Photos and story by CHRIS BROOKS, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
WELLSVILLE — You don’t see nights quite like the one in the Lion’s Den on Tuesday anymore.
Two crosstown rivals packing the stands until there was no more room to be had. We also forgot to mention, the decibel level of the gym that was produced by the spectators and student section, went through the roof. Sometimes a game like the one that pinned Bolivar-Richburg and Wellsville against one another, will do that, especially when both teams are on a collision course towards Sectionals with one final week left to play.
As an added bonus: It was Senior Night for the Lions. What more could you ask for?
How about one the most on-edge games of the season?
All across the battlefield, the Wolverines and Lions put on an amazing show for all those in attendance. Through it all, it would only be appropriate if the game morphed into an electric, nerve-racking finish down the line. A true battle of who wanted it more.
It was a fight that saw the host Lions trail by as much as 12 at one point. But bit by bit, they chomped away at the deficit, inching to within three of the Wolverines, who had held the lead for most of the second half. With 45 seconds left, a massive turn of events would unfold right before everyone’s eyes.
It was the night that the lights went out in Wellsville. The cause: Aydin Sisson.
After the Lions surfed a late wave of momentum in the game’s final moments to climb within a stone’s throw, the Bolivar-Richburg junior wiped it all out with the biggest flush of the game: A daggering triple from inside the right wing to branch the Wolverines lead back out to eight, setting up the fouling game shortly after. One that would award them four more points to cushion their lead while silencing their opposition in the final minute to lock up one of their biggest wins of the season — a 62-53 road win that head coach Justin Thomas still couldn’t believe happened.
“Resiliency. Plain and simple,” he said. “We talked at the beginning of the game about wanting this game more, and it was that simple. I have kids that won’t quit, kids that wanted this game bad, and they went out and got it. Aydin had a massive second half for us, and Landon (Barkley) had that steady hand all night to keep us going. If there wasn’t a coming-out party before, they had it tonight. Reiss (Gaines) got a bunch of offensive boards to extend the plays, resetting the clock. He works, and David (Baldwin) had his work cut out for him against Logan Dunbar and JJ Howard underneath, and he held his own. I couldn’t be more proud of all these guys, up and down the lineup.”
It was as much of a dead heat as imaginable not just from the start, but across the first three quarters of play, when an early 8-4 lead transformed into a back-and-forth finish down to the end of the opening quarter. One that saw multiple ties being exchanged, including the last of the frame from Asher Billings on a run to the basket off a Bolivar-Richburg turnover, to create a 14-14 deadlock for the Lions (10-7).
In the second quarter though, the Wolverines (15-3) would shake it off and create a big 11-point lead behind some clutch strikes from beyond the arc, with the frame starting off on back-to-back three-pointers from Landon Barkley and Evan Pinney. Pinney then helped the team eclipse that double digit window with another long trey to extend their scoreless run against Wellsville to nine straight approaching midway.
The Lions would find a way to climb out of the hole however with an even stronger finish to the half — scoring the last eight points to keep Bolivar-Richburg frozen in their tracks, ending with a go-ahead runner by JJ Howard with four seconds left, claiming the 26-25 lead at the break .
With the momentum now teetering in Wellsville’s favor going into the second half, it then evaporated in exchange for a quarter-long back-and-forth trading of pleasantries that saw no advantage between both squads grow larger than three, and shrink lower than a single point during the majority of time. But that was until the final 90 seconds of the third, when Bolivar-Richburg created an opening with a red hot Landon Barkley heating up with two consecutive treys to overtake the Lions in the lead.
Wellsville would chip away at the deficit one more time before time expired to close the gap to 42-41 heading into the last eight minutes, which became a true battle of grit and resilience. A battle that the Wolverines would capitalize on with an early extension to their advantage in the first moments of the fourth quarter.
Growing the lead to eight behind the first of two humongous Aydin Sisson three-pointers, the Wolverines did everything in their power to hang on for dear life. But the Lions were not down and out of it by any means, as they battled their way back to get within reach once again in the game’s final minute, getting as close as a single point one final time with an Aidan Riley basket.
But back down the court the other way, Bolivar-Richburg would then ultimately call game with Sisson’s assistance from downtown, as he turned out the lights on the Lions with the game’s final three-pointer — perhaps the biggest of them all, with 45 seconds remaining to push the Wolverines lead out insurmountably to set up multiple trips to the foul line to close out the night, securing the ultimate victory along the way.
“What a better time for this to happen. We get to enjoy a nice Senior Night with Evan and David on Thursday, and then get back to work the following week, and then we can bring on Sectionals. If this doesn’t help the boys really start to believe in themselves, I don’t know what will,” said Thomas. “We more than have the capability of being that team that I know we can be, putting special things together, but we haven’t had the chance to really showcase it. Hopefully tonight was the beginning, because we need it.”
