There were no overt celebrations on the Olean bench. Hardly even a smile. Winning the Section VI Class B championship was just the latest feat for a team with greater expectations.
“We have one goal in mind, and that’s to win a state championship,” Olean standout Wil Bathurst said after Tuesday night’s 62-50 defeat of East in the sectional final at Buffalo State. “Everything along the way is great, but we’re not celebrating until we get there.”
“This is a step,” said junior classmate Sam Eckstrom, who became the Huskies’ fifth 1,000-point scorer in the win. “You have to take a step every time you come out here.”
It was Bathurst who stepped on the opposition’s throat Tuesday, scoring 27 points, ripping down 19 rebounds, blocking six shots, and controlling the action throughout.
“Wil has just had a fantastic year for us,” Huskies coach Jeff Anastasia said. “He is really an incredible player. You see him when the situation gets tough. He’s able to take control.”
Bathurst scored 12 of his points in the fourth quarter, pushing Olean’s 40-34 lead at the end of the third into double digits. He had six points in the third quarter after East opened the half on a 6-0 run that made it a three-point game. He scored inside on three straight possessions in the second quarter to answer an early East run. And he punctuated the win with a two-handed slam in the final minute after a touchdown pass from Pat Scholla.
“East made a couple of runs and every time we took the run on the chin and came back and extended the lead,” Anastasia said.
“It was really the play of Wil,” Eckstrom said. “He did a great job.”
Eckstrom finished with 17 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. He reached the 1,000-point milestone on a left-handed baby hook that put Olean up, 35-30, with 2:06 left in the third quarter.
“It felt great to get it during a win in the playoffs,” Eckstrom said. “It goes to show, if you work hard, it will pay off.”
Nick Schmidt scored 10 points and had seven assists. Bathurst, Eckstrom and Schmidt are all juniors.
Olean, a state semifinalist last year, opened an early 15-4 lead and went up 29-16 late in the second quarter. But the fifth-seeded Panthers refused to back down to the state’s top-ranked team, forcing turnovers in bunches with their pressure defense and converting them into layups.
“I was very proud of the effort overall,” coach Starling Bryant said. “The kids gave it what they had.”
Johnathon Lewis led East with 15 points. Shawn Young netted 13 points and Percy Bryant had 11. Tyree Tyson, the Panthers’ 6-foot-9 center, scored nine points but wasn’t able to impact the game defensively in the same way he had in previous playoff wins.
East (15-7) played without 6-foot-5 forward Jonathan Kinley, who was injured in a car crash Saturday night, Bryant said. Kinley, who scored 19 points in the B-1 final victory over Fredonia, had a large bandage on his face Tuesday and is still dealing with concussion symptoms.
“He was supposed to be matched up against Bathurst,” Bryant said. “So it threw our plans out of whack.”
Olean plays the winner of tonight’s Section V final between Hornell and Batavia at 4:30 p.m. Saturday in Rochester in Far West Regionals.