By Sam Wilson

Despite a CCAA East II championship and No. 1 seed in its bracket, this Ellicottville boys basketball team mostly did not yet know the growing pains associated with the sectional playoffs.

So while coach Dave McCann’s Eagles made their fourth consecutive trip to Jamestown Community College — and the sectional semifinals — this season, they did so with only two experienced rotation players from the 2018 playoffs. That playoff inexperience showed, McCann admitted, as ECS quickly fell behind against No. 5 Bennett Tuesday night in the Section 6 Class C-2 semifinals, by as much as a 13-point first half deficit.

The Eagles regained some of that league champion and top-seed form in the second half, tying the Tigers 58-58 with 1:26 to play, but Bennett held on for a 63-59 victory.

“Even late in the game, fourth quarter, we come out and miss three or four layups right in a row,” McCann said. “Credit to the kids, they withstood that and they battled, but I think in our last couple minutes there, our execution, you could tell we were a little panicked, kind of throwing the ball around a little bit and a couple of the travel calls. Throughout the course of the game, I think they just got a little too excited and tried to make plays and had some mistakes along the way.”

Bennett advanced to play No. 2 Randolph (17-5) in the C-2 championship, back at JCC on Friday.

Missed layups and turnovers may have plagued the Eagles, but they could have withstood both with some free-throw shooting. Ellicottville shot 15-for-28 from the foul line.

“We’ve been a poor foul-shooting team,” McCann said. “Unfortunately it comes back to bite you in a big game.”

Lamont Pulliam led Bennett (8-10) with 24 points, including an emphatic dunk to put the Tigers ahead 62-59 in the final minute. Davon Scott added 15 points.

“We had way too many turnovers in the first half and we were just a little out of sync, out of sorts and that got us off to a slow start,” McCann said. “But they battled through in the second half and they fought really hard. I give them a lot of credit, keeping that game (close), in the fourth quarter getting it back to a one-point game or a tie game once or twice, withstanding a couple of runs. But at the end of the day, like I just told them, we didn’t execute well enough tonight for four quarters.”

Sophomore Wyatt Chudy led Ellicottville (14-8) with 17 points and seven rebounds while classmate Clayton Rowland had 15 points, nine rebounds and five assists. Ellicottville’s lone senior starter, Steven Rowland, had 13 points and eight rebounds.

Bennett held Leif Jimerson, Ellicottville’s leading scorer at 14 points per game, to four points, on a pair of layups during the Eagles’ rally in the fourth.

“I thought he was rushing some opportunities a little bit and I thought we were getting some other looks off of dribble penetration, off of screen and roll,” McCann said of Jimerson. “And I think we’ve got to move him to a few different places and he’s got to work to get open a little bit. But overall I think we all kind of struggled in the first half with turnovers and he kind of fell victim to that a little bit too.”

Chudy and Clayton Rowland scored 22 of their combined 32 points in the second half, as both started attacking the basket more.

“I think a little bit of that’s nerves with starting some guys for the first time up here at JCC,” McCann said, “and kind of the moment getting to them a little bit early on and once they settled in, that was a big part of our halftime talk. Once we settled in, they were capable of playing basketball with this team if not at a higher level than this team. But sometimes with  young team, it’s getting over that initial hump.”

Bennett (63)

Grimes 2 1-2 5, Skillon 4 0-0 9, Robinson 1 2-2 4, Brown 2 0-0 4, Pulliam 11 0-0 24, Scott 6 2-2 15. Totals: 27 5-8 63.

Ellicottville (59)

Jimerson 2 0-0 4, C. Rowland 6 3-5 15, S. Rowland 5 2-6 13, W. Chudy 6 4-7 17, J. Grinols 2 1-4 5, L. Grinols 0 5-6 5. Totals: 21 15-28 59.

Bennett 15 31 44 63

Ellicottville 8 23 41 59

Three-point goals: Bennett 4 (Skillon, Pulliam 2, Scott), Ellicottville 2 (S. Rowland, W. Chudy). Total fouls: Bennett 19, Ellicottville 13. Fouled out: Robinson (B).

In earlier playoff action:

Ellicottville 61, Maple Grove 47

The top-seeded Ellicottville boys basketball team was tested in its opening round Section 6 playoff game at home on Friday, Feb. 22.

Luckily for the Eagles, they put together a complete game effort and eventually pulled away in Class C-2 quarterfinal victory over pesky Maple Grove.

“It was a close game throughout, even into the fourth quarter,” Ellicottville coach Dave McCann said. “A couple times they had it down to a 3- or 4-point game.

“Our kids battled tonight,” McCann added. “We played 32 minutes, and that’s something we’ve struggled to do over the course of the season. It was our best effort for 32 minutes for the season.”

Steven Rowland keyed the Eagles with a career-best 23 points and 17 rebounds. Wyatt Chudy chipped in six rebounds and four assists, and Clayton Rowland nine rebounds and five steals.

Leif Jimerson added 14 points for Ellicottville.

Tyler McPherson had 15 points and Peter Auer 13 to help No. 9 Maple Grove (8-13) stay close most of the second half.

“Our kids,” McCann said, “made key baskets and key free throws down the stretch to extend the lead to 14.”

Maple Grove (47)

Auer 5 2-4 13, Jones 2 0-0 4, Reagle 2 0-0 5, Christ 4 2-5 10, McPherson 5 4-5 15. Totals: 18 8-14 47.

Ellicottville (61)

Jimerson 6 1-3 14, C. Rowland 1 3-8 5, S. Rowland 9 2-5 23, Chudy 3 1-1 7, J. Grinols 2 4-4 9, L. Grinols 1 0-1 3. Totals: 22 11-22 61.

Maple Grove 13 24 32 47

Ellicottville 19 26 40 61

Three-point goals: MG 3 (Auer, Reagle, McPherson); Ellicottville 6 (Jimerson, S. Rowland 3, J. Grinols, L. Grinols). Total fouls: MG 20, Ellicottville 14. Fouled out: Reagle, Christ, Jimerson.