By Shawn Campbell
Dave McCann wasn’t worried about icing his own shooter. The Ellicottville boys basketball coach was more concerned with somehow stopping Buffalo East star Willard Anderson.
With 8.9 seconds left Tuesday, the Eagles’ Griffin Chudy drew a blocking foul. In the double bonus, he went to the line and sank the first shot, making the score 60-all. With one more shot to come, McCann called a full timeout. He knew his senior guard would make the go-ahead attempt, even when having 60 seconds to ponder it.
“I had full confidence in Griff,” McCann said. “We wanted to try and make sure that the kids knew that they needed to get back because we knew Anderson was going to get the ball and get a head of steam.”
McCann, unfortunately for the Eagles and their Section 6 title hopes, was right on both counts. Chudy made his last free throw. But Anderson drove the length of the court, slicing past the defense for the winning layup with three ticks left, and senior-laden Ellicottville saw its season end in tears, 62-61.
The fourth-seeded Eagles’ desperation heave came after the final buzzer sounded. They rallied from 10 points down in the fourth quarter to take the lead in the Class D semifinal contest at Jamestown Community College. But a win over the top seed — a team three years removed from a Class B title and seven from a Class A crown — escaped them because of Anderson.
The senior guard slashed and shot his way to a game-high 37 points for East (16-6).
“They needed all of them,” McCann said.
“Coach said just to take us home,” Anderson said, “and I didn’t want to go home this early in the season.”
Thus, in Friday’s 6 p.m. championship game at JCC, Starling Bryant’s Panthers will meet third-seeded defending champion Franklinville, which pulled away from No. 2 Sherman, 61-45, in Tuesday’s nightcap.
Ellicottville struggled with East’s trapping pressure early, turning the ball over 13 times in falling behind 17-7 in the first quarter. The Eagles found themselves down 10 again early in the fourth, when they went on a 13-2 run to take the lead, 54-53, with 3:31 left.
A layup by Ellicottville’s Steven Rowland (14 points) with 33 seconds left broke a 57-57 tie. Anderson was fouled on a 3-pointer on the next possession and hit all three shots to give East the lead again before the thrilling final sequence.
Elliot Bowen, Ellicottville’s all-time leading scorer, tallied seven of his 15 points in the fourth, and East committed nine turnovers in the period to aid the Eagles’ comeback.
“The Bowen kid … I love that guy. He’s a great player,” Bryant said of the 6-foot-6 senior center with 1,000-plus career points and rebounds. “We tried to put two and three on him — as many as possible, we wanted to put on him. We did a pretty good job defensively because I don’t think we could’ve done anything with just one or even two guys. We tried to triple him as much as possible.”
He added, “I’m glad to see them be tested, but I wasn’t pleased with some of the turnovers and some of the decisions we made late. Some of the guys that we depend upon made some bonehead mistakes today that you shouldn’t make in this type of situation. … We were lucky to get out of here.”
Chudy finished with 16 points to lead Ellicottville, whose season ends at 19-3.
“We spend about nine months a year together,” said a choked-up McCann, whose senior tri-captains, Bowen, Chudy and Austin Grinols, were four-year players with a 63-23 record. “There were times they could’ve given up, but they battled and that’s the way they’ve been. That’s the way they’ve been all year, that’s the way they’ve been their whole careers.
“I told them that they shouldn’t hang their heads. They’ve got their whole lives in front of them, and they’ve got a community that’s shown them a lot of support over the years. I think they earned a lot of respect from a lot of people tonight as well.”
FRANKLINVILLE endured its worst shooting night of the season — 4-of-24 from 3-point range (17 percent) — but won a slugfest with Sherman (16-6) thanks to senior Sam Erickson’s 23 points.
In a rematch of last year’s Class D final, which the Panthers won for their first title in 25 years, Franklinville’s halftime lead was 21-17.
With six minutes left, the Panthers (19-3) led by only five. But that’s when Erickson, playing with four fouls, took over by attacking the basket. He scored his team’s next 11 points, stretching the Franklinville lead to 12 and keeping the Panthers’ hopes of a return to the state final four alive.
“Sammy will understand that I would’ve wanted him to do that even earlier, and I think he probably could’ve,” Franklinville coach Jeff Haskell said.
“I just knew our team needed it,” Erickson said. “We needed to get something going. We were struggling shooting, so I’m just like, ‘I’m going to get to the rim.’”
Senior Darren Clark added 18 points for the Panthers.
“So much talk was made about us and being in the finals, maybe against East,” Haskell said. “We told ourselves we couldn’t look past this one. I don’t think we did, but we certainly didn’t play our best. Hopefully we got that one out of the way.”
But Haskell liked seeing his players overcome an off shooting game.
“We talked a little at halftime about who we’ve played,” he said. “You go through our schedule and we have about every non-league game other than maybe one, they’re a (sectional) semifinalist or finalist right now. Our guys believed that they could win. I don’t think we were overwhelmed by missing those shots. I think that they believed they were going to win even with missing those shots. We know we’re going to have a bad night, but the credit on that goes to Sherman.”
Leiper 1 0-0 3, Stuve 3 0-0 7, Rowland 7 0-1 14, Chudy 6 4-6 16, Grinols 2 0-0 6, Bowen 5 5-9 15. Totals: 24 9-16 61.
Buffalo East (62)
Shaw 2 4-4 9, Anderson 11 10-11 37, Allen 3 1-2 7, Carter 0 0-0 0, Maryon 4 1-1 9. Totals: 20 16-18 62.
Ellicottville ,7, 27, 41,61
Buffalo East ,17, 34, 49, 62
Three-point goals: Ellicottville 4 (Grinols 2, Leiper, Stuve); East 6 (Anderson 5, Shaw). Total fouls: Ellicottville 13, East 16. Fouled out: None.
Haskell 0 0-0 0, Blecha 3 1-2 7, Erickson 8 6-8 23, Kopp 3 0-0 8, Clark 3 11-15 18, Burton 1 3-4 5. Totals: 18 21-29 61.
Gleason 3 9-10 16, Burick 0 2-2 2, Ayers 0 0-1 0, Beatman 3 0-0 6, Ramsey 4 3-5 12, Meeder 1 0-1 2, Swabik 2 0-0 5, Kopta 0 0-2 0. Totals: 13 14-21 45.
Franklinville, 9, 21, 36, 61
Sherman ,7, 17, 29 ,45
Three-point goals: Franklinville 4 (Kopp 2, Erickson, Clark); Sherman 3 (Gleason, Ramsey, Swabik). Total fouls: Franklinville 20, Sherman 23. Fouled out: Erickson, Burick, Ayers.