RANDOLPH — Its offense brought to a halt, the Ellicottville boys basketball team needed rebounding and defense to secure a championship the school had not won since before all of its players were born.
The 2021 Eagles earned the school’s first sectional title, in the Section 6 Class C2 bracket, with a 40-38 win over top-seeded Randolph Friday night.
Ellicottville had eight seniors this season, three of them starters for at least three years.
“It’s been one heck of a ride,” said ninth-year ECS coach Dave McCann. “We’ve spent a lot of time together over the last few years and I have a hard time not getting choked up right now. These kids deserve that, they’ve worked so hard for me for so long and for them to just gut that out, it’s who they are. They’re hard-working kids, they give it everything they have. I think we got through tonight on a lot of grit.”
Ellicottville (15-2) had 31 total rebounds in the game, 13 of them on the offensive end. Senior Clayton Rowland had 17 of those boards, seven on offense.
The biggest rebound came with less than five seconds remaining, as junior guard Logan Grinols, the shortest player listed on ECS’ roster, secured the board on 3-point attempt from Randolph’s Ashton Bushey. Grinols passed to Lucas Marsh and the Eagles dribbled up the court to finish the final seconds of a championship 18 years in the making.
SENIOR Leif Jimerson scored a game-high 14 points for the Eagles, while Rowland had nine points, six assists and three steals and their classmate and fellow third-year starter Wyatt Chudy added eight points and five boards.
“I’m trying to not tear up right now, this is an amazing feeling,” Jimerson said. “We tried the last two, three years to get to this point, finally got here and finally finished it. This is all what it’s about, teamwork, family. It feels good.”
Carson Conley scored 13 points for Randolph (13-4), making three 3-pointers, while Jaiden Huntington had 10 points.
THE EAGLES had made the sectional final once before under McCann, losing to Panama in Class D in 2016, and made the semifinal the last four years (three of those were one or two-score games).
“In nine years, we’ve been to eight semifinals and one other final and to finally get to this game and win it is such a relief for myself, for the program, for the kids, it’s a lot to take in. I’m kind of at a loss for words,” McCann said.
“I think it shows a lot of maturity on these kids’ part, knowing that this was it for them,” he added. “Even in that last timeout, last minute, we said, ‘This is it. We’ve got to get either a basket and a stop or if we miss a shot and turn it over, we’ve got to get a stop.’ We told them, ‘Win it on defense.’ And they did.”
Ellicottville, the No. 2 seed, led by as much as 12 points in the second quarter, holding Randolph to just seven points for the game’s first 14 minutes. Cardinals coach Kevin Hind thought his team played well enough defensively, but struggled on the boards, with fouls and poor shooting.
“We couldn’t get a rebound and really we couldn’t score, we didn’t take care of the ball, it just wasn’t our night,” Hind said. “But give them credit, they played hard, they took things away that we wanted to do and we didn’t execute. And … we couldn’t get a rebound.”
Of the Cardinals’ four losses in 2021, three came against Ellicottville.
“I told these guys before the game, if they come in here to our home court and beat us, you shake their hands and pat them on the back because they beat you three times,” Hind said. “They’re better than you and they’re the champion and that’s what happened last night.”
Ellicottville held an advantage in experience as well.
“When I was taking Ty (Hind’s older son, who plays at Daemen College), to tournaments, these guys were at every one of them,” Hind said. “They’ve been together for a lot of years. You could tell they all know their role, they shared the ball, they did good things against us. We still held them to 40 points, which is our goal, but give them credit on their defense.”
AT RANDOLPH Ellicottville (40)
Marsh 0 1-2 1, Jimerson 5 0-3 14, Dekay 1 0-3 2, Caldwell 0 0-2 0, Rowland 2 4-7 9, Chudy 3 2-3 8, Grinols 2 0-0 6. Totals: 13 7-20 40.
Bushey 3 0-0 6, I. Hind 1 0-0 2, D. Hind 1 0-0 3, DeBuque 2 0-0 4, Conley 5 0-0 13, Huntington 4 1-1 10. Totals: 16 1-1 40. Ellicottville 6 19 29 40 Randolph 7 14 31 38
Three-point goals: Eville 7 (Jimerson 2, Grinols 2, Rowland); Rand 5 (Conley 3, D. Hind, Huntington). Total fouls: Eville 11, Rand 22. Fouled out: I. Hind, DeBuque (R).