ROCHESTER — When Wayland-Cohocton started the season losing four straight and then five out of its first six, an appearance in the Section V, Class B2 Championship game was the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.
But the Golden Eagles got an important piece back in the lineup, and then came together over a spectacular second half of the season, winning 12 of their last 14 games and earning that spot in the Class B2 Finals for the first time since 2012.
“When we started the season off 0-4, I think there was a lot of doubt, but we got Cameron (Huber) back, and I think that was the piece of the puzzle that we were missing. Cameron is a big guard that is one of our best playmakers. We got him back and then won I think 10 or 11 games to end the season, and he was a big part of that,” said Way-Co’s senior captain Connor Englert. “I had my doubts, too. I was thinking, we are 0-4 and there is no way we are even making it past the first round. But like I said, we got Cameron back, figured it out and really got into a groove.”
Way-Co head coach Mike Fields stated that he saw the change happen over the full length of the season. Each day, things got a little bit better and the Golden Eagles looked a little bit stronger on the court. Fields credit the turnaround largely to the fact that in those moments of hardship, the Eagles stuck together instead of turning against each other.
“We improved every day, and it was really great to see. They never lost faith in each other and they never lost confidence, even after that start. I thought I would see a lot of bickering start, but it never happened,” said Fields. “They just held on to each other and worked it out. It was a step-by-step thing in practice, and each day we could see them get more and more confident.”
The team was led largely by the trio of senior leaders in Connor Englert, Derek Cheasman and Keeghan Savior. Englert, in particular, has been a staple of the Way-Co program for the last four years. The senior has been a four-year starter in Wayland-Cohocton, scored his 1,000th point earlier in the year and has spent his entire senior season dominating the LCAA.
Of course, earning a spot in the Section V Championship game is just part of the family business. And coincidentally, the last time Way-Co appeared in the Class B2 Championship in 2012, Englert’s older brother Evan was one of the most impactful players on that squad. And while Englert stated that he never tried to live up to sibling expectations, he was thankful that he got to make his mark on the Way-Co program.
“I mean I never worried about filling my sibling's shoes because my sister won however many titles and I could never beat that. But I’m thankful that I got my shot, and that I took it too,” said Englert.
While Englert will leave having accomplished plenty, head coach Mike Fields is obviously upset that there will not be an Englert on the roster next season.
“Connor is a four-year starter, and that’s like losing a 10-year starter. It’s like losing two people. It’s going to be very difficult to replace Connor, his offense, his defense and his leadership. He’s one of those that you don’t really replace,” said Fields.
But losing Englert is not a death sentence for Wayland-Cohocton, which will be returning four starters in 2019-20. And Fields is confident that the experience of reaching the Sectional Finals will pay dividends come next year.
“We do have four starters coming back next year, and that’s great for these guys. I think this is a great group coming back, and now they’ve gone through this. I’m not saying its easier once you go through it, but you are familiar with a lot of things. And this was a great learning experience,” said Fields.
Way-Co 15 19 6 12 — 52
Wellsville 13 24 17 15 — 69
WAYLAND-COHOCTON: DeAndre Green 1-2 0-0 2, Justin Horton 0-3 0-1 1, Cameron Huber 1-10 6-6 9, Jamie Carman 6-11 2-4 16, Connor Englert 6-17 2-4 17, Justin Schwab 0-1 0-0 0, Ethan Trischler 0-1 0-0 0, Logan Brown 0-0 1-2 1, Derek Cheasman 2-3 0-0 5, Keeghan Savoir 1-4 0-0 2. Totals: 17-52 11-17 52.
WELLSVILLE: Max Jusianiec 4-10 11-12 21, Jimmy McKinley 1-4 2-2 4, Colin Cook 3-6 4-4 10, Alec Acampora 3-6 0-0 8, Joe Tronetti 4-11 1-2 13, Tyler Fuoco 1 0-0 2, Aiden Cook 3-6 4-6 11. Totals: 19-44 22-26 69.
3-point goals: Way-Co 7-28 (Hubert 1-8, Carman 2-6, Englert 3-10, Schwab 0-1, Cheasman 1-2, Savoir 0-1), Wellsville 9-19 (Jusianiec 2-5, McKinley 0-1, Acampora 2-4, Tronetti 4-7, A. Cook 1-2).
Total fouls: Way-Co 19, Wellsville 16. Fouled out: None.