Story by CHRIS BROOKS, photo gallery by TRICIA DAVENPORT
FILLMORE — Being away from action for an extended period of time can take a toll. With the Eagles of Fillmore returning to the swing of things for the first time in nearly two weeks to begin their adventure through the Class D1 bracket, the hope was to ultimately punch a return ticket back to the Semifinal round again.
It would take some time after the opening tip against No. 7 Arkport/Canaseraga to catch their footing, as the Wolves came out swinging with a hefty first quarter to garner the game’s first lead. After they fell behind into an early hole, the Eagles had to act quickly. But it was never a situation where it was something they couldn’t handle.
Fillmore fought back with a gigantic second quarter run to hold Arkport/Canaseraga still, allowing themselves to springboard into the lead going into the break. With it, the Eagles were tasked by their head coach Randy Crouch to keep the Wolves in the rearview mirror, doing just that by starting the second half red hot to extend their lead into territory that the Wolves could not navigate through.
As a result, they ultimately held onto all the room they garnered to officially punch their tickets back to the Class D1 Semifinals after the weekend, claiming a 64-51 win over the Wolves in the final home game of their season in The Rock.
“We knew going in that this wasn’t going to be a typical 7-vs-2 game. Arkport/Canaseraga has lots of quality athletes, and it seems like all of them can really shoot,” said Crouch. “My biggest concern was that we would come out flat after 10 days off, and they would be flying high after their opening win. Sure enough, they came right out and knocked down every look, and got up on us early. I’m proud of my guys though, they didn’t flinch. They made some adjustments and we were able to get some momentum in the second quarter to end the half strong.”
In a back-and-forth exchange through the early portion of time, Arkport/Canaseraga and Fillmore worked their way towards a 10-10 tie before the Wolves created an opening coming down the stretch. Across three minutes, the visitors in black and teal would go on to score seven unanswered points paced by an Emory Watkins three in between a pair of inside drives to the breadbasket.
The Eagles (16-5) would shake it off though, as Zach Sisson helped create a momentum shift with his second quarter game, netting 10 of the team’s 18 points to set up shop for the offense, while the defense in turn kept Arkport/Canaseraga idle by allowing just a single field goal and four free throws to reach the basket in the midst of their 18-6 half-ending jaunt to pull ahead with a five-point lead.
Upon their return to the court for the second half, Fillmore was challenged to keep the momentum riding in their favor to resume play. Through the first minutes of the battle, they would go on to do just that, scoring eight straight points off the hop, six of those off back-to-back triples from Sisson.
“Mitchell (Ward), Jair (Bialek) and Zach made some huge plays when we needed them offensively, and Brent (Zubikowski) played his position as defensive anchor to perfection,” Crouch said. “I challenged the guys to win the first four minutes of the third quarter to really take the wind out of their sails. We were able to do that, and once we got rolling, we really settled in and started to stretch the lead out. I can’t say enough about my starters, but Layton (Sanasith), Jack (Cool), Eben (Schilke) and Jonah (Bialek) have been huge for us off the bench during this streak. It’s nice to be able to sub with confidence, especially in tight situations.”
The hot start by the Eagles was something they were able to continue building a lead from, one that would grow to as large as 20 points down the home stretch in the fourth quarter that would give them all the room they needed to put the battle to bed.
Sisson would finish as Fillmore’s top scorer with a game-high 25 points, garnering eight rebounds off the glass along the way to fuel his efforts. Behind him was Jair Bialek, who tallied 15 points of his own. Mitch Ward had nine points, while Brent Zubikowski ignited his outstanding defensive prowess with seven rebounds and five steals.
Next up for the Eagles is a return trip back to the Class D1 Semifinals, where they will look to climb over the hump and towards a potential trip to Blue Cross Arena next weekend, as they square off with No. 3 Notre Dame-Batavia on Tuesday at a site and time to be determined.
Arkport/Canaseraga 19 6 10 16 – 51
Fillmore 12 18 14 20 – 64
ARKPORT/CANASERAGA: Devin Moran 1 0-0 2, Caden Carey 1 1-2 4, Alex Vilkhu 2 0-0 5, Pete Patrick 5 4-4 17, Tim Vilkhu 6 0-0 14, Alex Preston 2 2-4 6, Emory Watkins 1 0-0 3. Totals: 18 7-10 51.
FILLMORE: Brent Zubikowski 1 1-4 3, Jair Bialek 5 2-2 15, Mitch Ward 2 5-8 9, Zach Sisson 10 1-2 25, Jonah Bialek 2 0-0 6, Layton Sanasith 2 0-0 4, Reid Cockle 1 0-0 2. Totals: 23 9-16 64.
3-point goals: A/C 8 (Patrick 3, T. Vilkhu 2, Carey, A. Vilkhu, Watkins), Fillmore 9 (Sisson 4, Ja. Bialek 3, Jo. Bialek 2).
Total Fouls: A/C 12, Fillmore 15. Fouled out: None.
No. 1 Avoca/Prattsburgh 85, No. 8 Genesee Valley/Belfast 27
AVOCA — The defending New York State champions in Class D showed why they’re looking to pave the path towards history once again this year, as top-seeded Avoca/Prattsburgh dominated the opening eight minutes against No. 8 Genesee Valley/Belfast to set the tone immediately, never looking back on what was an 85-27 win on Saturday to clinch a spot in Tuesday’s Class D1 Semifinal round.
The Titans wasted no time putting the foot down on the gas pedal through the first quarter of play, as they posted a near-shutout performance to set the tone right away with the first of three 20-point frames of offense, beginning with a massive 29-2 run that ultimately gave them the room they needed to hang onto the lead for good.
Avoca/Prattsburgh saw an even balance across the board, with 11 different scorers all finding the statsheet. Leading the way was Sawyer Devoe with his game-high 22 points. Haden Abbott pitched in 19 points of his own, while Macoy Putnam had nine.
On the other side, Thai Norasethaporn led all scorers for Genesee Valley/Belfast (7-15) with five team-high points. Brayden Cooper, Kadin Logue, Max Wedge and Jacob Borden all had four points each.
The season is over for Genesee Valley/Belfast, as they wrap up their campaign with a record of 7-15 overall. The team will graduate six seniors at the end of the school year in June, in Norasethaporn, Wedge, Elden Aquila, Killian McKnight, Daemon Cobb and James Frawley.
Genesee Valley/Belfast 2 7 7 11 – 27
Avoca/Prattsburgh 29 22 24 10 – 85
GV/BELFAST: Brayden Cooper 1 1-2 4, Kadin Logue 2 0-0 4, Elden Aquila 1 0-0 3, Ian McKenzie 1 0-0 3, Max Wedge 2 0-0 4, Jacob Borden 2 0-0 4, Thai Norasethaporn 2 0-2 5. Totals: 11 1-4 27.
AVOCA/PRATTSBURGH: Sawyer Devoe 11 0-0 22, Evan Campbell 4 0-0 8, Macoy Putnam 4 1-4 9, Haden Abbott 7 0-2 19, Josiah Stilson 1 0-0 2, Chris Abbott 3 0-1 6, James Forte 1 1-2 4, Jamel Crowder 1 0-0 2, Connor Hammond 2 0-0 6, Dayton Putman 2 0-0 5, Daniel Stilson 1 0-0 2. Totals: 37 2-9 85.
3-point goals: GVB 4 (Cooper, Aquila, McKenzie, Norasethaporn), A/P 6 (Hammond 2, H. Abbott 2, Forte, Putman).
Total Fouls: GVB 12, A/P 9. Fouled out: None.