Story and photo gallery by Chris Brooks, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
CUBA — The Genesee Valley/Belfast ladies have battled many waves of adversity over the course of this season. Injuries, illness, prolonged periods of time away from action, you name it. And through it all, the team has found themselves a single win away from what stood idle at the end of the rainbow.
With two humongous upper hands on rival Fillmore this season, Genesee Valley/Belfast is just a single triumphant performance away from being crowned Allegany County’s Division I Champions heading into Sectionals.
How exactly would they respond to that? — How about their most flawless performance of the season.
Anna Drozdowski and Mary Hamer were simply unstoppable for Genesee Valley/Belfast from all over the floor on Monday, as the Lady Rebels could not find a way to slow them down, going forth to build a massive first half-ending run before putting the game away for good with their biggest quarter of the game in the last eight minutes, becoming Division I County Champions in the 2022-23 season with a 68-45 road win over Cuba-Rushford.
“I am so proud of these girls,” said GV/Belfast coach Jim Schneider. “It’s been a rough road this season battling sickness, injuries, a week without games, but we are finally hitting our stride. These girls are great ladies, and they’re all friends first, which I think is big. They work hard for each other, and they are fun to watch. Anna, Harley (Proctor) and Adison (Grusendorf) are great role models for our younger ladies, which has been very nice for our new players this year. This season has been a true challenge, and hopefully we can keep hitting our playoff stride.”
Both teams saw an even distribution of baskets go down between one another to open the early stages of the battle, one that also saw Taylor Searle give the Lady Rebels an 11-8 advantage behind a pair of back-to-back three-pointers with just under midway left in the first to play. As a response, Genesee Valley/Belfast (12-8) fired right back and scored the last seven points in a row to close out the quarter with a 15-11 lead behind Mary Hamer’s presence down low.
Hamer went on to score 10 of the team’s 15 points in the first eight minutes.
In the next quarter, Anna Drozdowski would throw her hat into the ring. The scoreless run would reach 15 unanswered for Genesee Valley/Belfast, as the momentum they needed the first with, carried over into the second, as Hamer continued dominating the paint down low while Drozdowski found her stroke from downtown by burying three of her five three-pointers.
“We just had no answer for them at times,” Lady Rebels coach Aaron Wight said. “They can hurt you in a lot of different ways, especially when Drozdowski is shooting the ball like she did tonight. Hamer was tough inside as well, although she got into a bit of foul trouble in the third. That’s when we were able to find a way to climb back into it. But the momentum was killed in the last seconds of the quarter to keep us at a standstill.”
The cushion would remain going into the half, but Cuba-Rushford (9-11) would find a way to climb back into the thick of action, narrowing their deficit down to as little as six during the third quarter while Genesee Valley/Belfast was battling late foul trouble. With the Lady Rebels beginning to close in, Drozdowski pulled up another clutch shot from downtown — her fourth of the game in the waning seconds to end put a close on what was a 46-36 lead.
The energy that was produced by Drozdowski’s three-pointer gave Genesee Valley/Belfast that one final boost they needed to finish the night strong, scoring a 22-9 run hammered down by Hamer one last time down low, as she posted 12 of her game-high 28 points in the frame to help officially put a lock on this year’s County crown along the way.
Following Hamer was Drozdowski, as she chipped in with 26 points of her own for Genesee Valley/Belfast. Harley Proctor had seven points.
For the Lady Rebels, Taylor Searle finished with a team-high 17 points. Shae Maples recorded nine points, while Aleah Demick pitched in with six of her own.
Before the contest, the Lady Rebels honored all seven of their seniors — Searle, Demick, Emma Retz, Tara Duvall, Destiny Darrin, Laney Murphy and Gabby Kranock, who continues to recuperate at home after a September 3 accident in Portville left her paralyzed.
The team honored Kranock by decorating the gym with green and white balloons forming an archway right at the point of entry, as well as a bouquet of balloons sitting amongst the railings in the grandstands. In addition, light green shirts with “#GabbyStrong” inscribed on the front were adorned by the Lady Rebels during the team’s warm-ups.
