By CHRIS BROOKS, sports editor, wellsvillesports.com
FILLMORE — The amount of motivation that both teams in Thursday night’s 2022 finale in Fillmore held, was through the roof.
For the host Eagles, after a tough double-digit defeat to the hands of Wellsville in the Championship game of the IAABO Tournament earlier this month, their final home game of the calendar season presented them with a chance to wipe the slate clean going into the Christmas/New Year’s break.
As for the Lions, they also looked for a rebound of familiarity themselves, coming off a contest that slipped away from their fingertips against Olean back on Tuesday — their first defeat of the young season after starting red hot through the first five games.
Something had to give in this second matchup between budding rivals. And through the course of time, a tale of two halves was told in the midst of a back-and-forth affair.
In the second half, an overwhelming spout of clutch resiliency was produced.
Wellsville had it.
In the second half, the Lions would take the narrow advantage of a back-and-forth exchange that would blossom larger as time wound down, as a clutch three-pointer from Asher Billings and some phenomenal inside play down low from Logan Dunbar helped give Wellsville a lead they would never relinquish again to seal up a season-sweeping victory of Fillmore over the road — a 57-44 edge in The Rock.
“My guys were really motivated after a lackluster performance against Wellsville two weeks ago. We really answered the bell and matched their intensity, and the game was a back-and-forth slugfest,” Eagles coach Randy Crouch said. “Unfortunately, we hit a lull on the offensive end towards the end of the third quarter, and they hit a dagger three that stretched the lead to 10 early in the fourth. That really took some of the life out of us. After that, Logan got some big finishes and putbacks in the post, and we couldn’t mount any kind of offensive run.”
It was a dead even sprint between both teams racing out of the gate in the opening quarter, as Dunbar and Fillmore’s Mitch Ward helped break open the scoring for their respective teams. After the early duel, the Eagles (3-2) would find themselves ahead.
Then the battle would then boil down to a defensive riposte, as Wellsville (6-1) continued to close in on the Eagles towards the end of the first half. As a result, a one-point deficit for the team in black and orange heading into the break.
One that they would make up for in a hurry.
The Lions fought tooth and nail with Fillmore one final time before they were able to find and exploit the opening that they had aimed for, as they saw clutch baskets go down through the twine off the hand of Logan Dunbar, who fronted an all-balanced 16-point third quarter that served as the predecessor to what would come to be in the last quarter of play.
With a 38-33 lead in hand, the chance to make a run was now for Wellsville. Serving it up were two components that Olean had used against them earlier in the week — clutch shooting from outside, and some big foul line help.
The Lions would take it, and use it to their fullest advantage, as Asher Billings hit an enormous three-pointer to extend the team’s lead to 10, serving as an early dagger against the Eagles. Along the way, the visitors were able to also cash in on a bonus prize at the charity stripe — a 6-for-9 outing at the stripe to cushion their lead down the stretch, hanging on to secure the season-sweeping win over Fillmore at the end of the night.
Dunbar would finish as Wellsville’s leading scorer, as his strong game down low served up a game-high 18-point performance. Following behind was Aidan Riley, as the defensive stalwart recorded 10 more points, including a perfect 4-for-4 outing at the stripe, to help the cause. Billings would conclude with seven points, along with Cooper Brockway.
For Fillmore, Jair Bialek would lead all scorers with a team-high 13-point performance — one that would see him become the newest addition into the school’s illustrious 1,000-point club in his first season with the Eagles. Mitch Ward would follow with 12 points, while Luke Colombo had eight to chip in. The Eagles are now off until after the New Year, as they now look to bounce back over the road with a 6 p.m. visit to Hinsdale on January 3.
Wellsville will take a break until the end of the Christmas holiday, as they now begin preparations for tournament action off to the west at Allegany-Limestone, which will begin Wednesday afternoon with a first-round battle against Otto-Eldred.
Wellsville 14 8 16 19 – 57
Fillmore 16 7 10 11 – 44
WELLSVILLE: Cody Costello 1 0-0 2, Aidan Riley 3 4-4 10, Cooper Brockway 1 4-6 7, Asher Billings 3 0-0 7, Ty Vogel 2 1-1 5, Ethan Bailey 0 2-3 2, Logan Dunbar 9 0-2 18, JJ Howard 3 0-0 6. Totals: 22 11-16 57.
FILLMORE: Brent Zubikowski 2 0-0 5, Jair Bialek 4 2-3 13, Luke Colombo 2 4-4 8, Mitch Ward 5 2-6 12, Zach Sisson 3 0-0 6. Totals: 16 8-13 44.
3-point goals: Wellsville 2 (Brockway, Billings), Fillmore 4 (Bialek 3, Zubikowski).
Total Fouls: Wellsville 13, Fillmore 17. Fouled out: None.