Sisson finished as the leading scorer on both ends of the floor for the Wolverines, putting a wrap on a game-high 21-point performance that Thomas says has been difficult to reach given their opposition this season. But also one that he expects from his top Wolverine on the attack.
“You can practically pencil Aydin in for 20 points every night, and lately, it’s been really difficult,” he said. “He’s still getting to the basket, finding ways to distribute the ball around. He’s had to work harder for what he gets, and it really helps open things up for guys like Landon and Evan. If there was really a game for him to show out, this was it.”
Barkley followed behind Sisson with four of the team’s nine triples within a 20-point effort, while Evan Pinney recorded three more of them along the way in his 11-point performance.
The Lions were led by Logan Dunbar, who tallied a team-high 14 points. Aidan Riley collected 11 points, while Cody Costello and JJ Howard each had nine points.
Prior to the battle, Wellsville took the time to honor all six seniors, alongside their families — Dunbar, Costello, Riley, Asher Billings, Bubby Young and Jacob Hoyer, for their many contributions to the program over the years, receiving a standing ovation all around the gym.
Both teams will return to action Thursday night on their home floors, with Bolivar-Richburg heading back home to welcome in Genesee Valley/Belfast for Senior Night festivities of their own in a 7:30 p.m. start, while Wellsville looks to regroup with defending Class D State Champion, Avoca/Prattsburgh in town for a 6 p.m. tip-off.
Bolivar-Richburg 14 11 17 20 – 62
Wellsville 14 12 15 12 – 53
BOLIVAR-RICHBURG: Aydin Sisson 7 5-7 21, Landon Barkley 5 6-6 20, Reiss Gaines 1 1-3 3, David Baldwin 1 3-6 5, Evan Pinney 4 0-2 11, James Margeson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19 15-24 62.
WELLSVILLE: Cody Costello 4 0-0 9, Aidan Riley 5 1-1 11, Asher Billings 2 0-2 4, Jacob Hoyer 1 0-0 2, Logan Dunbar 5 4-4 14, JJ Howard 4 1-2 9, Bubby Young 2 0-0 4. Totals: 23 6-9 53.
3-point goals: B-R 9 (Barkley 4, Pinney 3, Sisson 2), Wellsville 1 (Costello).
Total Fouls: B-R 12, Wellsville 17. Fouled out: None.
More game stories after the photo gallery:
Houghton Academy 48, Genesee Valley/Belfast 35
HOUGHTON — Before Genesee Valley/Belfast was able to chip away at their deficit to Houghton Academy, the Panthers provided an incredible first half of basketball to strike all chords with on Tuesday, as an early three-point game in the opening quarter set up shop for what would be a massive end to the half in its entirety, leaping past and towards victory by a 48-35 count.
Houghton Academy (3-13) and their three-point arsenal came to life with 11 huge shots from downtown, seven of them coming in the first half of play, and four coming in an opening quarter that saw James Agenuga flare up the offense with three big triples to go along with the first of six triples Josh Davidson would land throughout the contest.
Adenuga went on to record 11 of his 16 points right in the first frame to help set up an early 14-7 lead against Genesee Valley/Belfast (6-11) to control.
With it, they would keep the momentum swinging in their favor with a titanic 13-2 half-ending run in the second quarter, led by a trio of three-pointers once more while holding Genesee Valley/Belfast to just a single made shot from the field.
Upon their return to the court, Genesee Valley/Belfast would shake it all off and provide a late attempt at making their way back into the heat of battle with a big run of their own — a 13-4 run ignited by four different scorers.
With the visitors in black now down by nine, the Panthers would then go on to hang on for dear life while time ticked down, laying claim to a big win over Genesee Valley/Belfast.
Just three scorers found the bucket, with Davidson paving the way towards a game-high 21 points. Adenuga finished with 16 points, while Jack Prentice rounded off the scoring with the team’s last nine points.
Genesee Valley/Belfast’ saw Jacob Borden and Ian McKenzie both take charge, as the two provided 12 and 11 points, respectively. Brayden Cooper and Max Wedge each recorded four points. The team will return to action back on the road Thursday night for a 7:30 p.m. visit to Bolivar-Richburg.
As for Houghton Academy, they will conclude their three game, three night series back on their home floor tonight with a 6 p.m. visit from Keshequa.
Genesee Valley/Belfast 7 2 13 13 – 35
Houghton Academy 14 13 4 16 – 48
GV/BELFAST: Brayden Cooper 2 0-1 4, Owen Heaney 1 0-0 2, Ian McKenzie 4 0-0 11, Max Wedge 2 0-0 4, Jacob Borden 6 0-1 12, Killian McKnight 1 0-0 2. Totals: 18 0-2 35.
HOUGHTON ACADEMY: Jack Prentice 1 6-6 9, Josh Davidson 7 1-4 21, James Adenuga 6 0-2 16. Totals: 14 7-12 48.
