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Kowalski’s buzzer beater lifts Braves to win

Fonda-Fultonville's John Mancini (15) drives past Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons' Todd Williamson (21) during Tuesday's WAC Cup game at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)

JOHNSTOWN — With the sectional tournament just around the corner, the Fonda-Fultonville boys basketball team was looking to end the season with a statement win.

The Braves did just that, avenging and earlier loss to Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons with a 51-48 double-overtime victory in the Western Athletic Conference Cup championship game Tuesday at Fulton-Montgomery Community College.

“I don’t know how we did that one,” Fonda-Fultonville coach Eric Wilson said.

Sophomore Colin Kowalski delivered the game-winning shot for FFCS, hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to end the second overtime.

“The clock was running down, [Canale] got the ball on the wing and saw an opportunity,” Kowalski said. “I faded to the other wing. We noticed they were doubling [Atty], so that would leave me open. [Canale] found me with a good pass, got it to me and I knocked it down.”

Fonda-Fultonville's Connor Weaver (10) and Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons' Todd Williamson (21) battle for a rebound during Tuesday's WAC Cup game at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)

Kowalski finished with 14 points for the Braves, who avenged an 86-68 loss to the Golden Knights in Schenectady on Jan. 29.

“I thought we tried to go up and down with them too much last time,” Wilson said. “We made some adjustments.”

John Mancini scored 15 points to lead Fonda-Fultonville (16-4 overall), while Jackson Atty added nine points. It was the first time this season that Atty was held to single digits, but he still managed to make an impact for FFCS.

“I thought it was one of his best games as a point guard,” Wilson said of Atty. “He took care of the ball, he got down the lane and found guys. To have that type of pressure on him all game, I couldn’t be prouder of the way he played.”

Nacier Hundley scored 18 points to lead Bishop Gibbons (17-3 overall), while Todd Williamson added 10 points.

Fonda-Fultonville's Connor Weaver (10) puts up a shot during Tuesday's WAC Cup game against Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)

“They’re a well-coached team,” Wilson said of the Golden Knights. “They’ve got athletes, they compete and they defend.”

The Golden Knights started quickly opening up a 14-6 lead in the first quarter as Williamson, Hundley and Omari Carmon all hit first-quarter 3-pointers.

Bishop Gibbons led by eight points early in the second quarter before the Braves pulled to within two points at the break by closing the half with a 15-9 surge.

Atty scored seven of his nine points in the second quarter for FFCS, while Kowalski had six and Mancini had five.

Defense and offensive struggles highlighted the second half as the team combined to score just 45 points over the final 16 minutes of regulation and eight minutes of overtime.

Fonda-Fultonville coach Eric Wilson, left, celebrates his team's buzzer-beating win over Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons in Tuesday's WAC Cup game at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)

Fonda Fultonville pulled even early in the third quarter and took the lead for the first time of a basket by Mancini with 6:34 left in the quarter.

Bishop Gibbons answered with four straight points by Williamson to take a 35-32 lead before the Braves closed the quarter with a 6-1 burst to take a 38-36 lead into the final quarter.

“The kids did a great job. They took good shots and we tried to control the tempo as best we could,” Wilson said. “To hold them to 48 points, we’ll take it.”

Offense was nearly absent in the final frame as the teams combined to go 2-for-23 from the floor.

Bishop Gibbons was able to force overtime by outscoring FFCS 5-3 in the quarter, which saw the teams go scoreless over the final 4:18 of regulation.

The Fonda-Fultonville boys basketball team raises the WAC Cup after defeating Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons in the Western Athletic Conference championship game at Fulton-Montgomery Community College in Johnstown on Tuesday. (The Leader-Herald/Paul Wager)

In the first overtime, FFCS fell behind 42-41 after a Hundley hit one of two free throws. The Braves scored the next four points before a 3-pointer by Anthony Blasquez knotted the game at 45-45. Neither team was able to score in the final 1:50 of the first overtime, sending the game to a second extra session.

Fonda-Fultonville got a 3-pointer from Jackson Cusack to take a 48-45 lead with 2:46 left in the second overtime before Bishop Gibbons tied the game at 48-48 with a basket from Noah Foster and a free throw from Blasquez.

Kowalski finally brought the game to an end burying a 3-pointer to lift the Braves to a dramatic win.

“The kids just competed. It wasn’t pretty, but it was gritty,” Wilson said.

Kowalski agreed with his coach’s assessment of the game.

“It was definitely a battle, for sure,” he said. “Coach said it felt like the game went forever. At the end there, he said, ‘Keep playing. I’m proud of you guys, no matter what.’ We kept fighting.”

The loss to Bishop Gibbons on Jan. 29 started a stretch of three losses in four games for the Braves, who bounced back to end the regular season with two straight wins over Catholic Central and Bishop Gibbons.

“This game meant a lot to us,” Kowalski said. “It’s going to help us for sure. We had three tough games to end the regular season to get ready for sectionals.”

Both teams now await the pairings for the Section II Class B Tournament, which will be announced today.

“”That was a huge win for us,” Wilson said. “I think Bishop Gibbons is one of the top three teams in the B’s. I couldn’t be prouder of this group. Whether we won or lost this game, I was proud of how we battled and competed tonight.”

Fonda-Fultonville 51, Bishop Gibbons 48, 2 OT

Fonda-Fultonville 8 18 8 5 4 6 — 51

Bishop Gibbons 14 14 8 3 4 3 — 48

Fonda-Fultonville

Canale 2-0-4, Shaw 1-0-2, Cusack 1-0-3, Atty 2-4-9, Weaver 1-0-2, Kowalski 5-0-14, Mancini 7-1-15, Georgia 0-2-2. Totals 10-7-51.

Bishop Gibbons

Foster 3-0-7, Hundley 5-6-18, Carmon 1-0-3, Blasquez 1-1-4, Williamson 3-3-10, Willis 2-0-4, Quinones 1-0-2. Totals 16-10-48.

3-point goals: Fonda-Fultonville 6 (Kowalski 4, Atty, Cusack); Bishop Gibbons 6 (Hundley 2, Foster, Carmon, Blasquez, Williamson).

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