Lions 3rd quarter run helps punch ticket for Class B2 Semis in win over No. 5 WOI, will face top-seeded Hornell on Wednesday
PHOTOS and STORY by CHRIS BROOKS, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
WELLSVILLE — If you remember last season during Wellsville’s championship run, Logan Dunbar put on the performance of a lifetime. So much as to where he had adopted a new callsign throughout the course of the tournament: Sectional Logan.
His incredible second half performance for the Lions against Mynderse in last year’s Class B2 Championship still resonates to this day, as Wellsville collected their third title in the last six seasons. Now, they’re looking to do it all over again, as their ride through Sectionals began Saturday night in the Lion’s Den for the last time this year.
With No. 5 World of Inquiry serving as the lone hurdle that stood in between them and a chance to meet their arch-nemesis Hornell in the Semifinals, the Lions would make sure that was an opportunity that they couldn’t allow to slip through their fingers, even after the visiting Griffins kept them on their feet across the first half.
Who else but Sectional Logan to give the Lions the extra push forward.
The Wellsville senior simply went off from all over the field against the Griffins, as he accounted for the team’s first 12 points of the game before settling in as the team’s most significant contributor across a balanced second half on offense, pulling away from World of Inquiry behind a lengthy third quarter run before putting the finishing touches on the win in the last eight minutes to seal a spot in Wednesday’s Semifinal round with a 72-60 win.
“I’m going to miss that kid so much,” Lions coach Tom Muska said of Dunbar. “You can ask Logan to do anything, whether it’s to be that leader on and off the court, to be a guard or a big, I know I have him that can do that for us. We’ve been joking all year that last year around this time, he was on fire. February Logan or Sectional Logan, whatever you want to call it, he’s a different kid when this time of year shows up. We were fortunate to see some of that tonight.”
Wellsville (12-9) had to overcome a bumpy path created by World of Inquiry and their full-court press. The Griffins went on to force multiple turnovers against the Lions off of it to grab scores back the other way. But Dunbar’s presence was felt a short time later for the hosts in white and orange, as he began a string of 12 straight points by knocking down a pair of threes in between multiple runs at the basket.
Soon after the Lions were able to get solid contributions from both Cooper Brockway and his three-pointer, along with JJ Howard’s inside game towards the end of the frame, as they went on to take a 17-13 lead over World of Inquiry after the opening eight minutes.
The Griffins would then pick up a head full of steam going into the second quarter, where they posted a massive 24-point outing led by their press against the Lions once more, creating even more turnovers to capitalize upon. But the Lions have found almost every response against the visitors in blue to keep the game within reach, with Howard completing a three-point play at the charity stripe, and Cody Costello knocking down one of his three triples to name a few sequences.
World of Inquiry began to click from downtown to keep Wellsville off-balanced towards the tail end of the first half, as they made it rain with four consecutive triples to branch their lead to the largest advantage at that point — at nine. But with some late resiliency, the Lions were able to make up ground rather quickly with six straight points from Dunbar, Aidan Riley and Cody Costello which helped close the gap to three at the break.
In the locker room, Muska had a discussion with his team. The message? — Go out and earn every minute possible.
“We’re earning every minute, “ he said. “There’s no more games where practice is guaranteed for us. They have to try and remember to go out and earn it with every possession. They went out to win the next couple, and then the next couple after that. Suddenly, we’re back in the swing of things. That’s all basketball is. It’s about who’s staying focused, who’s taking control of the runs. We did start a little nervous, but in games like these, we somehow get so juiced. We were able to calm right down, and eventually settle into what we wanted to do.”
Some back and forth trading began the second half between the two foes, with Wellsville garnering the bulk of the points in the early-going with Ty Vogel sending to the outside a gorgeous pass to Costello waiting in the wings for a long triple. A short time later, the momentum remained with the Lions, as the surge began with back-to-back and-ones by both Costello and Riley, sending the Wellsville crowd into a frenzy as they extended their lead out to as large as nine at that point.
“We haven’t had Ty for most of the season, and we were able to get him back tonight,” said Muska. “He came in with JJ and Logan, the size helped us force some turnovers. We subbed out Ty for Asher right at the end to see if we could get that knock down we needed to put this game away, and Asher did just that for us. That’s what he does, and it clinches it. It’s great to see all these guys fit into their roles, especially right now when you’re competing for everything.”
Since a 42-41 lead in favor of the Griffins during the third quarter, Wellsville went on to score 12 of the next 14 points soon after to help close out a strong 23-point third quarter window with World of Inquiry remaining hot on their trail with a 57-50 lead going into the last eight minutes. In the frame, not many shots fell down on either side from the field, but when a team finally did, it was hard to stop.
Despite one final attempt at some late pressure down the stretch, Wellsville would not allow it to faze them, as they remained in the driver’s seat with the advantage and built upon it, with Howard bringing down the sledgehammer on one play and then a long Dunbar triple following right behind it to branch out the Lions lead on World of Inquiry to 13.
With the Griffins in suitable distance to try and intervene with the Lions, the hosts would put a wrap on the fierce battle with one final dagger from downtown provided by Asher Billings, grabbing a pass all alone in the far left wing to officially put the game on ice with under 90 seconds remaining, branching their lead insurmountably to send World of Inquiry home packing.
Dunbar would finish as Wellsville’s leading shooter behind his game-high 29 points. JJ Howard finished with 15 points on top of his dunk, while Cody Costello and Aidan Riley finished off a heroic performance for the Lions with 13, and 10 points respectively.
The next stop for the Lions: The Class B2 Semifinal round, where the squad will look to take down top-seeded Hornell for a spot in next weekend’s Finals at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester. As for the next game ahead, Muska said that defeating Hornell at this stage of the game is always a big added bonus.
“The last time we played Hornell, myself and Cooper (Buckley) told the guys about our past experiences as players ourselves within this rivalry,” Muska said. “Most of them have had family in the past play in games like this before. It’s generations deep, and on both sides, the kids are lucky to have something like this. It’s something straight out of the movies. I’m excited to see Wednesday, because there’s no one I want to beat more than Hornell. Wins are great, but playoff wins feel so much more different.”
Tip-off between Wellsville and Hornell is slated to begin on Wednesday at a site and time to be determined.
World of Inquiry 13 24 13 10 – 60
Wellsville 17 17 23 15 – 72
WORLD OF INQUIRY: Marcus Norwood 2 0-0 6, Diego Martinez 4 0-0 10, Jaedon Griffin 6 7-12 22, Ibrahim Bangura 3 1-3 8, Junayde Richardson 0 1-2 1, Yacoub Tarawally 3 4-4 11, Xavier Wiggins 1 0-0 2. Totals: 19 14-21 60.
WELLSVILLE: Cody Costello 4 2-2 13, Aidan Riley 4 2-2 10, Cooper Brockway 1 0-0 3, Asher Billings 1 0-0 3, Logan Dunbar 9 7-11 28, JJ Howard 6 3-4 15. Totals: 25 14-19 72.
3-point goals: WOI 9 (Griffin 3, Norwood 2, Martinez 2, Bangura, Tarawally), Wellsville 8 (Costello 3, Dunbar 3, Brockway, Billings).
Total Fouls: WOI 20, Wellsville 15. Fouled out: Richardson (WOI), Tarawally (WOI).