Wight says this year’s group is one of a kind.
“This group of seniors will always be special to me. They were freshmen when I first started here, so this is the first group that I’ve been with for all four years of high school,” he said. “They’ve been through a lot with the COVID-shortened year, some season-ending injuries, and with everything that Gabby has been through. They’ve always kept it positive and kept working with great attitudes. I’m glad we were able to honor them before the game tonight.”
The regular season is now over for both teams, as they now await their Sectional fate with the annual tournament set to begin next week.
Genesee Valley/Belfast 15 15 16 22 – 68
Cuba-Rushford 11 8 17 9 – 45
GV/BELFAST: Anna Drozdowski 8 5-7 26, Abby Sullivan 2 0-0 4, Harley Proctor 3 1-2 7, Kendra Bigelow 1 1-1 3, Mary Hamer 14 0-0 28. Totals: 28 7-10 68.
CUBA-RUSHFORD: Cloey Larabee 1 0-0 3, Shae Maples 4 1-3 9, Emma Retz 0 3-6 3, Brynn Lavery 2 0-0 4, Aleah Demick 3 0-0 6, Taylor Searle 6 3-4 17, Destiny Darrin 1 0-0 3. Totals: 17 7-13 45.
3-point goals: GVB 5 (Drozdowski), C-R 4 (Searle 2, Larabee, Darrin).
Total Fouls: GVB 13, C-R 9. Fouled out: None.
Photo gallery and Senior Night photo from Cuba-Rushford (more stories after the gallery):
Fillmore 58, Bolivar-Richburg 23
BOLIVAR — Having an even balance up and down the floor can become quite a difference maker for some teams. For the Lady Eagles of Fillmore, that balance paid big dividends straight out of the gate on Monday, as they rolled to a brilliant start up against host Bolivar-Richburg and never looked back on what was a 58-23 victory.
Six different Lady Eagles (15-5) all had a hand in getting the jamboree started on offense, all scoring at least a two-point basket to chip in on the team’s 18-6 early lead of the Lady Wolverines through the opening quarter. The balance carried over into the second for Fillmore, allowing them to maintain all of the momentum heading into the break with a 19-3 jaunt to push their lead out even further, securing it ultimately for good.
In the midst of the balanced attack, Hope Russell led all scorers with a game-high 14 points for the visitors in gray and green. Grace Russell followed behind with nine points of her own, while Mattie McCumiskey and Madi Geertman each had eight points.
Bolivar-Richburg (7-13) was paced by Malayna Ayers and her nine team-high points. Carmen Crowley provided seven points.
Both teams will now await Sectional seeding from within their respective classes, as the tournament gets underway starting next Monday.
Fillmore 18 19 12 9 – 58
Bolivar-Richburg 6 3 8 6 – 23
FILLMORE: Hope Russell 6 1-1 14, Grace Russell 4 0-0 9, Rachel Hatch 2 1-1 5, Amelia Rose 1 0-0 2, Mattie McCumiskey 4 0-0 8, Oakley Frazier 2 2-2 6, Preslee Miller 2 2-4 6, Madi Geertman 3 2-5 8. Totals: 24 8-13 58.
BOLIVAR-RICHBURG: Raegan Giardini 1 0-0 2, Carmen Crowley 3 1-2 7, Rylee Whiting 1 0-1 2, Malayna Ayers 4 0-0 9, Caitlyn Steiner 1 1-2 3. Totals: 10 2-5 23.
3-point goals: Fillmore 2 (H. Russell, G. Russell), B-R 1 (Ayers).
Total Fouls: Fillmore 11, B-R 17. Fouled out: None.
Andover/Whitesville 82, Hinsdale 15
WHITESVILLE — In what was her final regular season home game of her career, Vanessa Hall made sure that the epic conclusion to her basketball saga would be written with the biggest of bangs Monday night, as the Andover/Whitesville senior was simply unstoppable with another one of her best games of the season — a game-high 42 points to jet-fuel the team’s 82-15 home win over Hinsdale, in Whitesville.
The first eight minutes for Andover/Whitesville (15-5) to close out their Allegany County Division II championship-winning regular season was outstanding, taking complete control of the floor on all facets from all angles with a 35-point outburst to set the tone immediately against the Lady Bobcats, marching out to the front with the advantage for good.
To pair alongside her 42 points, Hall also posted 13 rebounds to complete a massive double-double performance, along with eight assists and seven steals. Adding help along the way for the hosts in white was Zoe Baert, who chipped in with 10 points. Kennedy Bledsoe recorded nine points, while Gabbi Hall had eight.
Sarah Tuttle fronted the Lady Bobcats (0-20) offense with eight points.
Both teams will now await what the future holds ahead in the Class D2 Sectional tournament, which will begin next week.
Hinsdale 2 5 4 4 – 15
Andover/Whitesville 35 14 20 13 – 82
HINSDALE: Hannah Sutton 1 0-0 2, Tessa Higgins 1 0-0 2, Sarah Tuttle 3 2-2 8, Kyleigh Buckles 1 0-0 3. Totals: 6 2-2 15.
ANDOVER/WHITESVILLE: Lexy Palmatier 3 0-1 6, Vanessa Hall 17 7-11 42, Graci Lewis-Ellison 0 0-2 0, Gabby Terhune 3 0-0 7, Zoe Baert 5 0-0 10, Olivia Waters 0 0-2 0, Gabbi Hall 4 0-0 8, Kennedy Bledsoe 3 3-3 9. Totals: 35 10-19 82.
3-point goals: Hinsdale 1 (Buckles), A/W 2 (V. Hall, Terhune).
Total Fouls: Hinsdale 17, A/W 5. Fouled out: None.
Fillmore 80, C.G. Finney 70
FILLMORE — Whether it’s on the soccer field, or it’s on the hardwood indoors, every time C.G. Finney and Fillmore come together, they always find a way to provide a phenomenal showcase for all to see.
The last time the two teams met in Fillmore was back in the 2019-20 season when the two clubs engaged in an all-out offensive blitz which needed two overtime periods to decide. A battle that the Eagles ultimately came away victorious in, by an 83-79 count.
Monday night in The Rock was no different.
The Falcons and Eagles provided another offensive spectacle during Fillmore’s Senior Night festivities. Overtime wasn’t required this time around, but for the hosts in white and green, they created enough of an opening in the second half to climb through and create some magic.
Behind a relentless three-point effort that saw the Eagles knock down a season-high 15 in all, they used a tremendous 28-point third quarter that featured a massive scoreless run of the Falcons to pull ahead, never giving up the lead from that point on, as they used two more clutch three-pointers from Jair Bialek and Zach Sisson to hold down the fort until the buzzer to capture an 80-70 victory in front of their home crowd for the final time this regular season.
“I can’t say enough about my five seniors, and I’m really glad we got to send them off the court the right way on Senior Night,” said Eagles coach Randy Crouch. “Finney presented a really tough test. They are long and athletic, and they trap all over the court. Jair, Mitchell (Ward) and Zach did a great job of limiting turnovers against the pressure, and kept Finney from getting extra possessions. Once we broke the pressure, we did a great job of balancing patience with attacking the zone. Even when we got down by seven in the second and had four starters on the bench with two fouls, we stuck with the plan. Once we got the lead, our defense and rebounding tightened, and we made all the big plays we needed in the last minutes.”
After a back-and-forth war through the first eight minutes that saw Fillmore (14-5) spring ahead, C.G. Finney provided one big response a quarter later while the Eagles encountered early foul trouble, as they regained the lead which increased by as much as seven points during one point. The Eagles clawed back to tie the game at 30 with one of Zach Sisson’s seven three-pointers, along with a three-point conversion at the line from Mitch Ward.
