ALLEGANY — Despite its below-.500 record, the Allegany-Limestone boys basketball team had shown the potential to play with the area’s best.
On Dec. 16, the Gators went to No. 3 Big 30 large school Cuba-Rushford and fell 70-66 in overtime after leading by 10 in the fourth quarter. Earlier this month, they bowed to No. 4 large school Salamanca in a double-OT thriller. Just last Friday, Glenn Anderson’s squad held a three-point advantage on CCAA East I front-runner Randolph after three frames, only to lose 63-54.
Consequently, A-L was 3-7 entering Thursday, having dropped two straight games and three of its last four. But in a rematch with Cuba-Rushford, A-L put all of the pieces together.
Sophomore Sam Flanders (six 3-pointers) poured in 24 points, senior Zach Hemphill tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds, and the Gators upset the state’s 10th-ranked Class C team in emphatic fashion, 63-47.
“It should show that if we play defense like we’re capable and rebound with that effort, we should be a pretty dangerous team going forward,” Anderson said. “Our young guys are starting to grow up a little bit, and we’re slowly getting better and better and better. We took a big jump today, I think.”
Allegany-Limestone led wire-to-wire in the non-league matchup, snapping the Rebels’ 11-game winning streak. Its biggest advantage was 28 points in the fourth quarter.
The Gators’ domination came against a C-R (12-2) team that sported the Big 30’s top scoring offense (71.3 points per game) and third-best defense (41.3).
“Allegany-Limestone came ready to play and they played a wonderful game,” Rebels coach Carl Holmes said. “Defensively, they did a very nice job. No excuses (but our) 10-day layoff showed. Just rusty, but Allegany deserved everything they got. They played great.
“We expected high-level intensity, because that’s what Allegany brings to the table. Their intensity was there much more than ours was.”
In the teams’ first meeting, Flanders drained five of A-L’s 12 3-pointers. On Thursday, he was 5-of-7 from deep in the Gators’ 39-22 first half. The 5-foot-10 guard entered as A-L’s leading scorer at 14 points per game. His 24 points were a season high.
“He scored 16 against us in the second half at our place,” Holmes said. “In my opinion, he’s the one that kept the game close for Allegany. I give kudos to him because we were supposed to be keeping an eye on him, and he didn’t allow us to.”
Said Anderson: “He’s been shooting real well lately. Zach Hemphill did a great job attacking the basket. It’s kind of a nice little two-headed monster we have — inside-and-outside game — without having a typical 6-8, back-to-the-basket post player.”
Hemphill is averaging 19.6 points in the team’s last five games. Junior Sean McAfee dished out five assists, while senior Marcus Grove pulled down seven rebounds (four offensive).
Senior Noah Decker (18 points) was the lone double-figure scorer for C-R, which shot 23 percent from the field (14-of-62).
“We were a little disappointed in our defense against Gowanda the other night,” Anderson said of Monday’s 81-72 defeat, “so we were really harping on that, harping on rebounding. We did both of those things real well tonight.
“I think we’re right there and we’re pretty close to turning the corner. I hope that this game was a big step in that direction … because this is only our 11th game, so we’ve got half our schedule left to go quickly. I hope we can build on this and keep moving forward.”
Smith 1 4-6 6, Tucker 3 1-2 8, Barros 2 1-2 5, Sanderson 2 0-2 4, Larabee 1 3-4 6, Decker 5 8-11 18. Totals: 14 17-27 47.
McAfee 0 1-2 1, McMullen 2 0-0 5, Hemphill 8 3-3 19, Flanders 8 2-2 24, Napoleon 1 0-0 2, Moran 1 0-0 2, Golley 1 0-0 2, Wolfgang 3 1-2 8. Totals: 24 7-9 63.
Cuba-Rushford 07 22 26 47
Allegany-Limestone 20 39 53 63
Three-point goals: C-R 2 (Tucker, Larabee); A-L 8 (Flanders 6, McMullen, Wolfgang). Total fouls: C-R 13, A-L 20. Fouled out: None.