3-point goals: GVB 3 (McKenzie), HA 11 (Davidson 6, Adenuga 4, Prentice).
Total Fouls: GVB 15, HA 8. Fouled out: McCumiskey (GVB).
Andover/Whitesville 66, Cuba-Rushford 37
CUBA — The opening quarter saw an excellent start from both Andover/Whitesville and host Cuba-Rushford in the Wighthouse on Tuesday. With a first quarter deadlock in place, one team was looking to try and break their way free from one another’s grasp.
In the next quarter, it would see Andover/Whitesville do just that with a massive run, one that saw 11 points in a row from beginning and then, towards the completion of the first half to garner the room they needed to escape the Lady Rebels and into the direction of victory, claiming the 66-37 road win after it was all said and done.
After both teams worked their way through an early 13-13 tie in a first quarter that saw a fair amount of trading on offense, Andover/Whitesville (13-4) broke it loose with a massive second quarter run that saw them keep Cuba-Rushford in check from the start, and through the next several minutes of play before a two-point basket from Taylor Searle ended what was an 11-0 run for their opposition.
In all, a 17-2 second quarter run that spring-boarded Andover/Whitesville out and into the lead, ultimately for good.
Vanessa Hall was a big reason behind that for the visitors in black, as she posted a game-high 34 points, including a 10-for-14 outing at the stripe on special teams. Zoe Baert lent a helping hand in the team’s second quarter with her 13-point performance underneath, while Gabbi Hall chipped in with 11. Kennedy Bledsoe rounded off the scoring with the team’s remaining eight points.
The Lady Rebels (9-9) were led by Searle, who tallied a team-high 19 points. Emma Retz finished with seven points, while Kendall Tompkins had six to pitch in.
Both teams will mark their return to the hardwood on Friday over the road, as Andover/Whitesville heads down the road to visit Houghton Academy for a 6 p.m. battle, while Cuba-Rushford pays a visit to Fillmore for a 7:30 p.m. contest of their own.
Andover/Whitesville 13 17 16 20 – 66
Cuba-Rushford 13 2 10 12 – 37
ANDOVER/WHITESVILLE: Vanessa Hall 12 10-14 34, Zoe Baert 6 1-3 13, Gabbi Hall 5 0-0 11, Kennedy Bledsoe 3 2-2 8. Totals: 26 13-19 66.
CUBA-RUSHFORD: Kendall Tompkins 3 0-0 6, Aubrey Williams 1 0-0 2, Emma Retz 3 1-2 7, Brynn Lavery 1 0-2 3, Taylor Searle 8 1-2 19. Totals: 16 2-6 37.
3-point goals: A/W 1 (G. Hall), C-R 3 (Searle 2, Lavery).
Total Fouls: A/W 13, C-R 15. Fouled out: Searle (C-R).
Steuben County Tournament
Canisteo-Greenwood 63, Alfred-Almond 10
CANISTEO — The Steuben County Tournament officially got underway on Tuesday. For the undefeated Lady Redskins of Canisteo-Greenwood, it was a start they wanted to have, as they created some noise in the opening eight minutes to set the tone against visiting Alfred-Almond and never looked back on what was a 63-10 win.
Lillian Mullen was unstoppable on the offensive front for the Lady Redskins (18-0), scoring a game-high 21 points, including five of the team’s seven three-pointers. Behind her, a balanced attack across the board, with Brooke Burd chipping in with nine points to pair with seven rebounds and five blocks, while Bailey Mullen, Hailey Davis and Peyton Peters all had eight points to pitch in.
On special teams, Peters led the rebounding department with 11 big boards. McKenna Ferris added 10 more off the glass herself, while Davis had six.
Canisteo-Greenwood will now get set to battle Avoca/Prattsburgh in the Semifinal round, beginning on Thursday at 7:15 p.m. in Addison.
Alfred-Almond 1 2 2 5 – 10
Canisteo-Greenwood 17 12 21 13 – 63
ALFRED-ALMOND: Kayli Clark 1 0-0 2, Chloe Hann 1 0-0 3, Isabel Badeau 0 1-2 1, Paige Marlatt 1 0-0 2, Lacy Teed 1 0-0 2. Totals: 4 1-2 10.
CANISTEO-GREENWOOD: Bailey Mullen 4 0-0 8, Hailey Davis 3 0-0 8, Kennedy Richardson 1 1-2 3, Lillian Mullen 8 0-0 21, Peyton Peters 3 2-2 8, Brooke Burd 2 5-6 9, Sara Coddington 3 0-0 6. Totals: 24 8-10 63.
3-point goals: A-A 1 (Hann), C-G 7 (L. Mullen 5, Davis 2).
Total Fouls: A-A 8, C-G 1. Fouled out: None.