Rebels, Wolverines bask in once-in-a-lifetime experience in Cleveland following Saturday’s Hawks/Cavaliers game; B-R edges out C-R to move to 6-0 on season, wedge towards tight 39-28 victory
By Chris Brooks, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
CLEVELAND, Ohio. — Aside from the action that occurred around the County on Saturday, there was still a game on the docket that had yet to be played.
It was a game of such special and immense magnitude that it wasn’t played in Allegany County, let alone New York State itself. The last time a game of this stature was put together, was five years ago when the Cam Loucks-led Scio Tigers and the Cody Schneider-led Genesee Valley Jaguars strolled west across I-86 and to I-90 for that magical game of a lifetime in the city home to that good ol’ fashioned Rock-n-Roll.
Bright and early Saturday morning, two more longtime rivals in Cuba-Rushford and Bolivar-Richburg boarded a school bus and began their journey to The Forest City. After a few hours trekking, and some time basking in the experience during leisure, the Rebels and Wolverines would now set their sights on the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse downtown.
Before they could take the floor, the Cleveland Cavaliers had some business to take care of first on the hardwood, doing just that under the guidance of Donovan Mitchell and Jarrett Allen to claim an eight-point win over Trae Young and the Atlanta Hawks.
After the seats were vacated, the personnel and players off the floor, it was time for the Rebels and Wolverines, as well as local officials Mark Morris, Tom Law and Jordan Crouch, to come on down from the stands and onto that coveted NBA floor themselves. A moment of surreality. One that not many back home receive and experience in their careers.
The time on the clock read in the neighborhood of 10:30 p.m. for tip-off. Perhaps the latest anyone has ever played a basketball game before. But nevertheless, their time had come.
It would take a while before both Cuba-Rushford and Bolivar-Richburg would get their feet acclimated to a brand new and elite surface to leave footprint trails of their own on. Ultimately, it spanned across a first half that saw the Wolverines claim a narrow five-point lead going into halftime. In the second half, crunch time.
Points were going to be garnered at an absolute premium. A-la-Blue Light Special, if you will.
In the third quarter, it was a frame that Bolivar-Richburg managed to find just enough of an opening to create to extend their lead against their longtime rival Rebels, scoring their largest offensive outburst of the night to stay out of Cuba-Rushford’s grasp, remaining undefeated on the season with their sixth straight win by a 39-28 count to end a long, but memory-filled day for all those on the floor and in attendance.
One no one will ever forget any time soon.
“The story of the game was who was going to miss fewer shots,” said Wolverines coach Justin Thomas. “While both teams excelled with great defense, I certainly expected a decrease in offense across the board aside from the firepower these two teams can bring forth sometimes. It was certainly nice to have that experience and still come out of here with a win. We’re continuing a nice start and of course, that came secondary tonight.”
Thomas spoke of the team’s experience of travelling to Cleveland, adding “That was a trip of a lifetime. The kids had a great time, and you couldn’t ask for a better showing. It’s tough to put into words, but I’m really thankful for the opportunity when it came up. This trip was bigger than our game tonight. Good times were had by everyone, and at a massive and important venue. To see the families of our kids and some fans that came all this way to support, that was exceptionally cool to see.”
As for the game itself, the Wolverines (6-0) battled their way through a slow first quarter start to develop an early 8-3 lead they held onto going into the second. In that frame before the first half’s conclusion, each team split the frame right down the middle with eight points on each side.
In the third quarter, Bolivar-Richburg’s lead was officially locked away with enough momentum behind a 12-7 run to give them a 10-point lead going forward.
Despite the defeat, mutual feelings were shared about the experience of playing on a surface that the great LeBron James once roamed between Thomas and Rebels head coach Pat Wight. Ever since that phone call in early October, there was no doubt that Wight wanted to be a part of it.
“When JT called me in October about going, I called our AD (Chris Cappelletti) and said that we want to do this. I asked him how do we make this happen? We threw some fundraisers together and had some donations from local businesses, and away we went. The chance to play on an NBA floor, see an NBA game is just an awesome experience. I’m glad we could give this opportunity to our players and families. Lifelong memories were made this weekend and that, to me, is one of the best parts of coaching in a small community. Giving kids chances to experience things they may not get the chance to experience on their own.”
One of those kids, Wight doesn’t have to look too far for — Braeden Wight, his son. A senior for the Rebels. Sharing a kind of weekend in which dreams are made of.
“There is absolutely nothing cooler than seeing the smile on Braeden’s face when they announced the starting lineups before the game. The smiles on his friends and my players’ faces when they walked onto the court. It was what every kid dreams of,” he said. “Playing on an NBA court and they got to do it. Watching the game with them before our game, and the looks on their faces watching those guys play. A couple of the kids even got onto the jumbotron at one point. All of those things I’ll remember forever, and I hope they will too.”
In the scorebook, Bolivar-Richburg was led by Aydin Sisson and his 14 game-high points. Landon Barkley followed with his 11 points, while Waide Karnuth chipped in with six of his own to pair with 11 rebounds.
For the Rebels (3-2), Finn Ricketts posted nine team-high points to pace the offense. Luke Brooks had six points, while Braeden Wight and Peyton Joy each had five.
Both teams will return to action Wednesday night on their home floors in a pair of 7:30 p.m. contests, as Bolivar-Richburg’s tough pre-Christmas gauntlet continues with a rematch of last year’s Dan Barkley Showcase nightcap against Bath-Haverling — a game that witnessed two overtime periods to close out the seventh annual event.
As for Cuba-Rushford, they’ll look to return to the win column at Belfast Monday then back on Gary Wight Court with a visit from Friendship/Scio in store.
Cuba-Rushford 3 8 7 10 – 28
Bolivar-Richburg 8 8 12 11 – 39
CUBA-RUSHFORD: Braeden Wight 1 2-2 5, Kaden Bell 1 0-0 2, Luke Brooks 1 4-5 6, Finn Ricketts 4 0-0 9, Adam Roe 0 1-2 1, Peyton Joy 2 1-2 5. Totals: 9 8-11 28.
BOLIVAR-RICHBURG: Aydin Sisson 5 3-3 14, Landon Barkley 2 6-8 11, David Abdo 1 0-0 3, Waide Karnuth 2 2-3 6, Trevor Pforter 1 0-0 2, Kingston Loucks 1 0-2 3. Totals: 12 11-16 39.
3-point goals: C-R 2 (Wight, Ricketts), B-R 4 (Sisson, Barkle)