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Victory over Allegany-Limestone gets T’birds to title game

March 3, 2016
By Matt Spielman ( , Westfield Republican

JAMESTOWN (Feb. 23) - You would struggle to find anybody who would call No. 4 Chautauqua Lake's Section 6 Class C-1 semifinal win over No. 8 Allegany-Limestone a thing of beauty.

Thunderbirds' head coach Mike Putney doesn't care.

Chautauqua Lake was 0 for 10 from 3-point range, but picked up 20 steals on 26 Gators' turnovers en route to a 53-41 victory Tuesday night at Jamestown Community College's Physical Eduction Complex.

"Defensively, I thought we really put a stranglehold on them. They threw the ball away a lot," Putney said. "They are a good team ... but (Tuesday) was our night."

The Thunderbirds advance to Friday's 8:15 p.m. championship game against No. 2 Olmsted, a 70-64 winner over No. 3 Tapestry in Tuesday's first game.

"We like to push the ball. We like to go at the rim, that's our game style. Watching Olmsted, they are a very quick team. They are going to like to move the ball themselves, too," Putney said. "We haven't played our best, but we've done enough to get the win. At this point in the playoffs, a win's a win."

Seemingly in control of the game for most of the night, Chautauqua Lake never extended the lead to more than 13 and Allegany-Limestone nearly made the Thunderbirds pay late in the fourth quarter.

Chautauqua Lake center Nate Hammond picked up his fourth foul with 6:54 remaining and Putney went to his bench. The Gators rattled off a 9-2 run, including five of Bailey Higby's game-high 18 points, to pull within six.

"Anytime you have 20-plus turnovers and you don't shoot the ball particularly well ... and you are that close, that's a positive," Allegany-Limestone coach Glenn Anderson said.

Hammond re-entered with 3:30 remaining, but after a pair of Carter Davidson free throws gave the Thunderbirds an eight-point lead, Hammond picked up his fifth foul. Allegany-Limestone guard Cole Davis scored four straight points to make it 45-41 with 2:06 remaining. But after the Gators' 23rd turnover of the night, sophomore Devin Pope gave Chautauqua Lake a six-point lead with a pair of free throws and Tyler Meredith followed with another two free throws after Brad Reed's 3-pointer rimmed out at the other end of the floor.

"Devin had a tough game out there tonight, but he was able to come in and hit two big free throws. Tyler Meredith comes in and hits some free throws," Putney said. "They played hard, but offensively, they struggled a little bit. Our leadership from Carter Davidson and Aaron Swan was just absolutely amazing."

The Thunderbirds made 10 of 12 free throws in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

Chautauqua Lake jumped on top midway through the first quarter. Pope forced a turnover and scored off a behind-the-back pass from Davidson to make it 12-6 and after the teams traded buckets, Allegany-Limestone turned the ball over on four straight possessions to close the quarter in a six-point hole.

"For the most part, we've taken really good care of the ball this season," Anderson said. "You are on this stage and maybe you have a litte bit of nerves going."

Three more turnovers to start the second quarter let the Thunderbirds' lead balloon to 19-8 before Higby finally knocked down a 3-pointer with 5:10 remaining. A pair of baskets from Aaron Swan, including a layup after spinning on the baseline, and another bucket after a pair of offensive rebounds, helped the Thunderbirds carry a 30-20 lead into halftime.

Back-to-back baskets from Swan and Meredith late in the third quarter gave Chautauqua Lake a 13-point lead that it eventually carried into the final quarter.

Swan led the Thunderbirds with 16 points to go along with six steals and five assists while Pope chipped in 10 rebounds and eight steals despite scoring just 10 points.

"This is all new territory for these guys. Sometimes I forget that (Pope's) a sophomore," Putney said. "He's our leading scorer and sometimes I think he feels the need that he has to always do that. We have other threats on our team and it kind of lightens the load."

Higby pulled down 13 rebounds to go along with his 18 points while Cole Davis was the only other Gator in double figures with 15 points.

Meredith had six rebounds and Davidson had four steals for the Thunderbirds (15-7), who turned the ball over just seven times.



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