Golden Eagles avenge loss to Lions, get back to B2 Championship

CANISTEO — The No. 7 Wayland-Cohocton Golden Eagles pulled off a huge upset and earned a spot in the Class B2 Championship with a tightly-contested 54-52 win over No. 3 Wellsville on Wednesday evening in Canisteo.

“We lost to these guys in the sectional finals last year, so when they came back to practice this year, we asked them what their goals were. And each of them said, ‘we’ve got to get back to Blue Cross,” said Way-Co head coach Jake Kenney. “We talked all year, it doesn’t matter if you go 20-0 or 0-20, if you are playing your best basketball at the end of the year, that’s all that matters. We’ve now got a few big wins under our belt, and now we just need to go get one more.

Cameron Huber put together one of the most complete performances of the season as he not only led the charge offensively with a team-high 21 points, but was also tasked with guarding Wellsville standout Max Jusianiec for almost the entire night.

“Cameron was clutch. That’s the only word I can really come up with to describe his performance. He played every minute the last two games. We played a box-and-one and he guarded the other team’s best player for 90-percent of the games,” said Kenney. “He played point guard position for us, he ran the offense and then he played incredible defense. There isn’t much else you could ask from a kid.”

Wayland-Cohocton came out in a box-and-one as Cameron Huber face-guarded Max Jusianiec. Wherever Jusianiec went, Huber went with him like the pair was joined at the hip.

That strategy paid off in the opening moments as the Golden Eagles grabbed the early 11-7 lead six minutes into the quarter.

Wellsville called a timeout and quickly regrouped, which led to back-to-back 3-pointers from Liam McKinley that cut the lead to 11-10 in the final 30 seconds. Justin Horton then hit the final bucket of the frame and gave Way-Co the 13-10 lead after the first quarter.

The second quarter was every bit as intense as was promised between the teams. Way-Co and Wellsville traded buckets after bucket as the crowds roared at each passing moment.

Wayland-Cohocton somehow clung to their lead late into the frame and even increased it slightly to 22-17 with three minutes left in the half.

But Wellsville responded quickly with a 4-0 run that dropped the lead back down to one point, which is where it stayed until the half ended and Way-Co took a 27-26 advantage into the intermission.

The third quarter was much of the same as the teams clawed away on offense. Jusianiec gave the Lions a lead with the first bucket of the frame, but Thomas Mead took it right back with a 3-pointer on the next possession.

Way-Co maintained a small advantage for much of the quarter, and then Huber drilled a pull-up triple from way behind the arc in order to give the Golden Eagles a 35-30 lead with three minutes left in the third.

Each team got points at the line, but neither registered a field goal for the rest of the quarter until the very last second, when Wayland-Cohocton’s Logan Brown drilled a 3-pointer at the buzzer to give the Golden Eagles their largest lead of the night at 40-31 going into the final frame.

Huber then came out after the stoppage and drilled another deep shot as the lead was suddenly in double digits at 43-31 just moments into the fourth quarter.

“We are playing better team defense and we are playing unselfishly on both ends of the floor,” said Kenney. “I feel like they are really starting to buy in defensively as a unit, and they are starting to realize that we have the ability to really lockdown some great players. And that’s been huge for this sectional run.”

But Wellsville was not about to go away as the Lions quickly responded with back-to-back 3-pointers that cut the lead down to 43-37 with seven minutes left to play.

The next four minutes of play were the type of intense, physical basketball that only comes in sectionals.

Each team battled hard on every single possession, and good shots were almost impossible to find. Because of this, Wayland-Cohocton barely held on to the lead at 47-41 with 3:30 left to play.

That’s when the Lions made their move. First McKinley buried another deep 3-pointer and then Elijah Schmidt made a tough fast break layup to cut the score to 47-46 with just two minutes left.

Jamie Carman gave Way-Co a small cushion with a tough floater in the lane, but then Jusianiec found his first open shot of the night, a 3-pointer that was promptly buried to tie the game at 49-49 with just 90 seconds left in the game.

Huber once again led Way-Co on offense as he forced his way to the hoop and drew a foul with 50 seconds left to play. He buried both free throws with ice in his veins to give the Golden Eagles a narrow 51-49 lead.

Wellsville missed on the ensuing possession and was forced to foul in an effort to extend the game, but the Golden Eagles got free throws from Carman and Mead in the final 30 seconds in order to escape with the 54-52 win.

The Golden Eagles now prepare for an 11 a.m. contest in the Blue Cross Arena on Saturday for the Section V Class B2 Championship against No. 1 Avon.

No. 3 Wellsville was led by Liam McKinley, who buried seven 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 23 points. The Lions end the season with an overall record of 11-11.