Natalie Adams fights off defenders on the way to the basket for two of her team-high 11 points as Jaden Dunbar looks on. Chris Brooks photo.
Photos and story by Chris Brooks, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
WELLSVILLE — It’s moments like these where unsung heroes arise to take in the limelight, whether it’s someone already making an impact on the floor, or it’s a team’s newest arrival looking to make an immediate impact of their own.
With Emily Robbins not able to go in Wellsville’s Sectional debut on Thursday, there was no better time for someone to step up and create such magic right then and there.
To lead off their journey through the playoffs, the fourth-seeded Lady Lions would have to go one-on-one for the third and final time with an opponent they’ve become all too familiar with — the No. 5 Bath-Haverling Lady Rams.
Each team has split their previous two meetings right down the middle, with the latest stemming two weeks ago off a resilient Lady Lions comeback on their home floor. The word that head coach Michelle Alvord selected as her squad’s key towards success, was also one that is powerful in its own right.
The Lady Lions needed the biggest of confidence boosts to help close out the evening in what was their final time at home against the Lady Rams, who were right behind them stride-for-stride in the homestretch. Trailing by as little as two, well enough in reach, Wellsville had to act as fast as they’ve ever been before to try and hold them off.
Fortunately enough, one of the team’s newest arrivals for the second season made her presence known.
That being freshman Jaden Dunbar.
The Lady Lions JV call-up helped put the finishing touches on a heroic ending that allowed the team to remain out front of Bath-Haverling, as she recorded all eight of her points in the final eight minutes, including a clutch basket to start their push out and away from their opposition’s grasp down the home stretch, as the hosts in white survived a fouling and free throw shooting marathon in the final seconds to lock down a 44-36 Quarterfinal win in Class B2 action.
“Our key to the game was confidence. You know you can play up against them, you know you can beat them, but being without Emily tonight, it puts a wrinkle into this really young team,” said Lady Lions coach Michelle Alvord. “It started with confidence and doing the things that I know they’re good at. We were a little timid at times, but I reminded them to keep being strong and to keep being the aggressor. We were able to do that, and I can’t say enough about the kids that stepped up to do it for us.”
The Lady Lions (12-9) were given a spark plug to try and ignite further after Makenna Dunbar delivered the team the opening basket right off the hop. In turn, the Lady Rams would create a bit of a spark themselves to successfully return the favor, as Meredith Czajkowski knocked down the first of her three triples in the contest to start a mini-run consisting of five unanswered points to pull ahead with an eventual 7-4 lead through the midway mark.
The game would even out with a 9-9 tie across the first quarter, with Lindsay Stuck and Natalie Adams each finding the basket on back-to-back runners to end the scoring for the Lady Lions, which would then take a fiery uptick from three-point range. After the Lady Rams found their way ahead on an Emma Luckenbach basket down low, Wellsville rattled off 11 straight points — nine of them off a trio of triples, two from the hand of Sara Reitz and the other from Natalie Adams to give them a 20-11 lead.
The largest lead on either side all night.
But the drought would end for Bath-Haverling, as they went on to score seven of the half’s last nine points in the last 90 seconds and change remaining on the clock, with Czajkowski leading the way again with another triple towards the very end of the frame to officially close their gap from nine down to four at the break.
The action would then buckle down defensively in the third quarter, where points almost came at an absolute premium. When they were collected, it was of high value, especially for the Lady Rams to end a quarter-long drought from the field to net their only basket down low from Luckenbach in the last five seconds.
Aside from the basket, Alvord was pleased with the defensive effort her team provided to keep Bath-Haverling behind them.
“All of their points came at the free throw line up until they scored at the end. I took a timeout and told them to clean it up a little bit, and look to help,” she said. “No one else besides Czajkowski really went off for them, and that was a big thing too. (Natalie) Krelie hurt us last time, and we did a nice job stressing defense up against that. We did a great job responding to everything that they had brought against us. Everyone did their job.”
With a 28-25 lead in hand to work with in the fourth quarter, both teams went back-and-forth to close it out from the early-going down to the last pair of minutes left. After Czajkowski’s final triple from outside forced a 30-30 tie, the Lady Lions responded by going back inside once more with two of the next three baskets to regain control.
No lead in seven minutes of the fourth quarter ever eclipsed more than two points. That was until the Lady Lions put together some finishing touches started off by Jaden Dunbar and her clutch jumper just outside the paint, followed by a Lindsay Stuck inside basket along the way to push Wellsville’s advantage out to six, where it would remain, with under 30 seconds left.
Dunbar would go on to record all eight of her points in the fourth quarter, including two big free throws during the back-and-forth exchange at the line in the last 29.5 seconds to help close out the night.
“You watch in practice, Jaden was guarding Natalie, she was guarding Emily before she got hurt. She can defend really well,” Alvord said of Dunbar. “She’s quick and she has a lot of heart, and that’s something we needed in this kind of moment. For her to come up and do the job that she did, especially at this point in the game, it was big. I was very happy for her tonight.”
