The Post-Journal

‘Tis The Season For Heary, Johnson

Last week, Joe Cardinal, the personable and colorful Buffalo traditional basketball coach, suggested, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, that he might consider becoming a burglar on nights the Fredonia Hillbillies have a basketball game in their gym.

The reason?

He’d make a haul.

Cardinal, who took his team to Fredonia last year for a non-league game, maintains that when the Hillbillies have a home game, the village shuts down and everyone with even a passing interest in basketball heads for the high school.

Look for another such pilgrimage Saturday night.

That’s when the Hillbillies (1-2) entertain Jamestown (2-1) in a nonleague game that has all the markings of classic. For not only have the two schools developed a friendly rivalry over the years, but each of them also has a marquee player, who has set Western New York abuzz with some early-season scoring heroics.

To put the accomplishments of Mike Heary of Fredonia and Justin Johnson of Jamestown into perspective, all one has to do is look at the record books, which have been undergoing some serious editing in the last two weeks.

Consider:

Heary scored a Chautauqua County-record 62 points last Thursday in an overtime loss to Traditional, the seventh-best total in WNY history. That effort boosted his total for three games to 128 (42.3 average). In the process, the 6-foot-5 senior has shattered the all-time county career scoring mark – he now has 1,486 points and at his present pace could move into the top four all-time in Western New York history. It may be a reach to suggest it, but should Heary somehow manage – as far-fetched as it may seem – to score at his current pace through the remaining games in the regular season, combined with a deep Fredonia run in the postseason, he would be flirting with the all-time WNY career record.

Improbable? Yes. Something to talk about in the company break room? For sure. And in case you’re wondering, the top four scorers are Ritchie Campbell (DeSales-Burgard), 2,355; Marcus Whitfield (Nichols) 2,066; Curtis Aiken (Bennett), 2,162; and Christian Laettner (Nichols), 2,066.

Johnson is nipping at Heary’s heels. In three games – the Red Raiders entertain Lancaster tonight – the 6-foot-7 senior is averaging 35.6 points per game, including Tuesday night’s 50-point explosion at Hamburg that erased the old JHS record of 42, set in 1979 by Keith Johnson. With 28 points tonight against the Redskins, Johnson will become Jamestown’s all-time leading scorer, supplanting Dave Anderson (1,172). In three games in the last week, Johnson has scored 107 points after outbursts of 27, 30 and 50 points.

At his current pace, Johnson – aided by a deep Red Raider playoff run – could also find himself among the top half-dozen scorers in WNY history.

What makes Heary’s and Johnson’s accomplishments all the more impressive is that no other player from Chautauqua County has cracked the top 25. That’s why tomorrow night’s game, which starts at 7:30 p.m. at Fredonia, is such an anticipated one. It’s rare that area fans have an opportunity to see such talent on a basketball court at the same time.

For those planning to attend, get there early. The gym’s capacity – with bleachers only on one side of the court – is about 700. Seating, therefore, will be at a premium.

And for those who can’t be there, they’ll get a second chance. Fredonia travels to Jamestown for a rematch Feb. 18.


The additional financial assistance of the community is critical to the success of the Chautauqua Sports Hall of Fame. We gratefully acknowledge these individuals and organizations for their generous support.