WESTMORELAND – What a difference a few days make.
Monday night Oriskany’s Redskins looked listless in dropping a league contest at New York Mills. Thursday night in front of a boisterous crowd that packed the gym in Westmoreland, those same Redskins knocked off the previously unbeaten Bulldogs 71-70 in a wild back-and-forth battle between heated rivals.
Donovan Williams scored a career-high 28 points and Mykal Warcup had 18 as the Redskins improved to 6-2 on the season. The Redskins lost 51-44 to Mills just a month after dominating the Marauders by 29 points.
“When we lost to Mills it showed what can happen when we don’t play as hard as we can,” Williams said. “We came in here and showed what we’re made of and what we can do when we play with intensity.”
Oriskany was able to overcome an impressive 35-point effort from Westmoreland’s all-star guard Luke Fredsell. The senior is averaging 28.7 points to lead Section 3, and while the Redskins had a tough time slowing Fredsell, they got the stop when they needed it most.
Trailing 70-69 in the final minute, Williams made a hard cut to the basket and took a nice pass from Warcup for a short banker to give the Redskins a one-point lead with 24 seconds remaining.
Everyone in the gym knew who was going to get the ball for the Bulldogs. With the clock ticking down, Fredsell was able to penetrate into the lane, but his floater from about 10 feet rimmed out and, after a scramble, Warcup was fouled after coming up with the critical defensive rebound with just 2.4 seconds remaining.
Warcup missed the front end of the 1-and-1, but the Bulldogs had just 1.2 remaining and Westmoreland was only able to get off an off-balance half-court heave that fell short, giving Oriskany a huge nonleague victory.
“It’s key to contest his shot,” Oriskany head coach Chris Mahoney said of trying to disrupt Fredsell. “He’s very impressive off the dribble and we tried to get him to play our game instead of his. At times in the first half we did a better job of getting a body on him. In the second half we gave him too much freedom and he made us pay. The last possession we did a good job forcing a tough shot. It’s a good statement win for us to build on.”
The victory avenged Oriskany’s 60-52 home loss to Westmoreland on Dec. 9.
“Hats off to (Westmoreland) for their start, but banners aren’t held up in mid-January,” Mahoney said. “This is a big win after what happened to us Monday night when we showed up not ready to play. At Mills we were flat throughout the whole game. It was a good eye-opener for us.”
Ricky Phelps had his usual solid all-around game, scoring 11 of his 15 points in the second half, including some clutch buckets and free throws. Nick Hameister and Zach Stephens scored 15 points apiece for the Bulldogs (6-1).
The foul line was a huge factor in the game, as the Bulldogs went just 2 of 8 in the fourth quarter, and also had a crucial lane violation on Hameister’s make with 32 seconds remaining that would’ve given Westmoreland a two-point advantage.
“I think that’s the story,” Westmoreland’s first-year head coach Nick Facciolo said of his team’s poor performance from the foul line. “We had multiple opportunities from the free throw line to put the game away, but just didn’t do it. I think obviously free throws and the other thing that cost us was giving them too many second chances. Too many times they had two or three shots at the basket.”
While Facciolo indicated he’d rather go unbeaten throughout the entire season, suffering a loss isn’t the worst thing that could’ve happened to his team.
“It probably takes some of the pressure off the guys,” Facciolo said. “Now we can worry about just playing instead of being 5-0 or 6-0.”
Led by Warcup’s hot shooting, the Redskins came out hot in the opening quarter. The senior guard/forward scored 10 points, including two 3-pointers to set the tone as Oriskany led 20-12 after the opening eight minutes.
“It’s the wildest game of my career so far,” Warcup said. “I’ve been working hard every day on my shooting and today it paid off. The game Monday (vs. Mills) was not our day. The energy today compared to Monday was much better. It felt so good.”
Fredsell had eight points in the first quarter, but took it up another level in the second. In addition to Fredsell’s 11 points in the quarter, guard Zach Stephens hit two big 3-pointers to help the Bulldogs cut a 10-point Oriskany lead to just three at the break.
Oriskany led 47-40 after Phelps hit a 3-pointer midway through the third, but Fredsell went off, scoring 11 points on two free throws and three 3-pointers over the next 1:31 to give the Bulldogs a 51-47 advantage.
“I just try to do what my team needs me to,” said Fredsell, who now has scored over 30 points in his last four games. “If it’s passing, or if I feel we need a basket, that’s what I’ll try to do.”
Following a timeout by Mahoney, the Redskins responded as Williams sandwiched a pair of 3-pointers around a post bucket by Stephens to knot the game at 53. The Bulldogs got a buzzer-beating putback by Brandon Wilson to take a two-point advantage into the fourth.
The Bulldogs maintained the lead throughout most of the final quarter, and took a 66-60 advantage on Hameister’s post bucket with just over three minutes remaining. The Redskins caught a break as Williams unintentionally banked home a 3-pointer from the left wing to cut the lead in half, and then pulled to within a point on two free throws from Phelps with 2:27 remaining.
Fredsell answered Oriskany’s charge with a baseline 3-pointer to make it 69-65 with 2:08 on the clock, but Williams came right back with a baseline 3-pointer of his own, and then the senior sharpshooter tied it by hitting one of two foul shots with 1:06 left.
Hameister broke the tie with a foul shot with 52.2 left, but both teams missed chances from the line over the next few possessions, which set up Williams winning bucket.
“It feels great coming in here and dropping a career high,” Williams said. “It’s a great feeling to come here and get a big rivalry win.”
The Bulldogs came into Thursday’s game allowing just 42.5 points per game and Fredsell pointed to that as one of the biggest factors that led to their first defeat.
“We are usually a much better defensive team,” Fredsell said. “Ultimately that’s what hurt us. That’s the biggest thing, but also the fourth quarter is usually our quarter and we didn’t make it ours today.”
The Bulldogs can’t let this loss linger. Westmoreland has an even bigger game Saturday when it hosts Cooperstown for the outright lead in Center State Conference Division 3.
“It was a heartbreaking loss for us, but hopefully we’ll learn from this because we have a big game Saturday against Cooperstown,” Fredsell said. “Beating Cooperstown and winning the league is our goal and has been since the beginning of the season.”
Thursday’s win was huge for Oriskany, but getting tremendous performances from Williams and Warcup should have an impact for the Redskins going forward. The Redskins also have a huge league game Saturday as they travel to Old Forge to battle the Eskimos. Old Forge currently sits atop CSC 4 with a 6-1 league mark.
“Something we’ve been talking about is that we can’t rely on just one or two guys,” Mahoney said. “For those two guys to play like this … it not only builds confidence in themselves, but it builds confidence for the entire team. Who knows what will happen if we get all three going.”
Oriskany 71, Westmoreland 70
Oriskany 20 16 17 18—71
Westmoreland 12 21 22 15—70
Oriskany (6-2): Donovan Williams 11-1 28; Mykal Warcup 7-1 18; Ricky Phelps 5-4 15; Aaron Warcup 2-0 4; John Longeretta 1-0 2; Cal Pianka 1-0 2; Brandon Reid 1-0 2. Totals: 28-6-71. 3-Pointers: 9 (Williams 5, Warcup 3, Phelps).
Westmoreland (6-1): Luke Fredsell 11-7 35; Nick Hameister 6-3 15; Zach Stephens 6-0 15; Devon Slaboc 1-0 2; Brandon Wilson 1-0 2; Isiah Peck 0-1 1. Totals: 25-11-70. 3-Pointers: 9 (Fredsell 6, Stephens 3).
JV: Oriskany, 68-41.