By Sam Wilson
Usually, as Elliot Bowen goes, so does the Ellicottville boys basketball team. Why would this milestone night be any different?
A pesky North Collins team held Bowen to 3 first-half points and took a 27-23 halftime lead after Bowen sat three first-quarter minutes working to get back on a rolled ankle.
But the 6-foot-6 senior center played a near-perfect second half, finishing with 23 points on 8-of-9 field goal shooting to break the all-time Ellicottville scoring record in a 68-49 victory.
Bowen needed 20 points entering Thursday’s game to break the mark of 1,387 set by Matt Linsler (Class of 1995). He scored his 20th and 21st in the fourth quarter to set the record on a reverse layup assisted by classmate Griffin Chudy from the wing. The Eagles on the bench and fans erupted in celebration, and coach Dave McCann called a timeout with 2:09 remaining to present him with a basketball signed by his teammates.
“I HAD mentioned it to some of the guys,” McCann said, “because I wanted them to sign the basketball for him and kind of be aware that this was an important milestone for him. He just found out yesterday, I mentioned it to him, (because) he wasn’t really tracking it himself.”
Coincidentally, Bowen reached the 1,000-point mark exactly a year ago: Jan. 18, 2017. McCann said that’s when he started to realize Bowen, a four-year starter, could reach the school record.
“Really his sophomore and junior years he had some big numbers point-wise to get to 1,000 on this date last year,” McCann said. “I thought that was a possibility from this point last year.”
Bowen shot 5-of-7 from the free-throw line and grabbed a team-best 11 rebounds. Chudy finished with 21 points, six assists and five steals. Austin Grinols added six assists and three steals and Steven Rowland had six boards.
Tanner Loretto scored 18 points to lead North Collins (4-10) while Brandan Zielinski addaed 15.
McCann said his team needed to settle down after the injury scare, and 13 first-half turnovers.
“In the back of their heads they were thinking about his well-being,” he said, “but once they settled in and once we talked at halftime, we didn’t make any major adjustments, we just had to take care of the basketball better and pick up our intensity.”
Bowen, considering colleges to continue playing next year, was soft-spoken in celebrating his accomplishment.
“It feels good because I’ve put in a lot of hard work to get to this for four years,” he said.
Bowen added his grandmother and he have discussed the record, but ultimately, “we’re after championships.”
Of his fellow four-year varsity players and co-captains, Chudy and Grinols, he added, “They’ve helped me a lot. They’ve given me confidence when I’m having a bad game, when I miss a shot they’ll say ‘You’re OK, you’ll get the next one,’ little stuff like that.”
While Bowen showed quiet humility, his four-year teammates glowed in praising him.
“He’s in the gym all the time, every day, always trying to perfect his game,” Chudy said of how Bowen reached the milestone. “Throughout the summer, he’s playing AAU, he’s playing in the spring. Every chance he gets he’s on the basketball court.”
Grinols, the point guard, said he didn’t worry Thursday about Bowen getting the ball.
“Whenever we get the chance to get Elliot the ball, we’re going to take it,” he said. “He’s scoring 20 on like a nightly (basis), so if he’s just going to play (his) game, he was going to get it.”
Both expressed their appreciation for playing alongside the school’s leading scorer, who has the rest of the season to chase a division and sectional title while extending his record 1,391 points.
“It’s been awesome to be a part of it with him, being there through it all, through everything,” Grinols said.
“Super proud of him,” Chudy added, “He’s worked his butt off since Day 1 since he came here and he’s always gotten better. Now he’s the leading scorer all-time and he’s well deserving.”
North Collins (49)
Zielinski 4 6-6 15, D. Gullo 0 0-2 0, Robinson 4 0-0 8, M. Gullo 2 0-0 6, Loretto 6 1-12 16, Pagels 2 0-0 4. Totals: 18 7-10 49.
Stuve 1 0-1 2, S. Rowland 3 1-2 8, G. Chudy 8 5-9 21, Grinols 2 2-2 6, C. Rowland 3 2-4 8, Bowen 9 5-7 23. Totals: 26 15-25 68.
North Collins 11 27 41 49
Ellicottville 11 23 50 68
Three-point goals: NC 6 (Zielinski, Gullo 2, Loretto 3), Ellicottville 1 (S. Rowland). Total fouls: NC 18, Ellicottville 10. Fouled out: Pagels.