brooks picked up his fourth foul with six minutes left in the third quarter, Silver Creek's Tyler Bain entered the game and drained a key 3-pointer from the left corner to give the Black Knights a 30-28 lead and an edge they would never surrender.
"That was huge," Silver Creek coach Rob Genco said. "He did the exact same thing in the second game (of the playoffs). He did the same exact thing in the same corner. That's what he has done all year. Whether he plays two minutes or a whole game, he knows his role and embraces it. He came in and knocked down a big shot."
The Panthers fought to a 9-7 lead with two minutes left in the first quarter. However, Silver Creek finished the quarter on a 6-0 run. Williams scored Silver Creek's final four points, including a layup at the buzzer after stealing an inbounds pass, to give the No. 1 seed a 14-9 lead.
In the second quarter, the Panthers cut the score to17-15, but Silver Creek responded by closing out the quarter on a 6-3 run to take a 23-18 halftime advantage.
Silver Creek's biggest concern in the first half was the fact that starters Brooks and Marcey each had two fouls.
Marcey picked up both of his fouls in the first quarter and Brooks picked up his second foul with 6:43 left in the half. Despite the two fouls, both continued to play and were able to avoid picking up their third foul.
"That's our Achilles heel," Genco said of the foul trouble. "We haven't had that night yet. It was my biggest fear where we had to grind and dig and scratch. We weren't hitting our outside shots. We were taking good shots, they just weren't falling. I told the guys at halftime we weren't scoring 70. We have to go out there and focus on defense."
The third period became what many expected it to be as it looked more like a track meet than a basketball game. Portville nearly equaled the amount of points it did in the first half with 16.
The Panthers opened the quarter on a 6-2 run as Curtis Caya had a three-point play to give the Panthers a 26-25 lead. There were four lead changes in the third quarter and the final one came on Bain's 3-pointer.
Silver Creek's Kaine Kettle finished the quarter with consecutive 3-pointers to give the Black Knights a 36-34 lead heading into the final frame.
"Kaine believed in his shot and kept shooting," Genco said. "He hit some big 3s."
Portville tied to put pressure on Silver Creek to begin the fourth quarter, but the plan backfired as the Black Knights went on a 9-0 run to essentially put the game out of reach.
"I knew we could get a run," Genco said. "They pressed and we got a 10-point lead just like that. That was one coaching mistake they made and we were able to capitalize. We buckled down and played good defense to finish the game. We were waiting for them to make a couple mistakes. They are just so fundamental. They don't make mistakes. It's a credit to their coaching staff. We are lucky to get out of here with a win. It took a couple guys not wanting this run to end."
With the win, Silver Creek returns to the Class C crossover game against Middle College on Tuesday at Buffalo State at 5:30 p.m.
It is a rematch of last year's crossover game and its a game Genco and the Black Knights have been waiting for.
"We want Middle College," he said. "We know they may have a couple more talented players on the team, but we want them. We want that rematch. That's what we have been talking about all year and now it's a reality. We are looking forward to going back to Buff State."
Zeddie Williams had a stellar performance with 21 points while holding Portville's top player Zachary Blask to 10 points. Kettle finished with 12 points.
For Portville, Curtis Caya had 12 points in a losing effort.
Caya 5 2 12, Giberson 2 0 4, Blask 4 0 10, Marcellin 2 0 4, Watson 4 2 10, Totals 17 4 40
SILVER CREEK (49)
Marcey 1 0 3, Williams 8 5 21, White 1 0 3, Kettle 5 0 12, Brooks 3 1 7, Bain 1 0 3, Totals 19 6 49
3-point goals: Blask, Marcey, Bain, Kettle 2, White
Portville 9 9 16 6 - 40
Silver Creek 14 9 13 13 - 49