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Follow Me, Boys

Tyler Putney averaged 20.2 points per game for the Section VI Class B3 champion Hillbillies this season. Photo by Ron Szot

The decision to make Fredonia Hillbillies senior Tyler Putney The Post-Journal/OBSERVER Player of the Year was essentially a slam dunk.

Or in Putney’s case, maybe more of a wide open 3-pointer or a silky smooth fadeaway from inside the arc. Because Putney did it all for the Hillbillies this year, on their way to a Section VI title in a year where he had to.

Coming into the season, Putney and junior Nick Whitfield were set to light Class B3 on fire, but Whitfield went down very early in the season, leaving Putney as the player defenses could key in on.

Despite that, he made the most of it.

“He’s a class kid,” said Fredonia coach Nick Bertrando. “A great teammate, a great student and a great friend. I would mold guys in the future to be like Tyler.”

When all was said and done, Putney finished the season averaging just over 20 points per game, while also averaging eight rebounds per game.

When Putney came up as a freshman, he was known as a kid who can shoot, but over his years of varsity, he became a much more versatile player. This year especially, the fruits of Putney’s labor paid off. He became a player who could consistently get to the rim and finish, while still being lethal from the perimeter, and thanks to his height, was a key and versatile defender for the Fredonia defense.

Putney started off the season strong, scoring 24, 21 and 29 points, respectively in the first three games of the season — all wins for Fredonia. Putneys’ first game scoring less than 20 came in Fredonia’s sixth game of the season against the Allegany-Limestone Gators, a team that has historically had his number.

Fredonia hit a midseason lull, losing three straight games to Salamanca, Olean and Southwestern, and with another game against the Gators coming up, it looked bleak for Fredonia. But this time, Putney was ready for the team that has been in the thorn in his side his entire career.

“They’ve always shut me down,” Putney said after the game. “I’ve been watching film and my dad and I broke it down, and came up with 10 points I needed to work out. So I worked on those in the two days of practice.”

Fredonia beat the Gators 60-45, sapping a bit of revenge on the team that knocked the Hillbillies out of the postseason the year prior. From there on, Fredonia lost one game for the remainder of the season, running the gambit in the playoffs, beating Olmsted and Wilson, setting up Fredonia with the chance to win a sectional title on its home court.

Putney led the way through Fredonia’s postseason, kicking things off with a 36-point effort against Olmsted, which he followed up with a 24-point game against Wilson. Heading into the championship game against Royalton-Hartland, Putney set the tone early.

“To start out, I knew I had to attack,” Putney said following the victory. “I told the boys I was going to, and we did a good job right away. It wasn’t our best quarter, but we still led.”

And attack Putney did. Though Fredonia scored 13 points as a team in the first quarter of that game, Putney himself had 11 to get the Hillbillies off to the early lead. And coming out of the halftime break, Putney continued to set the tone, hitting back to back 3s, helping Fredonia extend its lead to 19 points.

Roy-Hart would scratch and claw back into the game, getting as close as four points, but Fredonia made some clutch baskets to close out the title, with Putney once again hitting a huge shot, this time on an ice-cold fadeaway from just inside the free throw line.

Putney led Fredonia with 23 points when all was said and done, helping give Fredonia the title.

Putney walks off the Fredonia High School basketball court as one of the eight 1,000-point scorers in school history, a three-time Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association Division 1 West First-Team selection and a sectional champion.

Putney will look to continue his basketball career at the next level this coming winter, committing to play for the Daemen Wildcats.

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