By Sam Wilson
The first game of the New Year started well, and finished a bit rocky, but with a win nonetheless for the Ellicottville boys basketball team.
The Eagles held off a desperate fourth-quarter rally from visiting Springville on Jan. 3, holding on for a 58-51 non-league win. Ellicottville led by as much as 41-24 in the third quarter, but Springville cut the lead to single digits with just over four minutes to play, and as close as six points two times.
“I thought it was a solid performance,” coach Dave McCann said of his Eagles, who bounced back in their first game since their first loss of the season at the Joe DeCerbo Memorial Tournament almost two weeks ago. “I think our fourth-quarter execution has to be a little bit better, especially down the stretch there, just a few too many turnovers. But the first half, I told the kids in the locker room I thought we were playing really well, we just had a couple opportunities not fall for us or we could have had a little bit wider margin at halftime.
“Overall I thought they played pretty well, they played together and they played solid on both ends of the court.”
Leif Jimerson poured in 19 points to lead the Eagles (6-1), most of them on fast-break finishes by sprinting down the court to catch outlet passes from his teammates.
“Leif’s pretty good at reading the situation on the defensive end. He gets out in transition and he’s fast,” McCann said. “It’s stuff we work on in practice, those guys like to throw him the long pass and he usually goes and gets it. He’s a good athlete. He’s got a good knack for going and getting the ball and finishing.”
Wyatt Chudy added 13 points and nine boards. Clayton Rowland had seven points, 12 boards, six assists and six steals.
The Eagles opened CCAA East II play on Tuesday, visiting Franklinville (see below).
“I think we’re in a good spot to go into league play,” McCann said. “We’ve had some pretty good teams in the non-league schedule so far with still a couple more non-league games to go. But I’m happy with where we’re progressing. The kids are playing hard and they’re playing together and right now that’s what we need to be doing. Hopefully it carries into league play next week.”
The Griffins scored as much in the fourth quarter (18 points) as they did in the entire first half.
“It’s heart,” SGI coach Greg Miller said. “We talk about that a lot, that we’ve just got to play with heart. The skills will come, the fundamentals will come, but you can’t teach heart, you can’t teach passion. So the guys dug deep. Basketball games come down to foul shots and fundamentals.”
SGI’s Austin Boies scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.
“He’s playing well,” Miller said. “He’s carried that over the last couple of games. He has an opportunity to be better than what he’s performing and it’s just more of a mind game right now. He’ll figure it out. He lets things fester a little bit — he misses a shot here and there and it kind of gets into him — but he’s not afraid to shoot and I love his passion and his desire. He’s constantly going, he’s motoring in practice, motor out here and we’ve just got to work out the kinks.”
Eric Copeland added 12 points for the Griffins (2-6).
FRANKLINVILLE — Clayton Rowland logged 18 points and Wyatt Chudy chipped in 11 to guide Ellicottville to a convincing win in its league opener on Tuesday.
The Eagles, now 7-1 on the year, received scoring contributions from eight players. They led 20-9 after the first quarter and maintained a comfortable advantage from there.
Ben Frank had a team-best nine points and Logan Frank pulled down nine rebounds for the Panthers (1-6, 0-1), who were hurt by turnovers.