Wolverines shake off rocky 1st half end, rebound with 3rd quarter explosion to propel ahead of C-R with 55-43 win in opening battle of County elites
By CHRIS BROOKS, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
BOLIVAR — It is perhaps the two-game set of the season. Two of the County’s elites — 13-2 Cuba-Rushford and 12-2 Bolivar-Richburg, one of the area’s longest-standing rivalries.
It simply does not get any better than that.
The calendars for each foe have had several circles around three different days, beginning right before Christmas on December 22. The next being last Wednesday. But due to snow on both occasions, the curtain on the main stage would finally garner a chance to rise up on a snowy Monday night to start the new week.
Wolverines head coach Justin Thomas says it’s a matchup they’ve waited a long time for.
“It’s been moving around a couple times since December 22. It’s been circled for a really long time, but ever since then, it’s always been fun squaring off with Cuba,” he said. “They’re games that are super fun to be a part of, and super competitive. I wish we had a little more time in between this and the next one, because it feels weird to play the same team in such a short amount of time. But we have to make due. How many times do you play someone, and then turn right around and play them again?”
The wait was now over. The first of two consecutive, long-awaited meetings in a span of four days, had arrived.
As expected, both teams came out dueling back and forth through the opening eight minutes, with the Wolverines coming out the frame with the narrow lead. But basketball can become a game of runs, and through the next pair of quarters, each team would glue one together of momentous proportion.
The first was by the Rebels to close out the first half strong, as they looked to keep the pendulum on their side going into the second half. But as for the Wolverines, they had other plans. Game-changing plans.
Bolivar-Richburg came out of the locker room swinging for the fences, and as a result, we came up with an enormous third quarter grand slam against Cuba-Rushford, as they held the Rebels to just a pair of points at the very end of the frame while punctuating a frame-long scoreless run to jump back on top with the lead, holding off their lead push down the stretch to secure the first victory by a 55-43 count.
“We came out and did those things, we out-rebounded them,” Thomas said. “After throwing away our very first possession in the third, we were dialed back in. The defense hung in there and kept that shakiness in check just long enough to catch fire. We had to channel that third quarter we had against Canisteo earlier this year.”
The back-and-forth engagement saw Cuba-Rushford come out first with a bang behind Braeden Wight’s early contributions, scoring six of the first eight points — two of them on back-to-back long range heaters from downtown. From that point, both teams exchanged one basket after another until the Wolverines (13-2) were sent over the top with their first lead behind back-to-back three-pointers from Aydin Sisson and Evan Pinney.
The two Wolverine sharpshooters would come alive later on in the heat of battle, but they would have to work their way through a rocky second quarter with the Rebels (13-3). Through the first 3:30 of the frame, the visitors in blue would see key contributions from Jacob Smith, Jack Frank and Finn Ricketts all come to light, as the trio assisted in spurting the team out on an 11-2 run that would push their advantage out to as much as 10 at one point.
It was a 32-25 lead for the visitors at the break, at the end of it.
“We didn’t rebound well, and we didn’t take good care of the ball,” said Thomas. “I basically recapped what happened in those last four minutes during a timeout. Those things hurt, and couple that with some really good Cuba offense that got some even better looks, you’re already finding yourself into a hole.”
The Wolverines would shake it off however in exchange for one of the most powerful responses yet — a scoreless run.
Despite a miss with their opening possession in the second half, Bolivar-Richburg would not lose a beat from that point onward. Aydin Sisson provided some spectacular play to front that charge, bucketing a long three before converting a huge three-point play from the line to jumpstart an early 9-0 run near midway, putting them into the lead.
The run would grow larger and larger until it would reach 19 straight points, with multiple Wolverines all chipping in to help the cause behind Sisson and Pinney, who knocked down a sweet left-handed flush from downtown — one of four he would have in the game, to help finish off a reversing of the table against the Rebels with a 19-2 third quarter run.
One that allowed them to take a 10-point lead going into the last eight minutes.
“Aydin Sisson did what Aydin Sisson does, and the beauty of that is my two seniors stepped up right behind him too,” said Thomas. “David Baldwin at the end of the game, was a man among boys getting those rebounds and knocking down some huge shots at the line. Evan hitting a couple of big shots down the stretch, and it builds momentum. It helps you play defense. They feed into each other, because of it.”
In the fourth quarter, the Rebels would not back down without one final push led by Wight, successfully shaking off the tide-turning run of the Wolverines to cut the deficit down to as little as four with a pair of long treys from downtown. But in clutch fashion, the responses by the hosts in white were unmatched, as Pinney knocked down his fourth and final triple from Main Street to push the Wolverines lead further out to nine with 90 seconds remaining.
The rest would be deemed history, as Bolivar-Richburg put the icing on the first cake with David Baldwin’s efforts from the charity stripe, going 3-for-6 in the midst of a 1-and-1 bonanza between both squads to close out the game.
“All the credit tonight goes to B-R,” said Rebels coach Pat Wight. “They played a great second half, and I felt like we started to get really complacent, but that part goes to them with the intensity they played with up against us. I was pleased with how well Braeden shot the ball, especially down towards the end. He gave us a chance to stay in it.”
Sisson brigaded the Wolverines towards victory with another outstanding night, posting a game-high 27 points. Pinney followed behind with 15 points of his own, while Baldwin finished with seven.
For the Rebels, Wight recorded a team-high 13 points propelled by his three-point game. Jack Frank tallied nine points, while Finn Ricketts had eight.
Both teams will come back together and do it all over again on Thursday, this time from within the Wighthouse, as the Wolverines and Rebels square off one final time in a 7:30 p.m. tip-off in Cuba.
Cuba-Rushford 17 15 2 9 – 43
Bolivar-Richburg 18 7 19 11 – 55
CUBA-RUSHFORD: Braeden Wight 4 1-2 13, Jacob Smith 3 0-0 6, Jack Frank 3 2-4 9, Dom Bello 1 0-0 2, Finn Ricketts 4 0-1 8, Peyton Joy 2 1-1 5. Totals: 17 4-8 43.
BOLIVAR-RICHBURG: Aydin Sisson 10 3-3 27, Landon Barkley 2 0-0 4, Reiss Gaines 1 0-0 2, David Baldwin 1 5-10 7, Evan Pinney 5 1-2 15. Totals: 20 9-15 55.
3-point goals: C-R 5 (Wight 4, Frank), B-R 8 (Sisson 4, Pinney 4).
Total Fouls: C-R 16, B-R 10. Fouled out: None.
Chris Brooks photo gallery (@iambrooksie on twitter)