Photos and story by CHRIS BROOKS, managing editor, wellsvillesports.com
BOLIVAR — Separated by a westbound trip down Bolivar Road and up and over its summit, Wellsville and Bolivar-Richburg came together for their lone clash of the campaign. Whenever these cross-county rivals convene, you can almost always count on a jam-packed audience to fill the grandstands to the brim.
Friday night was the most prime of examples.
The Lions and Wolverines gave it everything they had, all game long. In a fierce battle that saw back-and-forth shifts, plenty of defense and some late stage dramatic flare, it was only appropriate that everything that hung in the balance would all come down to the final wire. Literally, the final wire.
With each knock at the door from Bolivar-Richburg growing increasingly louder and louder, they were presented with one final opportunity to turn the tide after trimming a deficit that harbored in the double digits for most of the second half down to just two points.
On what would ultimately become the final play of the game, the Wolverines nearly came across a massive turnover against the Lions off an inbound with two seconds left.
But off Alex Green’s pass back into play for the Lions on the baseline, the ball hit a pair of hands directly in front of him with such force, the ball worked its way free just enough for Green to collect his own transfer before being fouled by Bolivar-Richburg, clearing the defensive zone from imminent danger immediately after with under five seconds remaining to allow Wellsville their proclamation for victory by a 50-48 count in suspenseful fashion.
“It’s always better to win those close games. I was really happy we were able to walk away with another victory in our pocket,” Lions coach Tom Muska said. “Every possession matters in a game, and that was the case tonight. It’s not just hanging on at the end, but every moment from Cooper’s (Brockway) hot streak from three to each box-out down the stretch. (Aydin) Sisson and (Landon) Barkley can really shoot it for them, and when you have two players like that, no lead is ever safe. Those might be two of the best players to wear Bolivar-Richburg jerseys in a long time.”
Wellsville (7-10) was able to navigate their way towards the lead when the end of the first quarter approached. After an early exchange of baskets that saw the Wolverines jump ahead, the visitors in black and orange responded with the frame’s last six points in consecutive fashion to overtake their opposition in the catbird’s seat with a 9-6 lead.
The action would ramp up for the Lions after a game-tying triple for the Wolverines (10-5) from Aydin Sisson to start the second, as they halted what momentum was built and turned it into another favorable burst on the back end with another scoreless run, netting the next seven points off some more solid work inside and a second Brockway triple.
The momentum shifting continued all throughout the frame, with Bolivar-Richburg climbing their way to within a point on another scoreless response.
But despite it, Wellsville was able to keep their lead intact after the half closed on a pair of triples — one from Brockway for the Lions and another on the next possession from Reiss Gaines, cancelling each other out in favor of a 19-18 Lions lead at the break.
In the third quarter, the Lions maintained their offensive stance with a brilliant start to the new half, bucketing 10 of the first 11 points — a run that was guided and punctuated by Cooper Brockway’s hot hand once again, going back-to-back from downtown again to supply a 29-20 lead.
It would eventually eclipse into double-digit territory in the midst of the foes’ constant exchanging of baskets.
But with a 38-30 lead going into the fourth, the advantage for Wellsville would come down to just two points — the lowest deficit that Bolivar-Richburg knocked it down to, across the entire contest, as they scored six in a row to open the frame on a high note.
After a timeout that was forced by the Lions, they would go on to regroup and push the reset button to regain traction on the offensive end, netting nine of the next 12 points to garner a 10-point lead once again entering the waning stages of the battle.
Chaos ensued in the midst of a foul game during the final minute, one that the Wolverines had to play against the Lions in order to remain within reach.
With 2.4 seconds left, they would use some outstanding defense in their own offensive end to force three straight turnovers — all of which were cashed in from three-point range by Aydin Sisson, Landon Barkley and Reiss Gaines, as they closed the gap down to a pair of points.
With the game now in their hands once again, the Lions controlled their own destiny.
And on the very last play of the game, they were able to hang on for dear life behind Green’s interception of his own inbound back into play that deflected off the hands of James Margeson directly in front on the baseline, heaving it up court for Aiden Cowburn to run out the clock on Bolivar-Richburg’s late rally.
“Some of the little things really hurt us tonight. We certainly played a great game defensively, but we had a few lapses where we gave up too many second chance opportunities. We also left too many points on the block ourselves, and against a team like Wellsville, we cannot do that. It was a Sectional environment out here tonight, and after this, it feels like a Sectional-oriented loss.” said Wolverines coach Justin Thomas.
Brockway’s five three-pointers would wind up leading Wellsville’s offense, as he scored a team-high 16-point performance. Behind him was Ty Vogel, as he chipped in with 11 points, while JJ Howard concluded with seven of his own.
For the Wolverines, Aydin Sisson led all scorers with his game-high 22 points. Landon Barkley added in 12 points, while Reiss Gaines followed with eight.
Both teams are back on their home courts Monday night, with Wellsville heading back home to host the red hot Fillmore Eagles in a 7:30 p.m. tip-off, while Bolivar-Richburg plays host to the Addison Knights in their rescheduled Dan Barkley Showcase battle from mid-January, beginning at 6 p.m.
Wellsville 9 10 19 12 – 50
Bolivar-Richburg 6 12 12 18 – 48
WELLSVILLE: Aiden Cowburn 2 1-2 5, Karson Grover 1 0-0 2, Cooper Brockway 5 1-2 16, JJ Howard 3 1-4 7, Ty Vogel 5 1-2 11, Trenton Green 2 1-2 5, Alex Green 0 4-6 4. Totals: 18 9-18 50.
BOLIVAR-RICHBURG: Aydin Sisson 5 10-12 22, Landon Barkley 4 2-2 12, Waide Karnuth 1 0-0 2, Reiss Gaines 3 0-0 8, Kingston Loucks 2 0-0 4. Totals: 15 12-14 48.
3-point goals: Wellsville 5 (Brockway), B-R 6 (Sisson 2, Barkley 2, Gaines 2).
Total Fouls: Wellsville 15, B-R 14. Fouled out: None.