Photos and story by CHRIS BROOKS, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
ALFRED – Without a shred of doubt, it is the most notorious high school rivalry around. On the basketball court, the stakes have never been higher whenever Wellsville and Hornell collide.
We saw a prime example of that last year when the two elite boys squads converged in the late stages of the Class B2 Sectional Tournament inside the field house at Wayland-Cohocton. That game served as the lone stepping stone that separated them from a trip to the grandest stage in all of Section V – Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester.
You hit the fast-forward button on your metaphorical remote control to the present moment, and this year’s Dan Barkley Showcase, in its grand return to Alfred State College, may have never meant more than right here and now for both programs.
The Showcase in year’s past has served as midseason gauge for all 12 participants, as the process of putting all the pieces of the puzzle together in time for that big Sectional run, now begins once again. For the Hornell Lady Red Raiders, they are at the top of not only Section V, but in New York State, and they continue to search for more.
Behind a relentless amount of energy and firepower they have exhibited all season long from every angle, the Lady Red Raiders showed why they belong at the top. And to kick off the Dan Barkley Showcase in the preluding Sheriff’s Classic on a blustery and bedraggled Friday night at the Orvis Activities Center, they did it again.
The entire first half was Hornell’s to control against the Lady Lions. More specifically, the first eight minutes where they brought the hammer down while riding the smoothest of grooves on the hardwood, as they posted 16 straight points and never looked back to hand Steuben County victory number one of the Showcase — their eighth straight dating back to last season’s 7-0 sweep of Allegany County, with a 62-40 win over Wellsville.
“Our energy really set the tone early on,” Lady Red Raiders coach Jimmy Dagon said. “We didn’t give up a bucket for the first four or five minutes, and as the game went on, we were playing very well as a team. It’s something that we’re really taking day-by-day. We know where we’re ranked, but it doesn’t mean anything in January. We’re focused on being the best at the end of the season when it really matters the most. We knew tonight was going to be a good game for us, and I was pleased with the way we put together a complete game.”
No time was wasted when the Lady Red Raiders (7-1) came barreling through gates engulfed in flames with a 16-0 run across nearly the entire first quarter as four different scorers all propelled the offense to success. Amongst the early highlights that fueled the fire: Lillian Hoyt and Payton Bentley each recording a triple, along with a nifty pass inside from Selena Maldonado to Kadience Gollnitz for the flush under the rim.
The momentum carried over into the second quarter where the team in white and red picked up where they left off from their opening frame jamboree, as Bentley and Hoyt helped open the new frame of action with another three from outside to go with another strong inside presence to jumpstart another scoreless jaunt of the Lady Lions (7-4), leading towards a 35-9 halftime lead.
No matter what happened, Hornell freshman forward Raegan Evingham simply did not allow Wellsville to get a second chance. In fact, her tips and offensive rebounds extended Hornell possessions and helped put the game away. Evingham finished with 14 rebounds, six offensive for a double-double with her 10 points.
“The first half, we really couldn’t buy a bucket,” said Lady Lions coach Michelle Alvord. “The game wasn’t over yet though, there was still time left. I told them to keep working, win the next quarter and then win the fourth. It was something we needed to learn from. We just have to keep our composure and focus. It’s hard to do against a team like Hornell, but we need to stay on the right track. We can play with anybody, and we can use this for motivation if we do see Hornell again down the road.”
Although the Lady Red Raiders would remain in complete command of the battle, Wellsville started to find their way to the basket behind the guidance of Natalie Adams and Makenna Dunbar, as they kickstarted the tires for the offense by combining for 11 of the team’s 13 third quarter points, including the last five in a row to end the frame on a positive note.
It would carry into the fourth quarter where the Lady Lions put together their best stand of offense against Hornell in the midst of a back-and-forth exchange, with Dunbar putting the bow on a 14-point second half to coincide with a strong inside occupancy from Averee Palmatier along the way to close out the game.
Hornell was led by Payton Bentley, who received the Showcase’s first MVP nod, leading the scoring with a team-high 17 points that included three of the team’s five triples from outside. Lillian Hoyt, Selena Maldonado and Jordyn Dyring each chipped in with 10 points.
As for the Lady Lions, Dunbar led the way on the attack with her game-high 18 points. Palmatier finished with eight points — six in the fourth quarter, while Natalie Adams had seven points.
During the post-game interviews, MVP Payton Bentley and Jordyn Dyring talked about the intensity the Red Raiders showed early and said playing at Alfred State in front of a big crowd is a lasting memory. Coach Dagon was also impressed with the energy.
Wellsville’s Makenna Dunbar added, “It was good atmosphere with the fan base and the crowd. We have all of this with the Barkley Showcase. All of our underclassmen and younger players have been stepping up and giving it their all, I think we need to play a complete game and bring it all together.”
Wellsville 3 6 13 18 – 40
Hornell 18 17 8 19 – 62
WELLSVILLE: Caelyn Stevens 1 2-4 4, Natalie Adams 3 0-2 7, Emily Stuck 1 0-0 2, Averee Palmatier 4 0-0 8, Makenna Dunbar 6 5-10 18, Jaden Dunbar 0 0-2 0, Alexa Stuck 0 1-2 1. Totals: 15 8-20 40.
HORNELL: Mia Nasca 1 0-0 2, Jordyn Dyring 2 4-4 10, Lillian Hoyt 4 0-0 10, Payton Bentley 7 0-0 17, Raegan Evingham 5 0-0 10, Selena Maldonado 4 1-1 9, A’Jonay Hawkins 1 0-0 2, Kadience Gollnitz 2 0-0 4. Totals: 26 5-5 62.
3-point goals: Wellsville 2 (Adams, M. Dunbar), Hornell 5 (Bentley 3, Hoyt 2).
Total Fouls: Wellsville 7, Hornell 15. Fouled out: None.