BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Seeded 10th in the Section VI Class B-2 bracket, the Fredonia boys basketball team has forged ahead to its state tournament appearance in 29 years. But don’t try to fit the Hillbillies for glass slippers.
“At this point in the year, if you’re still alive, the seedings get thrown out the window,” coach Nick Bertrando said Tuesday night outside the locker room at Buffalo State Sports Arena after Fredonia’s 64-63 overtime win in the crossover championship game against Lewiston-Porter, the top-seeded champions of Class B-1 who were ranked No. 7 in the state.
“We were slept on this whole year,” said junior guard Davion White, who led Fredonia with 21 points, 14 rebounds, and drove for the winning basket with 16.8 seconds left in OT. “Coach put it in our heads that we can do it if we really want it.”
“It’s a great feeling to know that we proved ourselves right,” said senior forward Jay Hawk, who had 14 points and 11 rebounds. “We came into the playoffs as a 10-seed, but we had belief in our locker room that we could win, not only Class B-2, but Class B overall. It’s what you dream of as a kid, being able to go out there and know you gave it your all and left it all on the court.”
Fredonia (19-7), ranked No. 28th in the state, advances to the Class B Far West Regional against the Section V champion at 1:15 p.m. Saturday at Gates-Chile High School.
The Hillbillies won B-2 in 2016 before losing in the Section VI crossover, and they were sectional champions in 2021 when there were no state playoffs. Fredonia hasn’t gone this far in the postseason since 1994, when one of Western New York’s all-time great scorers, Mike Heary, led the Hillbillies to the state semifinals with an overtime win in the regional round.
White called Fredonia’s postseason run “a revenge tour,” after last year’s loss in the sectional quarterfinals. Each of their B-2 playoff wins came against teams that combined for nine regular season losses and went undefeated in league play — Cleveland Hill (ECIC IV), Newfane (Niagara Orleans), Salamanca (CCAA I West).
Bertrando believed Fredonia was battle-tested from CCAA I West play, citing an overtime triumph at Allegany-Limestone, the fifth seed in B-2, as a confidence booster. He also looked at Lew-Port’s schedule, and gained confidence from the many runaway wins for the Lancers (20-4).
“If it’s close, I liked our chances,” Bertrando said. “We’ve been there before.”
Fredonia also relied on the championship experience many of its players gained in other seasons. Ethan Fry, quarterback of Fredonia’s sectional finalist football team, had 15 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. White and Hawk also play football, as does senior guard Keegan Whitfield, who had the defensive assignment against the leading scorer in Section VI.
“We’ve got a bunch of three-sport athletes at Fredonia, and I’m a huge proponent of that,” Bertrando said. “To see them compete as hard as they do in each sport, and have the fruits of their labor pay off, is really special.”
Lew-Port’s Jalen Duff finished with 33 points, five above his section-best scoring average, giving him 2,291 for his career, on one night passing local luminaries Jason Rowe, Marcus Whitfield, Jalen Bradberry and Maceo Wofford for fifth-place on WNY’s all-time scoring list. Scoring 36 in Lew-Port’s B-1 final victory, Duff bumped Heary (2,235 points) from the top 10.
But the Hillbillies were able to force Duff into difficult shots, especially down the stretch, and matched his output on the other end on their way to regionals.
“It gives us confidence,” Hawk said. “When we play at the top of our level, we feel like we can compete with everybody.”
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Jonah Bronstein joined the News 4 roster in 2022 as a digital sports reporter. Read more of his work here.