ALLEGANY — League foes once again after each joined the CCAA West I division a year apart, the Salamanca and Allegany-Limestone boys basketball teams gave each other a challenge to start the second week of regular season action.
After a buzzer-beating 3-pointer gave A-L a 10-9 lead to close the first quarter, the Gators never trailed again. But after expanding the lead as wide as 13 points, A-L held on at the end, clinging to a 55-53 victory after a tense fourth quarter.
Jayden Gustafson, who finished with a game-high 17 points, made a key basket off a backdoor cut to give the Gators a 52-49 lead with 40 seconds left and later made both ends of bonus free throws for a 54-50 lead with :16.5 remaining. Salamanca’s Lucus Brown cut the lead to one on a 3-pointer and A-L’s Tyler Curran split two free throws for a 55-53 lead with 6.9 seconds left. With no timeouts, Salamanca got a clean look for Lucas McKenna to shoot a potential winning 3-pointer, but the senior just missed a desperate shot.
“WE HAD the execution when we needed it. We were up one and we had a timeout and executed real well out of the timeout and got the look we were looking for and that was big,” said A-L coach Glenn Anderson, referring to Gustafson’s basket. “That’s a step in the right direction for a young team. Sometimes that stuff comes later rather than early in the season, so I was happy to see that.”
Curran had 15 points and a team-high six steals, while Hudson Kwiatkowski grabbed eight rebounds for the Gators (2-0, 2-0).
A-L made nine 3-pointers (seven in the first half) from five different players.
“It’s a double-edged sword, because I thought we relied on it a little bit too much in the second half,” Anderson said of his team’s 3-point shooting. “But it does stretch the defense out and then you get those driving lanes where you can attack downhill. That’s really nice, especially when you’ve got five guys out there that can shoot the ball and also can take the ball off the bounce. That was huge.”
Salamanca coach Adam Bennett said the Warriors anticipated A-L’s 3-point shooting but too often lost open shooters in transition.
“They did a good job of using our size against us a little bit in the first half,” Bennett said. “They spread us out. We put a premium going into the game on stopping the 3-point line and we didn’t do a good enough job of that in the first half, but a lot of that was in transition. They’d get a rebound, they’d be down the floor quickly, we’d get lost a little bit and we wouldn’t be in the right spots.
“So once we were able to get it in the halfcourt in the second half, we did a better job of that. We still can close out better. We’re still not fully conditioned. We don’t have our legs completely yet. But that’s how they play and credit Glenn, Glenn’s a great coach, scouted us well and he used that to his advantage.”
FOR SALAMANCA (0-3, 0-2), Jarod White had a double-double of 12 points and 21 rebounds, McKenna scored 14 points with seven rebounds and four assists and Brown chipped in 12 points.
Bennett may not have expected an 0-3 start, but he likes the direction the Warriors are headed after narrow league losses to Fredonia (67-60 on Friday) and Monday at A-L.
“I love this team, I love their character, I love their resiliency and that’s why we moved up to this league,” Bennett said. “They can take punches, they can punch back and credit Allegany, they started with a ton of effort and intensity.
“We’ve got to win these games. It’s no excuse, we’ve got a bunch of hurt kids in that locker room because we didn’t win, but we knew going in what this schedule was going to be at the beginning. Two of the three teams that we played (Randolph and A-L) are defending sectional champions, Fredonia is a perennial sectional title contender.”
Bennett said the Warriors are far from satisfied with giving the Gators, the defending Section 6 Class B2 champions, a good fight.
“We have a really good practice tomorrow and then we play Dunkirk Wednesday,” Bennett said of where his team goes after the 0-3 start. “I think we’re going to be fine. We’ve shown a lot of toughness, but we’re not happy with where we are. I’d be concerned if the kids were OK with just showing fight. Those kids want to win, they expect to win and that’s going to drive and fuel them as we continue to move forward.”
AT ALLEGANY Salamanca (53)
McKenna 5 2-3 14, Pond 4 1-1 9, Brown 5 1-2 12, Herrick 2 0-0 6, White 5 2-6 12. Totals: 21 6-12 53.
Curran 5 3-4 15, DeCapua 3 0-0 8, H. Kwiatkowski 1 0-1 2, Gustafson 5 5-7 17, M. Kwiatkowski 3 0-0 8, Brockel 1 2-2 5. Totals: 18 10-14 55. Salamanca 9 22 36 53 Allegany-Limestone 10 31 41 55
Three-point goals: Sala 5 (McKenna 2, Herrick 2, Brown); A-L 9 (Curran 2, DeCapua 2, Gustafson 2, M. Kwiatkowski 2, Brockel). Total fouls: Sala 14, A-L 14. Fouled out:
JV: A-L won.