By Jim Schiltz/For The Leader-Herald
SCHENECTADY — Good things happen when you play good defense, and the Fonda-Fultonville boys’ basketball team will certainly attest to that.
The Braves turned in another strong performance at that end of the court, and freshman Riley Wilson provided an offensive spark with a season-high 19 points in their 58-38 WAC Cup semifinal win at Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons Wednesday night.
Fonda-Fultonville limited Bishop Gibbons to four points in the first quarter and 11 in the opening half as part of its 14th consecutive win since a 45-40 home loss to the Golden Knights on Dec. 21.
“We’ve been really consistent on defense this season,” Fonda-Fultonville coach Eric Wilson said of his quick and physical 3-2 zone that gave Bishop Gibbons fits. “I’m proud of the kids the way they just keep battling.”
Fonda-Fultonville led after one quarter 9-4, was up at the half 24-11, and extended its advantage to 46-24 after three, with Bishop Gibbons never stringing together two baskets over that stretch.
“Fonda didn’t do anything different than they’ve done all year. They packed it in with their 3-2 zone,” Bishop Gibbons coach Steve Garzone said. “We made some adjustments with our offense in the second half, and we couldn’t execute.”
“The game plan was to do our best to keep them from getting two feet in the paint, and rebound,” Eric Wilson said.
Fonda-Fultonville (17-2, No. 3 seed) will get an opportunity to avenge its other loss Tuesday when it meets Duanesburg (19-0, No. 1 seed) at Fulton-Montgomery Community College for the WAC Cup championship.
Duanesburg nipped Fonda-Fultonville 39-38 on Dec. 9 when Peyton Fall scored on a layup with three seconds left.
“You want to be playing in games like that at this time of the year,” Eric Wilson said of the title matchup against the state’s No. 2-ranked Class C team in Duanesburg. “It’s going to be a great game.”
Wednesday’s contest between the Braves and the Golden Knights had the potential to be great, yet Fonda-Fultonville nixed that as it gradually pulled away from Bishop Gibbons (12-7, No. 2 seed) with defensive stops that translated into offensive chances.
The game marked the 13th time this season that the Braves have surrendered less that 40 points
“We didn’t do anything special,” said Fonda-Fultonville senior Jackson Cusack, who totaled 18 points, five rebounds, five steals and four assists “Play defense and play as a team. Make sure we squeeze down on them when they get the ball inside.”
At the opposite end, Cusack and Riley Wilson took turns leading the Braves’ offense. Cusack scored 13 of his 18 points in the first half, and Wilson, the coach’s son, scored 12 of his 19 points after the intermission.
“The first time we played Bishop Gibbons, he had a different look on his face,” Eric Wilson said of his son, who came in averaging seven points per game. “Tonight, he was not intimidated.”
Riley Wilson came off the bench and scored his first seven points in the second quarter, which included a 3-pointer that gave his team its 24-11 cushion. He delivered seven more points in a 12-2 run that ended the third quarter and all but sealed the game’s outcome.
“I was just looking for open spots, and the guys got me the ball,” Riley Wilson said.
The ninth-grader made two free throws for his only points in the early-season loss to Bishop Gibbons.
“He’s a capable scorer,” Eric Wilson said. “As a freshman, it took some time to find himself with the team [and] find his role. It’s a big jump from JV to varsity.”
Brady Whipple, Fonda’s 6-foot-4 center, had 11 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks.
“We had no answer for him,” Garzone said of Whipple, who scored 10 second-half points and anchored the back line of the Braves’ zone defense. “We did a good job on 4 [Cusack] and 12 [Whipple] the first time we played.“
Si Starr had 16 points and six rebounds for Bishop Gibbons, and Zakahria Archie had nine points and six rebounds
Duanesburg beat Berne-Knox-Westerlo (No. 4 seed, 11-8) for the third time this season in Wednesday’s other tournament semifinal 74-48.
Fonda-Fultonville 9 15 22 12 — 58
Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons 4 7 13 14 — 38
Fonda-Fultonville scoring: Boyer 1-0-3, Cusack 7-2-18, Wilson 7-2-19, Whipple 4-3-11, Jimenez 1-0-3, Melious 2-0-4. Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons scoring: Gheen 2-2-6, Jones 1-1-3, Starr 5-6-16, Archie 4-0-9, Allgood 1-2-4. Team totals: Fonda-Fultonville 22-7-58, Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons 13-11-38.