PHOTO GALLERY by STEVE HARRISON, story by CHRIS BROOKS, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
WELLSVILLE — A couple of weeks removed from the Dan Barkley Showcase, the race for Class B2 supremacy in the Sectional picture has gotten even hotter than right now. With Dansville trailing both Hornell and Wellsville coming down to the last two weeks of the regular season, the stars are beginning to align.
Every game left remaining on the slate, has now begun holding a purpose. For the Raiders — maintaining their position at the top of the class, while for Wellsville? It presented an opportunity to turn up the heat drastically.
In the last battle up at the seventh installment of the Barkley Showcase, the game witnessed a strong second half showing from the Lions to turn the heat up on Hornell going into the last eight minute of play. But the momentum was erased by Raiders sharpshooter Gennaro Picco, who played a paramount role in finishing off the winning edge in Bath.
He came in through the most clutch of moments last time for the Raiders. On Tuesday, Picco did it again.
In a fourth quarter where every shot mattered, Picco made sure he would not miss, as the clutch resiliency kicked into gear in the late stages of the final eight minute period, going an incredible 10-for-11 at the stripe to overcome a late seven-point deficit and morph it into a 10-3 game-ending run for the Raiders to complete the season series with a 57-53 win over the Lions.
“Gennaro played great in the fourth th quarter. He hit back to back 3’s that cut the lead from seven points to one,” said Hornell coach Kirk Scholes. “Those two shots changed the game. He also went 10-11 at the line to close the game in the 4th. He wasn’t fazed by the atmosphere or the moment. I thought he came through in the clutch and that’s what big time players do!”
With players fouling out and injuries, Wellsville was down three starters in the fourth and four players total. But that didn’t matter and Scholes knew it it would be a close game.
“The game was a classic Hornell/Wellsville slugfest! The records can get thrown out the window in these types of rivalry games,” Scholes said. “It’s always going to be a tough hard fought game. We know them and they know us. These are the games that get you ready for the sectional tournament.
Wellsville coach Tom Muska said his team played well early but has to learn to finish.
“We had another three great quarters. I’m especially proud of the first 24, 25 minuters tonight, but we have to keep our foot on the throat of these games if we want to take the win home,” Muska said. “Teams like Hornell don’t give you a chance to do that, and we ended up playing scared at the end, which allowed them to force turnovers. It really hurt us.”
Just like the previous battle, it was another true back-and-forth battle that unfolded between the two longtime rivals throughout the opening half, beginning in the first quarter where no lead was bigger than three — held by the Raiders, who garnered just enough of an edge to claim the lead going forward.
In the second, the pace would carry over, but only until Wellsville (10-6) was able to find an opening in Hornell’s defense to work through after the Raiders took a 24-20 lead. With under two minutes to go, the Lions provided clutch contributions to close out the opening half, accounting for the last six points in a row, led by Logan Dunbar, who connected from the stripe and off a jumper inside, and Asher Billings, who gave the green light for the hosts to go ahead with a runner stemming off a Hornell turnover.
“I feel we went on our runs when we were able to get the ball inside,” Muska said. “Hornell is a great team, but we are lucky to have a couple of kids they struggle to match up with, because of size. We need to take advantage of that if we are to see them again down the road.”
With Wellsville holding a 26-24 lead going into the second half, the advantage would slowly grow to as much as seven off a Cooper Brockway three-pointer, as the Lions accounted for nine of the quarter’s first 13 points to jump start the action. But with 1:45 to go, Hornell applied pressure to trim the lead back down, only for it to grow back out again with JJ Howard and Aidan Riley going back-to-back with a pair of jumpers before Dunbar provided one of his own a short time later.
A lead of 10 to work with going into the last eight minutes of the evening.
It was a similar situation that was faced between both squads last month at the Barkley Showcase, but this time, it was one that Hornell took complete control of.
A pair of back-to-back three-pointers from Gennaro Picco re-kindled the team’s flame, cutting the deficit from seven down to one before taking matters into his own hands once again with some big help at the line. After PJ Picco allowed the Raiders to gain the upper hand with a massive drive to the breadbasket, the free throw game would then take effect in the game’s last 90 seconds.
“Tonight was a four-quarter battle! We didn’t play very well for the first three quarters of the game,” Scholes said. “We missed a lot of open shots. We struggled early at the line, missed a couple layups, and gave up some easy buckets in transition. In the fourth quarter I saw us get tough! We played a little harder and smarter. We got better looks. Got ourselves to the free throw line. Momentum changed and you could feel us ride the wave down the stretch.”
In it, Gennaro Picco was simply masterful for the visitors in red and blue, as he went on to net a 10-for-11 outing at the charity stripe to all but put the game away, bringing the brooms out on the season series with the Lions along the way.
Picco would finish with a game-high 26 points for the Raiders, while PJ Picco and Shawn Rose each followed behind with eight points.
The Lions were led by Dunbar and his team-high 17 points. Cody Costello and JJ Howard both pitched in 12 points of their own, while Billings concluded with seven.
Wellsville will look to turn things back around on Friday when they return to their home floor to host New Life Christian in a 6 p.m. tip-off.
Hornell 15 9 11 22 – 57
Wellsville 12 14 19 8 – 53
HORNELL: Gennaro Picco 7 10-14 26, PJ Picco 3 1-3 8, Shawn Rose 2 4-5 8, Wyatt Argentieri 1 1-2 4, Gates Miller 2 0-0 5, Aaron McInerney 1 1-2 3, Quinn Mauro 1 0-0 3. Totals: 17 17-26 57.
WELLSVILLE: Cody Costello 4 4-7 12, Aidan Riley 0 0-2 0, Cooper Brockway 1 0-0 3, Asher Billings 3 0-0 7, Ethan Bailey 1 0-0 2, Logan Dunbar 6 5-6 17, JJ Howard 6 0-1 12. Totals: 21 9-16 53.
3-point goals: Hornell 7 (G. Picco 2, PJ Picco, Argentieri, Miller, McInerney, Mauro), Wellsville 2 (Brockway, Billings).
Total Fouls: Hornell 19, Wellsville 17. Fouled out: Riley (WLSV), Billings (WLSV).
Steve Harrison photo gallery: