Wellsville’s Logan Dunbar aims high, very high, to get this jump shot off over Fillmore’s 6-foot-8 star center (who shoots 3-pointers like a point guard) Will Roeske. Chris Brooks photo.
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FILLMORE — It was without a doubt Allegany County’s Game of the Week. A grudge match from a Championship game of the IABBO Tournament back in early December that wound up resulting in a five-point go-around that ultimately pushed into Wellsville’s favor.
But that was two months ago.
On Wednesday, the Eagles of Fillmore were given a path towards redemption to travel on whilst playing some of their best basketball of the season, having won eight of their last nine games after the 112-74 home defeat to arguably the State’s perennial team in Class D, in Avoca/Prattsburgh.
As for the Lions, similar to the one game against Fillmore already under wraps, the travel to The Rock was much different. Turns out, it was one of those games where head coach Raymie Auman said his team had to work their way out from against the wall.
While at the same time, knowing what was at stake as far as Sectional positioning.
“This is a good team, and it’s tough to play these games because it’s a seven-point loss if we do wind up losing it,” he said. “What we have to gain is the experience of playing a tough team, as well as having our backs against the wall. We could lose a ton position in Sectionals, landing at a three or four seed, to potentially falling downwards to a seven or eight in one swing. This is a well-coached team, and Fillmore has a ton of talent. We don’t gain many points from these games, but it’s more of an opportunity that we couldn’t lose.”
As you would expect, in front of a packed house, both Wellsville and Fillmore gave it everything they had to offer. The first quarter was electric, the defensive prowess was resilient on both ends, and a bounty of back-and-forth exchanges were traded on the attack.
If there was one thing that one team possessed over another, it was pace. That belonged to the Lions.
While Wellsville isn’t particularly known for speed being identified as one of their featured characteristics, they would wind up going outside the box to deliver a punch that Fillmore could not counter. Despite closing the gap several times, and even on one occasion tying the game late in the fourth quarter, the Lions were able to ward off everything the Eagles had left in the tank to try and jump ahead, as they ended their seven-game win streak with a 76-66 road win.
“We’re not typically a fast-paced team, and everyone knows that,” said Auman. “But it made a lot of sense here. Their bench was lighter, and we wanted to keep up the pace. I wanted to make it a full-court game as opposed to a half-court game. I thought we did a good job with that, despite leaving a ton of points on the table, which really hurt us. I was glad the kids could adjust after that, and as a coach, to stomach this particular scenario because it was something that wasn’t really in my wheelhouse.”
The haymakers went flying through an opening eight minute frame of basketball that reached its highest tempo, as both teams combined for 45 first quarter points. Out of the gate were the Lions (9-7), and a heavy build up of immense pressure that has become a staple in the team’s success all season.
Because of it, they were able to force turnovers to account for a run that saw them score 10 of the first 12 points, including a pair of Cody Costello three-pointers to come out swinging. But it was also a moment that Fillmore head coach Randy Crouch never doubted as far as his team providing a response.
“I talked to the guys ahead of time about needing to come out of the gates, because Raymie’s team always comes out with high energy, high intensity, and I felt like we didn’t do that initially, and they got a run out of it,” he said. “I never doubted for a second that we would make a run ourselves, and then get back into it. I didn’t see this turning into a blowout by any means, and after calling a timeout to chirp at them, they came out and settled down, and played some really good basketball.”
The Eagles (12-4) chose the latter of Crouch’s request to provide as their response, countering with a 13-4 run of Wellsville to springboard their way back into the game, paced by the three-point game of the Sissons — Carter and Zach, who combined to record all nine of Fillmore’s treys across the 48 minute contest.
One of those three-pointers would give the hosts a brief 20-19 lead before a back-and-forth pace would settle in, as the Lions ended the quarter with the last six points to regain traction. It was a marking point that ultimately carried over until the end of the first half, beginning with another defensive duel in the early stages and ending with a big Eagles run to close a gap that was widened by as much as seven, down to three.
That being paid in part by an inside presence that has played to Fillmore’s strengths all season, from Will Roeske, who wound up recording a game-high 20 points, scoring eight of the team’s 15 in the second quarter to close out shop and head into the locker room.
At that point, Crouch posed another challenge to his squad — coming out of the gate again, in the second half. In the other locker room, the same exact message for Auman to his Lions team.
The question that remained: Who would capitalize on it first?
It’s been an added bonus that Wellsville has managed to punctuate as of late, especially in their previous matchup against Bolivar-Richburg, where they recorded an 18-2 run in the third quarter to pull away. Against Fillmore, they set a tone with six straight points in the opening minutes — one that the hosts in white and green ultimately could not match in the end.
“I went to the board and I said the game was about energy, pace, and if we came out flat, it was going to be tough,” Auman said. “It was going to dictate how this goes, and we were fortunate with this result and they bought into it. We had a lot of guys contribute, even if it was just for a minute or two on the floor, they were leaving it all out there and owning their role. That’s how a team wins, and I feel like because of this tonight, we’re coming together at the right time.”
