By Sam Wilson
Rivals throughout their high school careers — except on the football field — Franklinville and Ellicottville’s basketball seniors will join forces Sunday night.
The Eagles and Panthers comprise half of the 12 roster spots on New York boys roster (three from each school) for the fourth annual Big 30 Basketball Senior Classic, set to tip off at 6 p.m. Sunday after the 4 p.m. girls senior game. That’s a credit to both schools, which saw their senior-laden squads again share the CCAA East II division title and compete at the sectional level at Jamestown Community College.
Representing Franklinville will be the trio of 1,000-point scorers: Sam Erickson (6-foot-5, forward) and guards Isaac Kopp (6-3) and Darren Clark (6-1). They’ll be joined by Ellicottville counterparts Elliot Bowen (6-foot-6 center), Griffin Chudy and Austin Grinols, both guards listed at 6-foot-0.
New York coach Mike Ruether, who led the Allegany-Limestone varsity from 2005-10, said he doesn’t attend many games outside of his hometown Gators’, but followed both schools throughout the year, especially the league co-MVPs, Bowen and Erickson.
“I follow all of the high schools through the paper,” Ruether said. “I’ve been watching, especially the Franklinville and Ellicottville boys, because those two squads played so well this year. I’m looking forward to seeing some of these kids in person. There’s good talent.
“The majority of (the roster) will be coming from the Franklinville and Ellicottville squads. The big guys have played exceptionally well all year and they can come outside a little bit. You really have to figure out, I think the toughest thing coaching this game, is how to make sure everyone gets the right playing time and who to pair up together. I’ve got the two bigs from Franklinville and Ellicottville and I’ll probably separate those, but those two guys the’ve been dominating the whole Big 30 all season and I’m really looking to seeing these kids in person.”
Hercules Rasha, the 6-foot-1 guard/forward leading scorer for the Salamanca Warriors, will also suit up for New York on Sunday.
Ruether doesn’t expect to do much in terms of complicated scheming for the all-star format. Big 30 Athletic Fund committee members, who organize the game, will mandate players share equal playing time.
But Ruether still imagines his players will compete for the victory.
“Well, we want New York to win, that’s very important,” Ruether said with a laugh. “Of course you want to win. These kids are competitors, so they want to win, first of all. They don’t want to lose their last high school game, so it’s going to be a delicate balance of having a good time, which we really want these kids to have, but stay in that competitive mode that they’ve been in, especially these kids from Franklinville and Ellicottville who have been playing deep into the playoffs. They should be just raring to go. I think the competitive nature in these kids will take over and they’ll play hard. I don’t want them to get out of the way so some kid can dunk it, but on the other hand don’t do something stupid either by getting hurt. I just think their competitive juices will take over and they’ll play to win. Nobody likes to lose.”
Pennsylvania boys coach Don Kirby, who spent 20 years on the sidelines for Coudersport and five for Oswayo Valley, expects even playing time, and his players to enjoy themselves.
“They have a numbered system so every player plays,” Kirby said. “That was one of my first questions because when you have an all-star game like this, you want every player to play about equal. The committee has taken care of that with the numbering system and they actually will do the substituting. My thing I will have to do is sit down with the roster and look at the substituting rotation and put the names to the numbers. So that’s taken care of.
“This is an all-star game. I’d like all the kids to have a good experience, to have the best possible experience they can have. It’s not an intense win-lose type of thing. It’s more of getting the kids to play the best they can together.”
Evelyn Cortez, the 5-foot-3 guard from Ellicottville, has accepted an invitation to play for the New York girls, who will be coached by Wellsville’s Michelle Alvord and assistant Tony DeSain. The team includes three players from the Class C state final four Allegany-Limestone Gators, Molly Wolfgang, Brooke Giardini and Morgan Davis, who expect to return to compete regardless of their outcome in Hudson Valley this weekend. Franklinville’s Ally Haskell and Amy O’Neal accepted invitations, but will not play as the Panthers start Class D final four play Saturday afternoon for a potential Sunday final.
This year’s Big 30 Basketball Hall of Fame class includes former Salamanca basketball star Kathy (Carroll) Beals, who helped lead the Warriors to their first and only state championship in the sport in 1987-88.
Also set for induction are Dave Steffan (Sheffield), Joe Vecellio (Bradford Central Christian), Ron Sweeney (Fillmore) and Jeff Nix (Portville).
The hall of famers will be inducted at halftime of the boys game. Doors open at Portville Central at 3:15 p.m. with a $5 entry fee covering both games. Proceeds benefit the Big 30 Athletic Fund, which awards scholarships to student-athletes in the Big 30 area.