Imagine being the Olean Huskies. After starting four sophomores and falling in the Class B state semifinal game last season, winning it all became the expectation this season. High hopes for a team that still rolls out four underclassmen in the starting lineup, but even greater when you consider what they get to do to prepare. Besides the 12 lopsided contests the Huskies are forced to endure (also known as the CCAA I league games), they had three competitive games on the season slate, spaced out from beginning-to middle-to end of the season.
We all know how the first two went – they hung on to claim a thrilling win over Canisius to start and lost to Nichols in a wakeup call without Sam Eckstrom over the holiday break. The polish-up-for-sectionals game was a long roadie to face Section V’s perenial Class AA power, East. Despite multiple schools around them postponing games due to weather, Olean wasn’t missing that game. You see, Huskies love snow, and they also love winning.
Olean found the competitive game they were after last weekend, as they defeated Rochester’s East High, 70-65, in a back-and-forth affair that headlined the first night of the annual RAP (Rochester Area Players) Invitational. The win was the second in as many tries this season for the Huskies, against large schools that were defending champions (Canisius 2012 Manhattan Cup & V-East 2012 Class AA 1 champs).
In game that held 21 lead changes and saw Olean trail most of the third quarter, it was an 8-0 run late in the final stanza that sealed the victory for the Huskies. Wil Bathurst scored with 2:03 remaining to give his team a one-point lead, before Nick Schmidt knocked down a 3-pointer on the ensuing possesion to increase the advantage to four points with 1:37 left. That four-point lead matched the largest for the Huskies at any point in the game (they got out to a 4-0 lead to start), and the Orientals seemed to get frantic because of it. As East would miss desperation shots, Olean would rebound and hit free throws. The Huskies were up 62-55 with 58 seconds remaining.
Sam Eckstrom picked up a pair of quick fouls in the first 2:29 of the game and sat not just the remainder of the quarter, but the remainder of the half. The strategy paid off early in the third, when Eckstrom was called for a phantom charge, but was able to remain in the game. He finished with 13 points, scoring eight of those in the third.
Bathurst paced Olean with 20 points, 14 rebounds, four blocks and one steal. Schmidt scored nine points, Pat Scholla and Max Portlow each netted eight points, and Luke Hennessey added seven points.
Portlow keyed a 7-0 run to finish the third quarter, in which he scored all seven of the points. Scholla was everywhere defensively and delivered multiple touch passes perfectly. Hennessey is as pure a point guard as there is, and he’s money from the charity stripe.
(Chad Andrews is one of the top high school hoops bloggers in Western New York. Speaking of, Chad has a superb blog focused solely on high school hoops titled The View From CenterCourt. It’s a must-read for any fan of the sport. Check it out right here. You can also follow him on Twitter)