Adams was Wellsville’s top scorer with a team-high 11 points. Along with Dunbar, Averee Palmatier also chipped in with eight points, with Dunbar grabbing five rebounds and Palmatier grabbing seven. Stuck finished with seven points. Adding more special teams help was Reitz and Makenna Dunbar, as they both grabbed six rebounds off the glass.
Monday night, the Lady Lions will make their return to the Class B2 Semifinal round where they will likely meet with No. 1 Dansville on the other side, at a site and time to be determined. The Lady Mustangs will get set to take the floor tonight against No. 9 Penn Yan at home.
A game that Alvord has been looking forward to after the two foes met previously right at the beginning of the season at the Corral. Now, their next battle will be used as a marker for her team, to see how far they’ve come since then.
“We played with Dansville for much of the first half early on this season, and then we got down from their press. It wore us down,” Alvord said. “We didn’t know how to respond, but I’m really excited, and the girls are too to see how far they’ve come since then up against them again. I think we match up with them well, and from beginning to end, we’ve gotten so much better. I wish it didn’t take us 19 games to get that victory that we’ve needed.”
Bath-Haverling 9 9 7 11 – 36
Wellsville 9 13 6 16 – 44
BATH-HAVERLING: Leah Krelie 1 0-0 2, Meredith Czajkowski 5 2-2 15, Emma Luckenbach 4 0-0 8, Natalie Krelie 2 2-4 6, Madison Coots 1 1-2 3, Lola Coots 0 2-2 2. Totals: 13 7-10 36.
WELLSVILLE: Lindsay Stuck 3 0-0 7, Natalie Adams 3 3-6 11, Maddy Parks 0 0-2 0, Sara Reitz 2 0-0 6, Averee Palmatier 3 2-2 8, Makenna Dunbar 2 0-0 4, Jaden Dunbar 3 2-2 8. Totals: 16 7-12 44.
3-point goals: B-H 3 (Czajkowski), Wellsville 5 (Reitz 2, Adams 2, Stuck).
Total Fouls: B-H 16, Wellsville 12. Fouled out: None.
Class C2 First Round
No. 8 Perry 44, No. 9 Cuba-Rushford 18
PERRY — The eighth-seeded Lady Yellowjackets of Perry capitalized on almost everything they were able to garner on Thursday. As for the defense, they allowed just four total shots from the field to sink through the twine from start to finish against No. 9 Cuba-Rushford, using a hot second quarter run to pull away towards victory by a 44-18 count to send the Lady Rebels home packing.
“We really struggled shooting the ball tonight. It’s tough to win games when you’re held to just four field goals,” said Lady Rebels coach Aaron Wight. “We got some open looks that didn’t fall, and we missed some easy ones to compound matters. As a whole, this season felt like another step in the right direction with a solid group of underclassmen. Our seniors are going to be missed, and it’s been a pleasure coaching them.”
The hot start for the Lady Yellowjackets would kick into gear right away after the opening tip, as they accounted for nine of the first 12 points to help get established with the lead over Cuba-Rushford (9-12). The Lady Rebels were able to chip away at the early deficit, bringing it down to as little as four entering the second quarter with five of the team’s seven points coming from Taylor Searle.
In the next frame however, Perry took complete control of everything, as they closed out the action with a 12-2 run from start to finish, branching their lead out far enough away from the Lady Rebels to remain there permanently, carrying the momentum over into the third quarter where they would put the finishing touches on their Class C2 Quarterfinals berth.
Searle was Cuba-Rushford’s leading scorer with nine team-high points. Emma Retz followed with five points, while Brynn Lavery and Raegan Poore each rounded off with two points.
The season is over for the Lady Rebels, as they wrap up their 2022-23 campaign with a record of 9-12 overall. The team will graduate seven seniors in all at the end of the year, with six of them including Retz, Aleah Demick, Tara Duvall, Destiny Darrin, Laney Murphy and Gabby Kranock.
The final senior joining them is Searle, who has become one of Allegany County’s top scorers not only on the soccer pitch, but as well as indoors on the hardwood since her uprising to the Varsity level began four years ago. Now when he looks back, Wight says it’s incredible to watch her grow, and that it’s been an honor being her coach in both sports.
“Taylor has been great the last four years, and beyond her talent, she has just been a great person to have in this program,” he said. “She’s a great teammate, a very good student and she always has a great attitude. She just shows up and works hard, and I appreciate how much effort and work she has put in all year round. Taylor has earned all the recognition she’s gotten, this year especially.”
Cuba-Rushford 7 2 5 4 – 18
Perry 11 12 16 5 – 44
CUBA-RUSHFORD: Emma Retz 2 1-2 5, Brynn Lavery 0 2-2 2, Taylor Searle 1 6-6 9, Raegan Poore 1 0-4 2. Totals: 4 9-14 18.
PERRY: Jaelyn Morris 5 0-0 13, Meredith Petri 1 0-0 2, Emma True 2 0-0 4, Emma Darocha 1 0-0 2, Maddie Monteleone 1 0-0 3, Nellie Koronas 6 1-2 14, Jade Duffin 2 0-0 4, Sydney Hnat 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19 1-2 44.
3-point goals: C-R 1 (Searle), Perry 5 (Morris 3, Monteleone, Koronas).
Total Fouls: C-R 9, Perry 14. Fouled out: None.