By CHRIS BROOKS, sports editor, wellsvillesports.com
WELLSVILLE — On the final night of the regular season, the Lions of Wellsville would need every bit of momentum they garnered after their 64-35 victory over New Life Christian back on Tuesday. Their last opponent to close out the slate before resetting their focus towards Sectionals, was no slouch by any means — Section VI powerhouse and State Final Four Finalist, Allegany-Limestone.
The two foes have already come together once already out west in a close battle that saw the Gators take a seven-point victory back just a few weeks ago. But after the start that the host Lions had on Wednesday, things were beginning to trend upwards.
Against an opponent of such magnitude like the Gators hold, it was exactly what the doctor ordered for Wellsville. But like it has been all season long, Allegany-Limestone dug their way back. And much more.
The second quarter was just the beginning.
After a first quarter of dominant proportions went in Wellsville’s favor, Allegany-Limestone regrouped quickly and used the second quarter to their fullest of advantages, holding the Lions to just five points while Anthony DeCapua ignited a wildfire that their opposition could not put out, resulting in a go-ahead run that created a new ballgame for the second half.
In it, the two foes would trade back and forth baskets throughout the course of time remaining in the last two frames, with the Gators keeping one step ahead of the Lions each time to secure the victory by the slimmest of margins — a 50-49 count in the Lion’s Den.
“You hate to lose any game, but I left tonight feeling that we got better. We talk about having 20 scrimmages before Sectionals a lot. You want to win each one, but we need to find a way for us to get better from them too. That’s what’s important, and I feel like that we have indeed gotten better.” said Lions coach Tom Muska.
The Lions (11-9) fired on all cylinders through the opening stages of the night against the Gators, as they found their smoothest of rhythms by netting the game’s first 13 points, including an 8-0 run that saw them cash in on three early turnovers in their first four possessions. Afterwards, Logan Dunbar then had a helping hand with the next five in a row to keep the momentum rolling in their favor to extend the team’s jaunt that eclipsed the five-minute mark in the frame.
“When we play disciplined, we are an incredible team defensively. You need stops to go on runs like that, and the way that we started the game like we did, with that focus, was awesome. But unfortunately, we were able to keep holding onto it in the second quarter. They found their way back in it.” said Muska.
Allegany-Limestone ended the run by finishing the first with seven of the last 10 points sandwiched in between a Cody Costello three-pointer — Wellsville’s final basket of the first quarter, to close down the gap from 12 to nine entering the next frame of play.
The Gators would spend the entire second quarter digging their way back into the fray, despite some shots not falling for either side in the early stages. But late in the frame, a spark began to ignite for the visitors in black — Anthony DeCapua, as the sharpshooter caught fire with three humongous triples, the latter of the trio being knocked down with less than a minute to play in the half to send Allegany-Limestone ahead for the first time with a 22-21 halftime lead.
His half-ending efforts now created an even playing field for the second half. Now, it was a dead heat all the way down the homestretch.
Allegany-Limestone would reach a lead as big as five during the third quarter led by a fourth DeCapua three-pointer. But in return, the Lions managed to keep pace right behind them with back-to-back triples from Asher Billings, trailing by a pair going into the last eight minute period.
The intensity soon reached new levels to close out the night, as both Allegany-Limestone and Wellsville delivered back and forth blows across the frame after Wellsville was able to find their way back ahead for a brief moment with a 40-35 lead behind baskets from JJ Howard and Aidan Riley underneath.
The back-and-forth teeter-totter battle would remain as such all the way down to the wire, where the Gators were able to find just enough of an opening to squeeze through, with an off-balanced Andrew Giardini shot near the shot clock’s expiration and some big help at the charity stripe from DeCapua helping seal the deal to collect the season-series sweep of the Lions in thrilling fashion.
Howard led all Wellsville scorers at the end of the night with his 13 team-high points. Dunbar and Costello each had 11 points, while Billings totaled nine points off three of the team’s four triples from beyond the arc. Aidan Riley finished with five points to round off the scoring for the hosts in white and orange.
The Lions will now await their Sectional future when seeding for the Class B2 Playoffs begin this weekend, as the regular season has officially marked its conclusion.
Allegany-Limestone 7 15 13 15 – 50
Wellsville 16 5 12 16 – 49
ALLEGANY-LIMESTONE: Gabe Ramadhan 2 0-0 4, Anthony DeCapua 8 4-5 24, Carson Kwiatkowski 1 3-4 5, Michael Frederick 1 0-0 2, Gavin Truman 2 0-0 4, Andrew Giardini 5 0-1 11. Totals: 19 7-10 50.
WELLSVILLE: Cody Costello 4 2-2 11, Aidan Riley 2 1-2 5, Asher Billings 3 0-0 9, Logan Dunbar 2 7-7 11, JJ Howard 6 1-1 13. Totals: 17 11-12 49.
3-point goals: A-L 5 (DeCapua), Wellsville 4 (Billings 3, Costello).
Total Fouls: A-L 11, Wellsville 12. Fouled out: Riley (WLSV).
CHRIS BROOKS PHOTO GALLERY: