Michelle Alvord could see this coming from two years out.

Back in 2019-20, her Wellsville girls basketball team was in transition, having lost three key seniors from a squad that went 16-6 and reached the Section 5 Class B2 title game the year before while ushering in a new core consisting primarily of sophomores.

That group was young, but talented.

And when calling in her game results that season, Alvord would often let it be known, “we’re pretty good now,” — and they were, matching that 16-6 record while losing in the B2 semifinals — “but we’re going to be really good down the road.” Sure enough, that forecast is coming to fruition almost exactly as the veteran coach predicted.

As juniors, that original quintet led the Lions to a 9-3 mark in a pandemic-shortened season that served as more of a prelude to this winter, as there were no seniors on that team. And with all five of those starters back in 2021-22, Wellsville has its sights set on as big a season as any before in the 11-year Alvord era.

THE LIONS have gotten off to a tremendous start, sitting 9-2 just past the halfway point of the season while winning those games by a gaudy average of 25 points. They cruised past Allegany-Limestone and own two victories over Olean. Their only two losses came to quality competition in the Bath Tournament, though one was a humbling setback to Section 4 powerhouse Newark Valley (66-37).

A year ago, mindful of the supplemental parts she’d added to her starting lineup, Alvord described that team as one of the most talented she’d had in her tenure. And that was saying something, considering she’s had five teams (2012, ‘13, ‘15, ‘16 and ‘19) reach a Class B championship game, with one victory, in 2016.

And this year, she acknowledged, “may even top last.”

That would seem to make this year’s goal pretty clearcut: To get back to the title game, win it and perhaps even claim the state qualifier that eluded it five years ago.

“(We’re) returning all five starters — all seniors — two veteran juniors and adding two talented freshmen,” said Alvord, who entered the season an impressive 146-62 across 10 campaigns. “The chemistry with this group is undeniable. They push each other to get better everyday. We have a very deep and balanced roster led by Marley Adams and Emily Costello.

“Adams leads our team in scoring and many other statistical categories, but it’s her leadership and basketball IQ that separate her from most players. Emily is the energy that gets this team going. She is a pesky defender and sets the tone for us. She is a floor leader and a coach on the court.”

YES, Costello and Adams have been the centerpieces of this current thriving era for Wellsville girls basketball.

The latter is a two-time Big 30 all-star, who last season earned First Team designation. She averaged 13 points, six rebounds and four steals as a junior and has essentially matched those figures in her final year. Costello, a reigning Third Team Big 30 all-star, is the glue to the Lions’ backcourt.

But, as Alvord noted, this isn’t a team that relies on one 20-points-per-game scorer a night. This is a squad that receives scoring contributions from up to nine players per game, and plays sound defense, limiting opponents to just 33 points per game, a number that’s under 30 outside of the Newark Valley loss.

“Kaylee Coleman and Jaylynn Mess were coming off their best seasons and have been even better as seniors,” Alvord said. “Jaelyn Knapp has been strong and is having a breakout season. Emily Robbins is a feisty guard that continues to improve every practice and every game. Sara Reitz is an outside shooter that can get hot.”

Aside from those regulars, Alvord has been particularly high on freshman Makenna Dunbar, who’s emerged as the Lions’ leading rebounder (7 per game) and fourth-leading scorer. “She’s provided us with a strong post presence and has already made a big impact this season,” Alvord said. “Freshman guard Natalie Adams is also a solid guard that has range and strong ball-handling ability. She’s also come in and made an impact right away.”

And all of that has the Lions thinking sectional finals and beyond this winter.

FILLMORE, meanwhile, has maintained a path similar to Wellsville’s — in both recent history and prospects for this winter.

And that’s why the Lions and Eagles have set themselves apart as perhaps the top two programs in the county.

Fillmore has long been a force under Tom Parks, compiling a mark of 178-87 in his 13 seasons, and has reached an even higher level of late, going a glittering 68-14 over the last four campaigns, including two trips to the Class D1 title game and one championship (as part of a 23-1 season in 2018-19).

Much like Wellsville, the Eagles experienced a bit of a bridge year last winter, going 7-5 while falling in the D1 semifinals, relying heavily on underclassmen for their production. And with just about everybody back, they, too, have taken the next step in 2021-22.

Fillmore has gotten off to an ideal start, winning its first nine games, and by an average margin of 51-27. And also like the Lions, its two hallmarks have been balance and defense.

Yes, the Eagles boast more of a singular star in senior center Emma Cole, a Second Team Big 30 all-star from last year. Cole has already logged several 20-plus-point double-doubles and even notched a triple-double, of 27 points, 18 rebounds and 10 blocks, in a 54-32 win over Arkport/Canaseraga on Dec. 21.

But Parks’ team, too, has a host of other players who have established themselves as 8-10-point scorers on a given night, highlighted by sophomore soccer stars Hope and Grace Russell, Zoe Beardsley and volleyball standout Jadyn Mucher.

Those soccer and volleyball teams both won sectional titles in the fall (with the soccer squad advancing to the New York State Class D Final Four). And with many of the same athletes — and an unblemished record to start — Fillmore’s basketball team’s goal figures to be making a third trip to the D1 championship game in the last four years.

Following is a capsule look at the girls basketball teams in Allegany County:

ANDOVER/WHITESVILLE

Coach: Jacob Bannerman/Aaron Rawady

League: Allegany Co. Div. I

2020-21 record/postseason: Andover: 5-8; Avoca/Prattsburgh (L, 51-31, Sec. 5 Class D2 quarterfinals); Whitesville: 10-2; Friendship (W, 79-37, Sec. 5 Class D2 quarterfinals), Avoca/Prattsburgh (L, 65-43, Sec. 5 Class D2 semifinals)

Roster: Gabbi Hall (jr., 5-4, G), Maria Riloba (jr., 5-4, G), Vanessa Hall (jr., 5-9, F/G), Alexys Palmatier (so., 5-3, G), Rachel Jackson (sr., 5-5, G), Serena Ainsworth (sr., 5-4, G), Grace Fry (so., 5-8, F), Addison Morgan (sr., 5-9, F), Graci Lewis-Ellison (fr., 5-8, G/F), Brynn Scholl (jr., 5-7, F)

BOLIVAR-RICHBURG

Coach: Hadley Ferris (1st year)

League: Allegany Co. Div. I

2020-21 record/postseason: 8-3; Clyde-Savannah (W, 34-33, Sec. 5 Class C2 quarterfinals), Pavilion (L, 53-28, Sec. 5 Class C2 semifinals)

Roster: Nadia Baldwin (sr., G), Reagan Giardini (sr., F/G), Destiny Cantrell (sr., G), Kayli Giardini (sr., G), Carmen Crowley (sr., C/F), Kaylee Keiser (sr., F), Jessica Majot (sr., F)

CUBA-RUSHFORD

Coach: Aaron Wight

League: Allegany Co. Div. I

2020-21 record/postseason: 2-9; none

Roster: Lillian Forward (sr., F/G), Cloey Larabee (fr., G), Kendall Tompkins (8th, G), Shae Maples (so., G), Ella Jaffe (sr., F), Brynn Lavery (fr., F/G), Gabby Kranock (jr., F), Aleah Demick (jr., F/C), Taylor Searle (jr., G), Destiny Darrin (jr., F), Hailey Bello (so, F), Tara Duvall (jr., F)

FILLMORE

Coach: Tom Parks

League: Allegany Co. Div. I

2020-21 record/postseason: 7-5; Arkport/Canaseraga (W, 39-31, Sec. 5 Class D1 quarterfinals), South Seneca (L, 45-35, Sec. 5 Class D1 semifinals)

Roster: Emma Cole (sr.), Jadyn Mucher (sr.), Zoe Beardsley (sr.), Hannah Tanner (sr.), Madi Geertman (jr.), Hope Russell (so.), Grace Russell (so.), Preslee Miller (so.), Rachel Hatch (so.), Amelia Rose (so.), Oakley Frazier (so.)

