BUFFALO - The Fredonia Hillbillies had one of the best front courts in all of CCAA Division 1 this season.
However, on Saturday afternoon at Buffalo State the Hillbillies ran into one of the best point guards in Jonathan Lewis as the Buffalo East Panthers ended Fredonia's season, 65-56, in the Section 6 Class B-2 boys basketball championship game.
Lewis went off for 23 points and dished out an unofficial 12 assists for the Panthers. Many of his assists were to 6-foot-5 inch post player Jonathan Kinley and 6-foot-9 forward Tyree Tyson.
"They are very quick," Fredonia coach Greg Lauer said of Buffalo East. "The problem is we couldn't help off the big guys. You can't leave a 6-7 guy. If you do, they pass off and you get beat inside. We were taking our chance with the layups from the guard and we didn't execute as well as we should have."
Fredonia's big highlight in the opening quarter was a traditional three-point play by Dylan Meyer with 4:45 remaining to make the score, 5-4, in favor of the Hillbillies. Nick Johnston drained a 3-pointer less than a minute later to give Fredonia an 8-4 lead. However, East finished the quarter on an 11-0 run in the final minute to take a 15-8 lead. Jonathan Kinley led East in the first quarter with eight points.
The beginning stages of the second quarter went back and forth as the closest Fredonia got was within five points at 17-12 following a Johnston 3-pointer. However, East finished the second quarter much like it did the first quarter with a 7-0 lead to balloon the lead, 29-16 by intermission.
"We certainly didn't play our best game," Lauer said. "We came out timid. To score just 16 points at half is not how we want to start a game. I thought we defended certain guys fairly well to begin the game, but that's not a good way to start a game offensively."
Fredonia opened the third quarter with an 8-2 run and scored on its first four possessions of the half, as Fletcher and Bunge each scored four points in the first 1:17. Johnston scored on a jumper midway through the quarter to cut the deficit, 35-28.
"We came out ready to go and were inspired after halftime," Lauer said. "We knew we played a bad half and we knew it wasn't over. We thought if we could chip away and hit some 3s we would be right back in. We got under 10 but that's when they went on a run of their own."
However, just as East had done the first two quarters, it finished on a 9-2 run and blew the game open, 49-32, heading into the final frame.
"It was like every time we made big runs and started to make a couple shots in a row, they would answer back with a bigger run of their own," Lauer said. "We could never get over that hump."
But the Hillbillies refused to go away silently as Piper and Johnston hit consecutive treys to make the score 49-38 to open the final stanza.
Unfortunately for Fredonia, East continued to find ways to answer as Tyson threw down two monster dunks - the last one to make the score 62-49 with 3:28 left to essentially put the game away.
Despite the loss, the Hillbillies had a season to remember as Lauer led the team to its first Class C title game in his tenure as coach.
"We were just in uncharted territory," he said. "We had a goal to get to Buffalo State and we won a huge game the other night. These guys haven't had a winning season. We were 7-12 last season and now we are 17-5 this year. Being on the big stage might have factored in the beginning. I thought we did a fantastic job this whole season."
The loss meant the final game for Fredonia seniors Zac Bunge, Trent Thompson and Jon Fletcher.
"These are an amazing group of kids," Lauer said. "They worked their butts off all summer to get to this point. They are a fantastic group to be around. The seniors will be missed."
Kinley finished with 19 points while Tyson had 10 for East.
Fredonia was led by Piper's 15 and Meyer's 12. Johnston added 10 points.