(Ellicottville's Elliot Bowen defended by Sam Erickson of Franklinville)
The month of December offers a ton of tournaments and showcases that provide the chance to see intriguing nonleague matchups and pairings with out-of-area teams. But once the calendar flips over to the New Year, league play heats up and neutral court games in front of half empty gyms become home & away games packed with passionate fans. It's also when you begin to see rivalries renew. There's something about a highly competitive rivalry game where every possession heightens the hysteria that leaves you wanting more once it's over. That's what Wednesday night's 'Game of the Week' between Ellicottville & Franklinville was like, and it definitely left me wanting more. Fortunately for myself, all the fans watching, and the two teams involved, this one is just getting started.
In a game where all points were scored by underclassmen, Ellicottville was one point better in the second half than host Franklinville was in the first half, and headed back out into the snow with a thrilling 53-52 victory. The win improves the Eagles to 7-2 overall and 1-0 CCAA II East, while the Panthers slip to 4-3, 0-1.
"Anytime we play these guys, there's a lot of intensity," Ellicottville coach Dave McCann said. "It doesn't matter if it's a summer league game, a regular season game, a playoff game, they're pretty intense games - this is a big rivalry for us."
Elliot Bowen scored 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and hauled in 20 rebounds throughout the game, as Ellicottville erased what was once an 11-point first half deficit. The Eagles trailed 31-22 at halftime, but came out of the break playing better defensively and quickly went to work, climbing back into the game. Sophomore Steven Rowland scored two baskets in the opening minute of the third quarter to cut Franklinville's lead to five points. Still trailing by five points entering the final two minutes of the stanza, Noah Stuve netted the final four points of the frame for Ellicottville cut the Panthers' lead to 40-39. Stuve's scoring ignited a run for the Eagles that would see them take control.
A three-point play by Bowen to begin the fourth quarter gave Ellicottville it's first lead of the game, and the big man was just getting started. Adding three more buckets within the first three minutes of the final frame, Bowen had filled it up for nine fast points to give the Eagles a 49-42 lead with a 14-2 run. Another score from the post and a pair of free throws by Bowen extended the Ellicottville advantage to 53-44 with 3:41 left in the game.
"The guys made some real good entry passes and they continued to battle," said McCann. "I thought he (Bowen) really did a good job of getting the ball and going up."
Sam Erickson scored 17 of his 21 points after halftime, including the game's final eight points for the Panthers, making it a one-point game, 53-52, with 38 seconds left. Franklinville sent the Eagles to the stripe with 10 seconds left, where they missed the front end of a 1 & 1. After rebounding the miss, the Panthers dribbled the length of the floor and hurried a contested shot in the lane which drew the back of the rim. The long rebound allowed time to expire and sent Ellicottville home with the victory.
Darren Clark, who recently transferred from Fillmore, scored seven of his 11 points in the second quarter for Franklinville, including a breakaway dunk and a 3-pointer. The 6-1 junior was instrumental to the Panthers building a halftime lead, as he stepped up when Erickson had to miss extended time with three first half fouls.
"He's still adjusting," said Franklinville coach Jeff Haskell. "I think when they play together longer, we'll be even more productive."
Clark combined with Issac Kopp for 17 first half points. The pair, along with Erickson, did an excellent job of smothering Bowen in the first half and limiting Ellicottville to one shot as they built a double-digit lead.
"I thought we had a tough time on the boards and it seemed like they were getting a lot of second chance rebounds," McCann said.
The efforts to hold Bowen in check worked well for the first three quarters, as the Panthers held him to a single field goal in each of those frames.
"The first half, we kept him out of the paint and did a really nice job," said Haskell. "He got lower in the fourth quarter than the first three quarters...when he gets that low, we can't stop him."
Austin Grinols and Griffin Chudy each picked up the first half scoring slack for Ellicottville and then kept the Eagles' work horse well fed during the crucial stretch run with well-placed entry passes into the post. Grinols finished with 13 points and five assists, while Chudy scored 11 points and dished six dimes.
Ellicottville will host Pine Valley on Friday, while Franklinville makes the trip to Forestville. While the two teams will have other business to focus on over the next month, the rematch in Ellicottville on February 6th is sure to loom in the back of the minds of both teams. Being the two highest ranked teams in Class D, there could be a third meeting at JCC in March as well. And considering both schools roll out five underclassmen in their starting lineups, let me suggest the possibility that this was the first of six epic rivalry battles over two seasons.
"Whatever happens in the future happens in the future, but right now we've got to worry about Pine Valley," McCann said.
Ellicottville 14 - 8 - 17 - 14 = 53
Franklinville 18 - 13 - 9 - 12 = 52
Ellicottville: Elliot Bowen 21, Austin Grinols 13, Griffin Chudy 11, Steven Rowland 4, Noah Stuve 4
Franklinville: Sam Erickson 21, Darren Clark 11, Isaac Kopp 10, Brock Blecha 5, Dylan Burton 5