By Sam Wilson
The first game of the New Year started well, and finished a bit rocky, but with a win nonetheless for the Ellicottville boys basketball team.
The Eagles held off a desperate fourth-quarter rally from visiting Springville on Jan. 3, holding on for a 58-51 non-league win. Ellicottville led by as much as 41-24 in the third quarter, but Springville cut the lead to single digits with just over four minutes to play, and as close as six points two times.
The Griffins scored as much in the fourth quarter (18 points) as they did in the entire first half.
“It’s heart,” SGI coach Greg Miller said. “We talk about that a lot, that we’ve just got to play with heart. The skills will come, the fundamentals will come, but you can’t teach heart, you can’t teach passion. So the guys dug deep. Basketball games come down to foul shots and fundamentals.”
SGI’s Austin Boies scored 13 of his 20 points in the fourth quarter.
“He’s playing well,” Miller said. “He’s carried that over the last couple of games. He has an opportunity to be better than what he’s performing and it’s just more of a mind game right now. He’ll figure it out. He lets things fester a little bit — he misses a shot here and there and it kind of gets into him — but he’s not afraid to shoot and I love his passion and his desire. He’s constantly going, he’s motoring in practice, motor out here and we’ve just got to work out the kinks.”
Eric Copeland added 12 points for the Griffins (2-6).
SGI has eight more games in January, starting on Tuesday at home against Iroquois. Moving back up to ECIC Div. III this winter should present a challenge for the Griffins.
“We let this one slip away,” Miller said. “I think if we came off of three straight wins going into stronger league play, it would have been better, but I’ve seen growth. It’s just how much those guys have committed. I see it on a daily basis. Guys are pushing themselves, giving everything that they have. We’ll figure it out.
“Going back up to Div. III is a challenge for us, we’re a smaller school in that league so we’ll just take our lumps, but I can’t speak enough about how proud I am of these guys. They continue to work hard and continue to play.”
Leif Jimerson poured in 19 points to lead the Eagles (6-1), most of them on fast-break finishes by sprinting down the court to catch outlet passes from his teammates.
“Leif’s pretty good at reading the situation on the defensive end. He gets out in transition and he’s fast,” McCann said. “It’s stuff we work on in practice, those guys like to throw him the long pass and he usually goes and gets it. He’s a good athlete. He’s got a good knack for going and getting the ball and finishing.”
Wyatt Chudy added 13 points and nine boards. Clayton Rowland had seven points, 12 boards, six assists and six steals.
The Eagles open CCAA East II play on Tuesday, visiting Franklinville.
“I think we’re in a good spot to go into league play,” McCann said. “We’ve had some pretty good teams in the non-league schedule so far with still a couple more non-league games to go. But I’m happy with where we’re progressing. The kids are playing hard and they’re playing together and right now that’s what we need to be doing. Hopefully it carries into league play next week.”
Copeland 5 0-0 12, Elkins 2 0-2 4, Guilman 2 0-0 4, Boies 6 5-6 20, Pruitt 1 0-0 2, Sullivan 1 0-0 2, Fisher 2 3-6 7. Totals: 19 8-14 51.
Jimerson 9 0-0 19, L. Grinols 2 0-0 6, Rowland 3 1-3 7, Hutchinson 0 1-2 1, Chudy 5 3-7 13, J. Grinols 2 2-3 6, Newark 3 0-0 6. Totals: 24 7-15 58.
Springville 9 18 33 51
Ellicottville 13 29 43 58
Three-point goals: Springville 5 (Copeland 2, Boies 3); Ellicottville 3 (Jimerson, L. Grinols 2). Total fouls: Springville 12, Ellicottville 10. Fouled out: None.
JV: Springville, 40-29.