Each team would go back-and-forth one more time until the end of the half, when the Falcons took control once again with a 36-35 advantage to work with heading into the second half.
In the third quarter however, the Eagles supplied a game-changing moment. After a 48-44 Falcons lead was gained, the hosts went for a little run — a 12-0 scoreless run to be exact, behind an exuberant amount of pressure, which led to another three-point bonanza downtown from both Sisson and Eben Schilke, as the two scorers accounted for the bulk of the points across a three-minute span.
C.G. Finney would get back to within three of the Eagles, but they would never regain the lead back afterwards, as Fillmore pulled away towards victory with Sisson and Jair Bialek knocking down back-to-back threes after a 68-65 lead branched out to nine, remaining there for good.
Sisson put together one of, if not, his biggest season of the season for the Eagles, recording seven of the team’s 15 three-pointers to put towards a massive 31-point performance that also saw him grab 12 boards off the glass to put a bow on his double-double. While Sisson was hitting his stroke outside, Mitch Ward helped the cause from inside, garnering 20 points himself to pair with eight rebounds.
Jair Bialek finished with 15 points — all of them from downtown behind five three-pointers, pairing them with seven assists, to round off the Eagles scoring.
Up next, the regular season finale back on the road, as Fillmore will pay a visit to Bolivar-Richburg for a 7:30 p.m. contest on Wednesday to determine the complete outcome of this year’s Division I County Championship.
C.G. Finney 18 18 21 13 – 70
Fillmore 20 15 28 17 – 80
FINNEY: Tyus Rhodes 5 2-2 13, Braelen Broome 7 4-6 18, Nick Pasquantonio 5 0-2 10, Ethan Krog 4 0-0 11, Xavier Owens 4 3-4 11, Diego Bassette 2 0-3 5, Josh Suarez 1 0-0 2. Totals: 28 9-17 70.
FILLMORE: Eben Schilke 3 0-0 8, Jack Cool 1 0-0 2, Luke Colombo 0 1-2 1, Mitch Ward 7 6-7 20, Zach Sisson 8 8-9 31, Jonah Bialek 1 0-0 3, Jair Bialek 5 0-0 15, Brandon Buck 0 0-1 0. Totals: 25 15-19 80.
3-point goals: Finney 5 (Krog 3, Rhodes, Bassette), Fillmore 15 (Sisson 7, Ja. Bialek 5, Schilke 2, Jo. Bialek).
Total Fouls: Finney 17, Fillmore 14. Fouled out: Krog (FIN).
Honeoye 73, Genesee Valley/Belfast 59
BELFAST — Genesee Valley/Belfast gave the Bulldogs of Honeoye every bit of what they had, Monday night. Hanging tough all throughout the night in Belfast, they were well within striking range of their opposition by the time the fourth quarter approached.
Down by six, time was running out on a potential rally from behind. But for the Bulldogs, they used it to put a bow on what would be an eventual victory, as Genesee Valley/Belfast ran out of gas to remain alongside Honeoye in the race towards the finish line, pulling away with a 73-59 win to complete the season-series sweep.
“The fourth quarter, we lost our gas. It was a close game all night long, but they started to pull away,” said GV/Belfast coach Lintz Bliven. “The turnovers started to hurt us, but the kids played really hard tonight. I can’t fault their effort because it was the best game we’ve played all year. We did our best to give them a game down to the last few minutes. Unfortunately, we just came up a little bit short.”
Despite being narrowly outscored in the first three quarters of play, Genesee Valley/Belfast (6-13) remained in the side-by-side fight with Honeoye the entire way, as three different scorers all eclipsed double figures to pace the offense — Ian McKenzie, Max Wedge and Jacob Borden, as they combined to record 42 of the team’s 59 points.
Trailing by seven going into the last eight minutes, the hosts in white looked to make a move against the Bulldogs. But Honeoye had other plans, as they warded off the late push with a 20-12 jaunt that would make all the difference in securing their lead for good.
