OLEAN - The Olean boys basketball team is now 24-0 for the season, and 3-0 against Fredonia.
From the Huskies’ perspective that couldn’t be more perfect.
Olean defeated Fredonia, 54-45, Tuesday night in the overall Class B championship game, staying unbeaten in the process and beating the Huskies’ biggest rival one more time.
“We didn’t even think of it before the season,” Olean’s Elijah Ramadhan said about the possibility of going an entire season without losing. “We just come to practice each day, work hard and take it one game at a time.”
And there was no way that the Huskies would get caught looking past Fredonia. The two teams had met twice before this season, and the Hillbillies had played them closer than anyone else. In one of their meetings, it took a goaltending call with two seconds left for Olean to finally put away Fredonia.
“Fredonia is a very good team, very well coached,” Huskies coach Jeff Anastasia said. “They have lots of experience. We knew it was going to be a dogfight.”
That’s one way to describe the game, in which the tone was set in the first quarter. Olean came out firing in the first half. And firing some more.
The Huskies sank six three-pointers in the first nine minutes. Monty Shoemaker had three of the shots from long distance, while Ben Eckstrom added two. In addition, Eckstrom had a couple of baskets from close to the rim. The athletic 6-foot-4 center was a difficult matchup for the Hillbillies. As a result, Olean had a 23-12 lead early in the second quarter.
“When we’re hitting lots of shots, we get fired up,” Ramadhan said. “We couldn’t let it get too close.”
The second quarter was played in a completely different style. Olean had some foul trouble, and couldn’t continue to play racehorse basketball.
“We really tried to slow the game down,” Anastasia said. “We didn’t want that fast pace.”
It was an opportunity for Fredonia to get back in the game, but the Hillbillies wasted the chance. They were 1 for 8 from the foul line in the second period. Fredonia did cut the lead to five points in the final minute, but Eckstrom hit a three-pointer at the buzzer to make it 26-18 at the half. The trey was Olean’s first points in about seven minutes. Anastasia thought that gave his team a big boost in momentum.
The Huskies changed tactics in the third quarter. Eckstrom and Ramadhan started to attack the basket, and it paid off with points. Olean got the lead up to 14 at one point in the period, and led by 10 after 24 minutes.
From there, Fredonia took a crack at using the three-pointer to get back in the game, as Jarod Burmaster hit four threes in the fourth quarter. But the Hillbillies never got closer than six points. Ramadhan had eight of his 17 points in the fourth quarter.
“We knew they were going to pressure us, and I thought I could take my man,” Ramadhan said.
It was a particularly impressive performance by Ramadhan, since he had four fouls in the fourth quarter.
“Some of the other coaches wanted to pull him,” Anastasia said. “But he was no good to us on our bench.”
While the offense came from a variety of sources, Anastasia believed the game was won at the other end of the court with a consistent strong effort.
“I’m really proud of our defense,” the coach said. “Defense is a constant. It gives you a chance to win every night.”
Next up for Olean is a Section V opponent in the Far West Regionals at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday at Buffalo State.