Among those contributors: Alex Perkins, who had one of his best games of the season for the Lions, netting eight of the team’s 14 points in a third quarter that saw their lead grow out to six. He would finish with a 17-point effort.
As for Crouch, it was a start from the Lions that came by surprise.
“In the second half, I challenged them to come out with a great first four minutes. We had a great first possession, and then they were doing a great job getting up and down the court. Wellsville was streaking down the court and catching us off guard, getting the easy lay-ups,” he said. “That basically set the tone for the second half. Wellsville did a great job of pushing the tempo and leaking out in transition. That goes against what we’ve seen from them, and it caught us off guard.”
After the hot start by Wellsville, it would cool off into another defensive battle down to the wire in the last eight minutes of play.
It was a last attempt for the Eagles to jump back out in front of the Lions, as they rode the coattails of their sharpshooter in Zach Sisson, who nailed three of his four three-pointers in the fourth quarter, including one that cut their deficit to two with just over two minutes removed.
Fillmore would manage to tie the game at 57, but just as they got to within range, Wellsville picked it back up one last time with a run of seven straight points led by an Asher Billings three-pointer. Despite falling back behind, the Eagles gave it everything they had to close it out with a Mitch Ward three-point play keeping them within reach.
But some special teams play from the charity stripe and a massive momentum-building three-pointer from the hand of Cody Costello saw Wellsville grow their lead to a game-high of 12 points to pull away toward a big road victory inside The Rock.
As for the team’s fourth quarter effort to help fend off Fillmore, Auman says that his boys found a way to regain their energy.
“We got tired a little bit, and this pace is a learning curve, especially for me,” the Wellsville coach said. “They took advantage of it, and I called for time to give us a break. I ran a set that I thought would get us a bucket to get us going. We got that, and then our energy guys like Eli (Schmidt) and Alex, they got fired up and we got re-energized. We got our legs back under us, and then we were at a point where we could slow it back down again. That’s what I was most pleased with. This is a tough gym to play in, so to be able to come out of here with a win is big.”
Crouch added on Fillmore’s fourth quarter, noting “We had the ball down one during the fourth quarter, and we kicked it out to Zach for a corner three. If he hits that shot, we build off that momentum. But we deflated a little bit after that, and we battled foul trouble for the rest of the game. Wellsville’s a great program, and we haven’t won a game against them in recent years. Every game we’ve had against them has always come down to the last quarter, and it seems like we’re a half step behind because we can’t make that big play.”
Wellsville was led by Perkins, who was one of four different scorers to net at least 10 points on the attack, leading with his team-high 17 points. Costello would follow behind with 16 points, while Logan Dunbar and Eli Schmidt chipped in with 15, and 14 points respectively.
On the other side, following Roeske’s 20 points from down low, Carter Sisson finished with a season-high 18 points, including five three-pointers from downtown, to pair with a near triple-double performance consisting of 11 rebounds and eight assists. Zach Sisson concluded with 14 points, while Mitch Ward had 12.
Both teams are back on the floor in a pair of 7:30 p.m. contests on Friday, as the Lions look to provide a three-game season sweep back home with a Senior Night battle against Cuba-Rushford.
“It’s our third time playing Cuba this year, and it’s always a tough thing to do,” said Auman. “Trying to for that third win. It’s Senior Night, and I hope that gets us jacked up. Cuba has nothing to lose, they’re going to come out with everything they have. We’re going to have to be up for that challenge with a quick turnaround beginning with a really focused practice tomorrow. Hopefully we’ll be ready for it.”
As for the Eagles, they’ll look to bounce back on their home floor with a visit forthcoming from the Bolivar-Richburg Wolverines. For Crouch after playing the Lions, the hope is that it provides an encouraging measuring stick going into the second season.
“Even though we lost, I’m encouraged by this because it tells us a lot about where we are at now. We can feel good about how we’re playing,” he said. “We played well in great stretches tonight, and we have three games left in the season before Sectionals. Hopefully we can learn from this game, and do some damage. It’s the reason why I scheduled Wellsville, you want to have games like this. I’m happy in that sense, but disappointed that we didn’t get a better outcome.”
Wellsville 25 13 14 24 – 76
Fillmore 20 15 11 20 – 66
WELLSVILLE: Cody Costello 5 3-4 16, Alex Perkins 8 1-6 17, Cooper Brockway 2 1-3 6, Eli Schmidt 7 0-3 14, Kailob Phelps 2 0-0 4, Logan Dunbar 5 4-8 15, Asher Billings 1 0-0 3, Ty Vogel 0 1-2 1. Totals: 30 10-26 76.
FILLMORE: Carter Sisson 6 1-2 18, Luke Colombo 1 0-0 2, Mitch Ward 5 2-4 12, Zach Sisson 5 0-0 14, Will Roeske 10 0-1 20. Totals: 27 3-7 66.
3-point goals: Wellsville 6 (Costello 3, Brockway, Dunbar, Billings), Fillmore 9 (C. Sisson 5, Z. Sisson 4).
Total Fouls: Wellsville 14, Fillmore 19. Fouled out: Z. Sisson (FIL).