From the coach: “Between some veteran leaders and talented newcomers, I think we have some really good pieces in place on this team. As we continue to gel and build chemistry, we could become a pretty solid group. We have already seen some big improvements from summer league until now, so I’m looking forward to seeing that growth continue and excited about where it could lead us.”

GENESEE VALLEY/BELFAST

Coach: Jim Schneider

League: Allegany Co. Div. II

2020-21 record/postseason: Genesee Valley: 3-7; none; Belfast: 7-4; Northstar Christian (L, 56-40, Sec. 5 Class D2 quarterfinals)

Roster: Lexi Burrows (sr., F), Alicia Borden (sr., F/G), Anna Drozdowski (jr., F/G), Addison Grusendorf (jr., 5-5, G), Mary Hamer (so., F/G), Katlin Sadler (sr., C), Addy Herring (sr., 5-7, C/F), Harley Proctor (jr., G), Aissata Diabate (sr., C), Jaslynn Shipman (jr., C), Paige Cochran (sr., 5-4, G)

HINSDALE

Coach: Courtney Malia (1st year)

League: Allegany Co. Div. II

2020-21 record/postseason: N/A (no team)

Roster: Marisa Adams (jr., 4-9, G), Hannah Sutton (jr., 5-8, F), Fran Childs (jr., 5-5, G), Jaylee Jimerson (jr., 5-6, F/G), Jenna Sutton (fr., 5-7, C/F), Mikayla Miller (so., 5-3, G), Sarah Tuttle (jr., 5-5, G), Kyla Jozwiak (sr., 5-2, G)

HOUGHTON

Coach: Jeff Prentice

League: Allegany Co. Div. II

2020-21 record/postseason: N/A (no team)

Roster: Pauline Haensel (so., 5-5, G), Jessica Prentice (jr., 5-6, G), Maddy Paschalis (jr., 5-5, G), Ava Harrison (so., 5-5, F/G), Marissa Brown (sr., 5-4, G), Rama Samba (jr., 5-6, F), Anna Huizenga (sr., 5-5, G), Emily Tankeh (jr., 5-8, C), Katerine Held (so., 5-6, F), Jessica Adenuga (jr., 5-8, C)

SCIO/FRIENDSHIP

Coach: Ashleigh Lewis (1st year)

League: Allegany Co. Div. II

2020-21 record/postseason: Scio: 0-13; none; Friendship: 5-6; Whitesville (L, 79-37, Sec. 5 Class D2 quarterfinals)

Roster: Nevaeh Ross (so., 5-8, F/G), Jenn Dickens (so., 5-2, G), Keely Sisson (sr., 5-9, C), Claire Calhoun (jr., 5-6, F/G), Sophie Bolzan (so., 5-5, G), Kadence Donohue (jr., 5-7, C/F), Samantha Snyder (sr., 5-9, C), Melana Davenport (sr., 5-4, F/G), Kiara Glover (jr., 5-9, C)

WELLSVILLE

Coach: Michelle Alvord

League: Independent

2020-21 record/postseason: 9-3; North Rose-Wolcott (W, 39-34, Sec. 5 Class B2 quarterfinals), Waterloo (L, 71-15, Sec. 5 Class B2 semifinals)

Roster: Marley Adams (sr., 5-7, G/F, 13.3 pts.), Jaylynn Mess (sr., 5-5, G, 4.8 pts.), Emily Costello (sr., 5-5, G, 8 pts.), Jaelyn Knapp (sr., 5-6, G, 4.4 pts.), Natalie Adams (fr., 5-6, G, 3.0 pts.), Emily Robbins (jr., 5-4, G, 3.7 pts.), Sara Reitz (jr., 5-6, G), Kaylee Coleman (sr., 5-7, F, 5 pts.), Makenna Dunbar (fr., 5-9, F)

From the coach: (see above)

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