McKenzie led Genesee Valley/Belfast with five of the team’s seven three-pointers from downtown, on his way towards a team-high 18 points. Wedge and Borden each tallied 12 points, while Kadin Logue had eight points.
To wrap up their regular season, Genesee Valley/Belfast will hit the road one more time to Cuba-Rushford, visiting the host Rebels in a 7:30 p.m. battle on Wednesday.
Honeoye 18 21 14 20 – 73
Genesee Valley/Belfast 15 19 13 12 – 59
HONEOYE: Owen Baader 7 2-4 21, Evan Cuba 6 4-6 18, Owen Reynolds 4 2-6 10, Trey Nguyen 0 1-2 1, Pavle Duric 4 1-2 11, Landon Washburn 3 0-0 7, Billy Covey 1 3-4 5. Totals: 25 13-24 73.
GV/BELFAST: Brayden Cooper 2 0-0 4, Kadin Logue 3 1-2 8, Kyle McCumiskey 1 0-0 3, Ian McKenzie 6 1-1 18, Max Wedge 4 4-7 12, Jacob Borden 5 2-6 12, Killian McKnight 0 2-2 2. Totals: 21 10-18 59.
3-point goals: Honeoye 10 (Baader 5, Cuba 2, Duric 2, Washburn), GVB 7 (McKenzie 5, Logue, McCumiskey).
Total Fouls: Honeoye 16, GVB 21. Fouled out: None.
New Life Christian 52, Houghton Academy 45
HOUGHTON — Houghton Academy gave New Life Christian one final fight this season on Monday. After what were back-and-forth exchanges across most of the night, the Panthers would find themselves in the driver’s seat, controlling their own destiny.
But New Life Christian played one final card from their hand — a runaway last eight minutes of play, as they held the hosts in white to just five points while capitalizing on the offensive end to pull ahead into the lead, holding it to complete the three-game season sweep with a 52-45 win.
Houghton Academy (3-15) used their three-point game across the first quarter to keep pace with New Life Christian, scoring all 12 of their points off four three-pointers, two of them off the hand of Jack Prentice. The Panthers would find narrow edges of their own to close out the half, and at the opening of the second half to take the lead from their visiting opposition to control a 40-35 lead going into the final quarter.
In it, New Life Christian pushed all their chips to the table on what would be a 15-5 run of the Panthers, keeping them at bay while they pulled ahead permanently three humongous triples from downtown, securing the win for good.
Josh Davidson led all Panthers scorers with 17 game-high points. James Adenuga finished with 10 points, while Jack Prentice sank three triples, for nine points.
Houghton Academy’s season will reach its conclusion Wednesday night in a 7:30 p.m. road trip to Scio, taking on host Friendship/Scio.
New Life 13 12 12 15 – 52
Houghton Academy 12 15 13 5 – 45
NEW LIFE: Niinoi Hanson-Norley 7 1-2 21, Niinashu Hanson-Norley 6 0-0 12, Jefferson Issah 8 1-5 17, Emmanuel L. Botchuag 1 0-0 2. Totals: 22 2-7 52.
HOUGHTON ACADEMY: Jack Prentice 3 0-0 9, Josh Davidson 6 2-2 17, James Adenuga 3 1-2 10, Marco Zanini 1 0-0 2, Pedro Rebello 3 1-2 7. Totals: 16 4-6 45.
3-point goals: New Life 6 (Niinoi Hanson-Norley), HA 9 (Prentice 3, Davidson 3, Adenuga 3).
Total Fouls: New Life 4, HA 11. Fouled out: None.
Keshequa 63, Hinsdale 36
HINSDALE — The Keshequa Indians provided a season sweep behind a big night from Bryan Flanagan, as he posted a game-high 23 points to power the team’s road win in Hinsdale on Monday by a 63-36 count.
Stats and a complete box score were not made available to report upon publication.
The Bobcats (1-18) will wrap up their regular season back on the road to Whitesville with a 6 p.m. visit against Andover/Whitesville.