BATAVIA — In order to defend its title in the annual Batavia Rotary Club Girls Basketball Tournament, Notre Dame was going to have to do it short-handed, as the Fighting Irish were playing without a pair of starters. Not to mention, the Irish were going to have to accomplish it against a strong Wellsville squad that was making its first appearance at the showcase at Genesee Community College.
In the end, the Lions were simply too much for Notre Dame to handle, while the Fighting Irish couldn’t overcome a plethora of early mistakes.
Senior Jana Whitehouse hit a trio of 3-pointers in the third quarter when Wellsville used a 12-2 run to break open a close game before the Lions would hold off the Fighting Irish 55-46 in the opening game of the 30th annual Rotary Tournament.
Whitehouse hit four triples in all — all in the second half — and finished with a team-high 19 points, while freshman Marley Adams added 12 points and five rebounds for Wellsville (7-1), which took a lead late in the second quarter and never relinquished it.
Up just four points midway through the third quarter, Whitehouse hit back-to-back 3-pointers in the span of less than a minute and Adams scored inside with just under two minutes to play in the frame to put the Lions up 38-26; Wellsville would lead 42-31 after three quarters and the lead would never get to less than six the rest of the night.
Callie McCulley led all scorers on the night with 26 points for Notre Dame to go with eight rebounds, five blocks, four assists and four steals but it wasn’t enough for the Fighting Irish to overcome 24 turnovers, including nine in the first quarter and 16 in the opening half.
Notre Dame was also playing without senior center Stevie Wilcox, who was out with an illness, as well as Emma Finch.
“It made it real tough,” Notre Dame head coach said about playing without Wilcox, the team’s second leading scorer. “Not only because of her offensive skill and rebounding, it put some girls in that haven’t had a ton of experience, including a JV call-up. Of course you want them to get that experience but this may not be the stage to do that.”
Eighth-grader Amelia McCulley added nine points for Notre Dame but the Irish couldn’t keep up with the depth and talent of the Lions.
However, they were able to keep it close early as sharp-shooting Wellsville made just one 3-point bucket in the opening half.
Down 7-4 early, Amelia McCulley scored six straight points for Notre Dame as it opened up a 9-4 lead after her runner from the baseline midway through the opening quarter. But the Lions would hold the Fighting Irish to just one field goal over the final four minutes of the quarter, while senior Quincy Buckley started them on an 8-2 spurt for the final three minutes with a basket in the lane as Wellsville grabbed a 12-11 lead after one.
Buckley had a nice overall night in the win as she finished with nine points, five rebounds, four assists and a pair of steals.
Wellsville then started the second quarter with another run, this one 8-3, that was capped by a pair of buckets in the paint from Whitehouse to go up 20-14 but back would come the Fighting Irish.
Callie McCulley, Dakota Weidman and Jewel Shenck all scored over the next minute-plus as Notre Dame clawed back to even at 20; but a free throw from Adams and Wellsville’s only 3-pointer of the opening 16 minutes — from Buckley — eventually would get the Lions out to 25-20 lead before a Callie McCulley steal and layup cut it to 25-22 at the break.
“Every night she is going to come into a game and have two or three girls on her, they know what she can do,” Coach McCulley said about his niece, Callie. “But the good thing about Callie is that you can move her around on the floor but tonight we couldn’t really move her around that much because we were so limited with what we could do and that hurt us.”
Compared to the Fighting Irish, Wellsville had just five turnovers in the opening half, while it outrebounded Notre Dame 19-8 in the opening two quarters.
Callie McCulley had four points early in the third quarter to keep the Fighting Irish close before Whitehouse and Wellsville started to pull away.
The Wellsville lead was actually 42-28 before Morgan Rhodes hit a 3-pointer with five seconds left in the third to close the gap to 11.
Callie McCulley hit her only 3-pointer of the night 25 seconds into the fourth quarter to cut the Wellsville lead to eight and Amelia McCulley added a triple of her own with five minutes left to close the lead to six at 45-39 but that was as close as Notre Dame could get the rest of the way.
“I thought we played pretty hard but they really collapsed the middle and Callie was getting double and triple-teamed all night,” Coach McCulley said. “And we didn’t have those other girls to pull one girl away.”
Whitehouse hit her fourth 3-pointer of the second half with just over four minutes left to play to end the Fighting Irish spurt and the Lions would hold Notre Dame to just one made field goal over the final five minutes to move to the final to meet Batavia, a 55-28 winner of the second game of the night over Caledonia-Mumford.
Senior Taylor Adams had five points, seven rebounds and three assists in the win for Wellsville, while Regan Marsh had seven points and six boards in the win.
Rhodes had six points and three assists for Notre Dame, which dropped to 6-2.
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