UTICA — Showing their trademark defense, the Fredericktown Freddies put the clamps on Justin Dassylva and the Utica Redskins on Wednesday night. The Freddies held Utica to just six points in the first quarter and then put a goose egg up in the third to pick up a 35-32 Mid-Buckeye Conference victory.
“It is always tough coming to Utica,” said Fredericktown senior Thomas Hinkle. “There are a lot of people here; it is loud; and it was their Senior Night. It went down to the wire like I expected. ... This does a lot for us because we are trying to finish our season strong.”
It wasn’t all smooth sailing for Fredericktown (13-4, 9-4 MBC), however. The Freddies watched an eight-point lead evaporate in a matter of minutes down the stretch. Leading 33-25 with three minutes to play, Dassylva carried his team back from the brink with a layup, a free throw and a jumper. Kyle Walton added a pair of free throws after Fredericktown was called for a technical for having six players on the court at one time. Dassylva’s jumper made it 33-32 with 1:08 to play.
Then, after the ball squirted away from the Freddies’ Tyler Hathaway, Utica (9-10, 8-5 MBC) had a shot to win the game. Dassylva slowly brought the ball up the court, eating precious time off the clock. Then, just before making his move with five seconds left, Dassylva gave up the ball to Fredericktown’s Tony Lybarger. After a quick foul put Hathaway at the line with 2.3 seconds left — and he hit both free throws for a three-point lead — Lybarger ended the game with another steal for Fredericktown, preserving the win.
“We knew it was going to be tough coming over here because Utica has been playing very well. They’ve had a lot of good wins as of late, so we knew it was going to be tough,” said Fredericktown coach Kirk Manns. “Our kids kept their composure, kept the ball moving and got some key stops when we needed them.”
Utica coach Eric Sheck said, “Obviously, this is a tough loss. We were down pretty much the whole game. Give Fredericktown credit — they played their style of basketball. We were able to comeback and had a chance to win the game late, but unfortunately, we didn’t do that.”
Utica looked strong at the start, beginning the game with a Kevin Walton 3-pointer, but a 15-3 run by Fredericktown put a damper to the Redskins’ plans. Hathaway hit a pair of 3-pointers in the run and Hinkle scored seven points to lead Fredericktown to a 15-6 first-quarter advantage.
Dassylva helped cut into the lead early in the second quarter, and a 3 by Kyle Walton made it a three-point game, 17-14, with 2:30 to go. From there on, the points came from the free-throw line, where Utica led, 4-3, down the stretch to make it a 20-18 halftime score.
“We got off to a really good start; we were penetrating the ball, we were kicking it out and getting some perimeter shots,” said Manns. “We had a very good first quarter scoring. Then we kind of hit a dry spell.”
Fredericktown didn’t get much offense in the third quarter, scoring just five points, but the defense did its job. The Freddies kept the Redskins off the scoreboard, forcing seven turnovers. A steal and layup by C.J. Ruhl set the tone, and a 3-pointer by Justin Snyder made it a 25-18 game heading into the final period.
“Fredericktown does a nice job of controlling the tempo,” said Sheck. “Obviously, it doesn’t help that we didn’t score the entire third period, but the good news is we only gave up five. They really took us out of our rhythm offensively.”
Early in the fourth quarter, Fredericktown looked like it mike pull away and put the game out of reach. Ruhl had a pair of buckets in the first minute and Hinkle and Ryan Logan each added a score, but Utica had an answer each time. A layup by Austin Boggs, a three-point play by Joe Metzger and a jumper by Dassylva set up the finish.
“I thought we had very good senior leadership on the floor,” said Manns. “Thomas Hinkle and C.J. Ruhl did a great job out there. I thought the key to this game was to respond at halftime, and we had very good leadership coming out of the locker room. Anytime you hold a team that can shoot the basketball scoreless for a quarter, you are doing a pretty good job.”
Hinkle led Fredericktown with 11 points and eight rebounds, while Hathaway added 10 points and four boards. Ruhl also had six points and two steals, and Logan had four points, four rebounds and two steals.
Dassylva scored 15 points to lead Utica, and had nine rebounds and two blocks. Metzger had three points and 10 rebounds, and Boggs had two points, three rebounds and three blocks. Sharpshooters Kyle and Kevin Walton were held in check, finishing with seven points and three points, respectively. Kyle Walton went 4-of-5 at the free-throw line.
“We knew coming in we had to slow down Justin because he is a great ball player,” Hinkle said. “We executed our game plan the way that we wanted. We helped off and helped on him, forcing him to shoot tough shots.”
In reserve action, Utica picked up a 56-46 victory over the Freddies. Broc Stradley led Utica with 16 points, and Levi Boyd added 10 points. Bryson Tussey also scored nine points. Fredericktown got 10 points from Nathan Cubbage, and Jordan Radel and Max Miller each scored eight points.
Both teams have one regular season game remaining on Friday night. Fredericktown will host Loudonville in a rematch. The Redbirds beat the Freddies the first time around.
“We lost to Loudonville the first time around, so we’ve got some extra incentive,” Manns said. “That’s what we are focusing on now. It will be a tough game. Loudonville is big, strong and physical.”
Utica, meanwhile, travels down Ohio 62 to Northridge to face the Vikings. Both games begin at 6 p.m.
“Northridge is a tough place to play, but our kids have battled all year long,” said Sheck. “I have no worries that once we get back into the regular swing of things, our kids will go over there and compete.”