SALAMANCA — In another tight league game with Salamanca, the Allegany-Limestone boys basketball team needed some lockdown defense and big shots to keep its lead on the CCAA West I division.
The Gators trailed the Warriors 43-37 entering the fourth quarter, but held Salamanca to just five points over the final eight minutes, and just one point in the last six minutes. That gave A-L’s offense a chance, and it delivered: Hudson “Huddy” Kwiatkowski’s 3-pointer with 18.2 seconds remaining put A-L ahead and it held on for a 50-48 victory.
“We struggled all night guarding the big guy (Jarod White) and Lucus (Brown) made some really, really tough shots in the first half,” admitted A-L coach Glenn Anderson. “I told the guys at halftime, if we can keep making him make tough shots, we’re going to have a chance at the end. Jarod’s a nightmare for us to defend and we had to sell out and double him. There’s a little bit of luck involved there too with guys missing shots a little bit, but our rebounding was phenomenal to finish the game and our ball pressure helped, got a couple turnovers on travels and things like that.”
Brown, a freshman, scored a game-high 20 points and the senior center, White, added 13 points, with both grabbing seven rebounds.
On the game-winning play, A-L grabbed the rebound on a crucial missed free throw from Brown — Salamanca led 48-47 and looked to ice the game at the line — and didn’t take a timeout. Instead, A-L junior guard Tyler Curran attacked the defense before finding Kwiatkowski open on the perimeter for his second 3-pointer of the quarter. Curran assisted on A-L’s final three field goals, all 3-pointers.
“He’s scoring a lot of points for us but I think a very underrated part about him is his ability to find other guys open too,” Anderson said of Curran. “As far as not using a timeout, if we can go against a defense that isn’t set, I’ll take that every time especially if I like the initial first five seconds of the possession. If we’re stagnant, then absolutely.
“Ty didn’t have his best night offensively, but I thought he did a great job on Lucus when we switched him onto him and he did what he needed to do assisting-wise to get us a good look.”
Kwiatkowski (six rebounds) and Maddox Delong scored 11 points each to lead the Gators (6-2, 6-1). Curran scored 10 points with four assists and Jayden Gustafson marked team-highs with seven rebounds and five assists.
For Salamanca (4-5, 3-4), the loss was a setback after a thrilling victory at the buzzer in Fredonia on Tuesday. This time, a close game didn’t go their way. Brown got a look at the buzzer with just a step past halfcourt to win the game Friday, but couldn’t make this one.
“We got tight,” Salamanca coach Adam Bennett said. “But credit them (A-L), they pressured the heck out of us in the fourth quarter. They’re a very good defensive team, that’s why they’ve had so much success this year. They played with a ton of pressure in the fourth and we got tight. We weren’t going the places we needed to go with the basketball down the stretch, which is disappointing after Tuesday because Tuesday, Fredonia made a run at us and we were able to respond. This time offensively we weren’t able to find anything down the stretch. That starts with me. We’ve got to be better as a coaching staff.
“I thought our defense was good all game, credit them they made some tough shots down the stretch. But we can’t play tight in the fourth quarter. We’ve just got to play possession by possession and not worry about what the scoreboard.”
In a heartbreaking loss, Bennett thinks Salamanca can learn from it.
“This is the toughest league in Western New York,” Bennett said. “Allegany-Limestone is one of the top ranked teams in Western New York and I thought we played really hard. I thought Lucus Brown tonight was outstanding. What he's doing this year, you can't even really put into words. They threw everything they had at him and he still went for 20. Jarod White played another strong game inside. This all is going to make us better for when it counts most.
“We played good basketball for three quarters, we did not play well in the fourth quarter, that's on us. We've got to make sure that we start putting complete games together down the stretch of the season.”
The Gators swept the season series against the Warriors by a combined margin of four points. Salamanca joined the West I division this winter and appears to have only made it tougher.
“Iron sharpens iron, or steel sharpens steel, whatever the saying is,” Anderson said of the West I schedule. “There’s no easy game in our league. You have to show up every night and if you have a bad night, you’re going to lose. That’s the way the league is and that’s why we wanted to be in this league and we’re happy Salamanca came in and that’s exactly what we’re looking for. We want to be our best at playoff time. If we drop league games here and there, that’s OK.”
A-L maintained its lead in West I, a game ahead of Olean (7-3, 5-2). The Gators play host to the Huskies on Tuesday, looking to avenge a 61-46 loss last month in Olean.
A. Giardini 1 5-8 7, Curran 4 2-2 10, Delong 4 0-0 11, H. Kwiatkowski 4 1-2 11, Gustafson 1 2-5 4, M. Kwiatkowski 2 0-0 5, Brockel 1 0-0 2. Totals: 17 10-17 50.
McKenna 3 1-2 8, Pond 2 1-1 5, Brown 6 5-8 20, Herrick 1 0-0 2, White 5 3-5 13. Totals: 17 10-16 48.
Allegany-Limestone 18 29 37 50
Salamanca 13 28 43 48
Three-point goals: A-L 6 (Delong 3, H. Kwiatkowski 2, M. Kwiatkowski); Sala 4 (Brown 3, McKenna). Total fouls: A-L 14, Sala 13. Fouled out: Gustafson (AL).