By Sam Wilson
They’ve become a constant for Dave McCann and the Ellicottville boys basketball team, but 2017-18 will bring the end for a trio of four-year varsity stars and a class of 12 total seniors on this year’s roster.
McCann surely doesn’t want to think about life without Austin Grinols, Griffin Chudy and all-state center Elliot Bowen, his trio of returning league all-stars each in their fourth varsity year. While all three have put together multiple impressive statistical seasons, McCann said as seniors they’ve adapted to stronger leadership as the team returns all five starters from last year’s 16-4 season.
“They are taking a lot more ownership now, being older, being more mature, over what’s going on in practices and making sure that things are running smooth,” McCann said. “I think they’re taking a lot more ownership of themselves and the team knowing it’s their senior year and the last go-’round for them.
“It’s more of a group thing,” McCann added of leadership, “but again we’ve got three guys in Austin, Griff and Elliot that have been here for four years and Austin and Griff are a little bit more vocal in their leadership whereas Elliot is more of a lead-by-example kind of player. He’s not always the loudest kid on the court but he’s the type of kid that’s going to lead by doing things the right way on the court.”
The Eagles shared the CCAA East II division title with Franklinville after splitting the regular season with their rival Panthers, but fell 66-48 in the Section 6 Class D semifinals. The Eagles hope a busy December including three tournaments — at Salamanca (this weekend), Ellicottville (Dec. 14-16) and the IAABO in Allegany (Dec. 29-30) — test this year’s team and prepare it for league play and the postseason. With this many seniors, McCann doesn’t want to see a slow start.
“We need to start fast, come right out of the gates and look like we’re an experienced team,” he said, “which I think at times during the scrimmages last week, a couple of them we struggled to get going early and it took us a quarter or two quarters to kind of shake the rust off a little bit. I’m hoping that come Friday (against Clymer in Salamanca) that we are able to just come out and play hard right from the get-go and kind of get going.
“Whenever we make the schedule, we’re always looking for some good competition wherever we can and we haven’t played in the IAABO Tournament in a long time (since 1998) and I thought that was kind of a neat thing for the kids to be involved in this coming year. They’ve kind of had their eye on that tournament for a couple of years and I think it’s going to be kind of neat for them to get in to play and see what we can do.”
Bowen led the Eagles in points (20 per game), rebounds (15) and blocks (3) last year, while Chudy added 13 points, six rebounds and five assists per game and Grinols averaged 12 points, five rebounds and four assists. Classmates Deric Leiper and Noah Stuve added five and four points per game, respectively, and junior Steven Rowland posted four per game off the bench.
“With another year of experience at the varsity level and a little bit more confidence, this year I’m already seeing that,” McCann said of Stuve and Leiper. “Probably our sixth man is going to be Steve Rowland, who was up as a sophomore last year and he’s a junior. He’s been impressive for us to see coming off the bench because he kind of gives us a little spark, gives us a little offense off the bench and he makes us a little bit bigger, too.”
Other seniors include Matt Grigsby, Mitchell Sexton, Robert Neumann, Evan Palmater (all returners) and newcomers Vaughn Bomberry, Cody Luder and Parker Rieman. Along with the returning Rowland, Brennan Finn and Brenden Chudy join the team as juniors.
Bowen’s 2016-17 accolades included the NYSSWA first-team Class D all-state, first-team Big 30 all-star, CCAA East II MVP and All-Western New York honorable mention. McCann wants to see depth and balance from this team, making it harder for opponents to focus on his start big man.
“We spent a lot of time not only in the summer but also in the preseason here working on ball movement and playing off each other and getting a little bit more movement in our offense and just finding the open guy,” McCann said. “I think at times in the past if we were struggling to get the ball inside and score, I think maybe we tried to force some things that weren’t there but I think this year we’re a little bit better prepared from an offensive standpoint of moving the ball and finding the right shot.”
The 2017 Ellicottville boys basketball schedule:
(All games 7:30 unless otherwise indicated)
Dec. 1 vs. Clymer (Salamanca Tournament), 7:30 p.m.
2 Salamanca or Catt.-L.V. (Sala. Tourn.), TBD
14 vs. Frewsburg (Ellicottville Tournament)
16 TBD (Ellicottville Tournament)
29 vs. Salamanca (IAABO, at Allegany-Limestone), 4:15 p.m.
30 TBD (IAABO, at Allegany-Limestone), TBD
4 at Forestville
8 at Franklinville
11 Cattaraugus-Little Valley
16 at North Collins
22 at Randolph
2 at Cattaraugus-Little Valley
6 Pine Valley
8 North Collins
10 vs. Newfane, at Williamsville South, TBA