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Pope, Thunderbirds top Gators, set to return to finals for redemption
March 1, 2017

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JAMESTOWN - Once again Devin Pope was the key, but Chautauqua Lake received contributions throughout its lineup to beat Allegany-Limestone, 72-57, in Section VI Class C1 semifinal action Monday evening at Jamestown Community College's Physical Education Complex.

Pope, already his school's all-time leading scorer as a junior, had 27 points, 11 rebounds and nine steals to lead the top-seeded Thunderbirds into Friday's Section?VI Class C1 championship game against No. 2 Cleveland Hill, a 46-35 winner over No. 6 Portville in Monday's second semifinal.

"Last year we lost a heart-breaker in the finals," Pope said following the game. "We are just working our way back to the finals to redeem ourselves."

Senior Aaron Swan added 11 points and seven assists, senior Tyler Meredith had 10 points and three steals, and sophomore Kyler Majka chipped in nine points while senior Nate Hammond contributed seven points and six rebounds in the win.

"Aaron Swan consistently found guys open. He's done that his whole entire career at Chautauqua Lake. It's good to always have somebody to rely on," Chautauqua Lake assistant coach Vinny Shioleno said. "(Nate's) always the unsung hero and willing to sacrifice his body to get a board. He knows he doesn't need to score 20 points a game to be a good role player. He steps up and does what he's asked to do."

Zach Hemphill led the fifth-seeded Gators (9-13) with 21 points and Mike McMullen scored 11 points while Sam Flanders had 11 points, seven assists and five steals.

"I told them in the locker room, we had to play a darned-near perfect game," Allegany-Limestone coach Glenn Anderson said. "I thought we played really well for a majority of the game, but it was just those first five minutes whether it was jitters, I don't know what it was, but we just didn't have it those first five minutes."

Chautauqua Lake (19-3) built a 19-point lead by halftime, but Allegany-Limestone began chipping away with a 13-4 run midway through the third quarter. Hemphill and Sam Flanders hit big 3-pointers while McMullen added a pair of buckets during the spree. Majka and sophomore Alex Gleason followed with big 3-pointers for the Thunderbirds to temporarily halt the momentum and maintain a 12-point lead heading into the fourth quarter.

"Big-time props to Alex Gleason off of our bench. Only a sophomore, he came in and hit two big-time 3-pointers when Allegany-Limestone was starting to go on its run," Shioleno said.

Midway through the fourth quarter, Hemphill had a 3-pointer and another bucket on consecutive possessions as the Gators closed within eight with 4:36 remaining.

"At halftime we said get it to 12 before the end of the third. We got it to 12 and were at single digits there for a while," Anderson said. "It seemed like we'd get to single digits and they'd get an and-one or they'd knock down a big jumper. We just couldn't get over that hump to get it down to six or five and start to put some pressure on them and make them nervous."

Swan then made a driving layup to put the Thunderbirds back up 10 and Allegany-Limestone came up empty a few possessions later despite having four shots at the basket.

"There's some things that we need to clean up for Friday," Shioleno said. "Defensively, I thought we came out pretty good in the first quarter and weathered the storm in the fourth quarter because we knew they were going to have one more run in them."

Chautauqua Lake eventually put the game away at the free throw line to set up Friday's matchup with the Golden Eagles.

"We told the younger guys that we have seasoned veterans who know what to expect. Other than a couple of throwaways, I thought we did an alright job," Shioleno said. "We knew Allegany-Limestone was going to come out strong, we just needed to come out stronger."

Pope had eight points in the first quarter as the Thunderbirds took an 18-10 lead and nine more in the second to go up 39-20 after 16 minutes.

"You give him a bit of space and he'll knock down a jumper, you push up on him and he'll drive right by you," Anderson said of Pope. "We were leaving a guy open to try to help on him once he got to the paint. Even when he gets there, he still finishes through contact around that kid or through that kid. He's a really, really good high school basketball player."

NOTES: Chautauqua Lake turned the ball over 19 times compared to 16 for Allegany-Limestone. The Thunderbirds were 26 of 51 from the field, including 5 of 13 from 3-point range, while the Gators were 22 of 56 overall, including 6 of 22 from 3-point range. Michael Wolfgang had four assists and Sean McAfee had three assists for Allegany-Limestone.

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