MAYVILLE - Chautauqua Lake (7-12) relinquished an early lead in its Section 6 Class C-2 boys basketball prequarterfinal against Global Concepts (4-14), but held on in the closing minutes to finish with a gutsy 55-52 victory.
With a little over two minutes remaining, the Thunderbirds found themselves behind, 46-45, when a clutch 3-point play by Devin Pope regained the lead.
Chautauqua Lake was without star big man Ian Clute, who was in foul trouble for much of the third and fourth quarters when the Gators came charging back on offense.
Photo by Jay Young
Chautauqua Lake’s Eric Szymanowski (42) fires a jumper over Global Concepts’ Yousef Yahya during Wednesday’s Section 6 Class C-2 boys basketball prequarterfinal game.
Eric Szymanowski was a key substitution during Clute's minutes on the bench, and he also drew an offensive foul in the final minute of the game to solidify the Thunderbirds' late push.
"We did have to adapt our strategy," Chautauqua Lake coach Mike Putney said. "Ian is the heart of our team. He leads us through-and-through, so we had to adjust a little bit.
"But we had great minutes from Eric," Putney continued. "At one point, I put him in there when we needed a rebound and he got me the charge, that was a huge turning point for us at the end. He has been great all year. He's put in his time and hasn't had a whole lot of it. With a couple of guys gone, he has had a chance to step up and be a contributor, and he was tonight."
While Clute was forced to sit during key minutes of the matchup, the time that he did play was dominant.
Clute notched eight points in the opening stanza on his way to a 15 point, 12 rebound double-double in limited minutes. He also picked up three assists.
While Chautauqua Lake suffered from a missing star late in the game, the Gators were without athletic guard Fred Searles during the opening quarter, who was benched due to a coaching decision.
"We always run the 2-3 matchup zone, and in the last couple of days we decided that we wanted to extend that and trap a little bit to put some pressure on, especially Searles, he's an outstanding young man and a great ball player," Putney said.
Without Searles on the floor early, Clute and Pope had an offensive field day as Chautauqua Lake broke out to a 21-7 lead.
Carter Davidson was the hot shooter for the Thunderbirds, chipping in four buckets from beyond the arc and notching 11 points in the first half.
Davidson would go on to end the game with a team-high 18 points, as well as a perfect day at the free-throw line.
After starting the second half down by 14, Fabian Pierce got the Gators rolling in the third quarter with a long trey - one of two on the night.
Meanwhile, Yousef Yahya was a strong point defensively during Global Concepts' comeback, as the forward had several big-time blocks in the paint as well as a jam that narrowed the Thunderbirds' lead to one at the start of the fourth.
Yahya went on to lead his team in points with 15, while Pierce added 14.
Aaron Swan was another key substitution by Putney late in the game, as he picked up his only bucket on the night in during Chautauqua Lake's comeback.
Thanks to their emotional win at home, the Thunderbirds now have the privilege of facing off against No. 1 International Prep (13-5) in Friday's quarterfinals at Grover Cleveland High School.
"We look forward to it," Putney said. "International Prep is a great team. They went undefeated in their league and we pride ourselves on matchups like that. I think it will be great for the kids."