NY boys with a Classic comeback; Pa girls win in Big 30 game

NY boys with a Classic comeback; Pa girls win in Big 30 game

By: Vinny Pezzimenti | Olean Times Herald | March 16, 2015

PORTVILLE — Former coaches paced the sidelines much like they had in years gone by. Fierce opponents just a few weeks ago worked as teammates toward a common goal. And a few legends were honored and remembered.

The first Big 30 Basketball Senior Classic featured many familiar faces, some pretty good competition on the court and a packed house inside Portville Central School's cozy gymnasium.

The Pennsylvania girls used a dominant second half to pull away for a 95-61 victory before the New York boys rallied to top their counterparts from the south for a thrilling 79-76 victory that left competitors and patrons alike satisfied as they filed out into the night.

"Having coached in the Big 30 football game, I knew some of the things around it," Pennsy boys coach Jim Colestro said. "For the first game – when you compare this to the 45 football games – this got off to a wonderful start. I think that there will be 44 more."

The boys contest certainly fit the "classic" billing as New York first recovered from down 14 points in the first half and then held on for the win.

New York prevailed after Elk County Catholic’s Travis Struble missed on a driving shot with three seconds remaining.

"I hope every game moving forward is like that," New York coach Mike Blask said. "That's how they all should be."

Salamanca's Jared Fish tallied 11 of his team-high 14 points in the second half and grabbed 10 rebounds to pace New York. Whitesville's Jake Nelson (13 points), Wellsville's Jordan Wondering (11) and Franklinville's Ben Erickson (10 and 9 rebounds) also scored in double figures to lead a balanced attack.

Cameron County's Nate Sestina posted 18 of his 28 points in the first half to help Pennsy to a 40-26 lead three minutes before halftime. The Bucknell-bound big man also grabbed 22 rebounds and blocked two shots.

Struble and Johnsonburg's Zane Hodgdon each added 10 points for Pennsy.

New York recovered with 19-2 run bridging halftime and took its largest lead (57-51) with 10 minutes left. Pennsy followed with an 11-2 run before Fish dropped in seven straight points during a spurt of 10 straight points for New York that provided a 76-71 cushion.

Pennsy again came back – first on a 3-pointer by Sestina and then two free throws by Otto-Eldred's Josh Tennies. Down 77-76, it forced a turnover with six seconds left, setting up Struble's attempt to retake the lead.

"I didn't think they were going to go away," said Colestro, who last coach at Bradford Central Christian.

Both boys and girls games featured 20-minute halves. Blask thought the format benefitted a New York side that wasn't as big but a touch quicker than Pennsylvania.

"That extra eight minutes is a little tougher," Blask said. "I think in the end it worked for us."

In the girls contest, the inside-outside tandem of Smethport's Morgan Okerlund and Cameron County's Susie Guisto keyed Pennsylvania.

Okerlund, who did much of her damage on rebound baskets, posted 20 points and 11 boards. Guisto pitched in 15 points and three steals and hit two of Penny's nine 3-pointers.

"I think everyone was working well together as a team offensively. That was the key," Pennsy coach Rob Raudenbush said. "We had 45 minutes to work together before the game, and we put an offense in and two in-bounds plays. Literally, within like a minute, they had it. I was impressed. They executed it fairly well."

Bradford's Rylee Lundgren added 12 points for Pennsy.

New York, led by 13 points each by Salamanca's Alyssa Coustenis and Allegany-Limestone's Moriah Monroe, hung close early and only trailed by four points when Pennsy broke away four minutes before halftime.

PA., ahead 10 at the break, used a 17-6 run out of halftime to increase the lead.

New York coach Colleen Weidman thought her team struggled because it lacked a true point guard and center.

"I think that there's a different brand of basketball in Pennsylvania than there is in New York," Weidman said. "Not taking anything away from the kids from New York, but they were the better team. They were a little bit more basketball savvy than we were. We probably needed a little bit more of a practice to go over some things."

Sydney Wight chipped in 12 points on four 3-pointers for New York.

The first class of Big 30 Basketball Hall of Fame inductees were honored at halftime of the boys game. The class includes: Kane graduate and former NBA coach Chuck Daly, former Bradford High boys coach Dave Fuhrman, longtime official Gary "Casey" Jones, former Franklinville and Penn State standout Laura Hughes Kopp, longtime former Scio coach Roger Rigby and former Coudersport standout Kim Tingley.

All proceeds from the games will go to benefit the Big 30 Scholarship program.