That is the only word that comes to mind when you describe the journey that head coach Glenn Anderson and the Allegany-Limestone Gators have had while spending the last two years on top of Section VI Class B-2.
Further, the paradise of being in the state top-25 all season long was not easy.
Their season came to an abrupt halt on Crossover Tuesday at the dispense of cross-town rival Olean.
In a recent interview with WNY Athletics, Anderson remarked “When you return that many guys off a team that won a section title the year before, there are obviously expectations. I think we had our expectations, and everyone else had their expectations.”
The difference of expectations caused some pressure early on in the season for the Gators. However, for the team nestled inside Allegany-Limestone, it was a learned lesson which came after two tough non-league games that allowed them to fulfill lifelong dreams.
Anderson remarked “We said let’s just take it one game at a time and go from there.”
On top of being frazzled by the amount of pressure that they were feeling the green, black, and white had to fill the void of losing two very good players to graduation in 2019.
Sam Flanders could score from any level. Connor Golley was the partner-in-crime to Casey Curran in 2019. Curran was able to continue doing what he does best down low on the defensive end, grabbing rebounds;
Michael Wolfgang was able to join him down there, and Tyler Curran was able to fill the shoes of Flanders. However, the adjustment was not an easy one early on.
Wolfgang stated “It was very difficult. They were two really great players and they’ve done a lot for the program. We knew going forward we had to replace rebounding and we had to replace scoring. We kinda spread the load out amongst the five starters.”
Two rising stars in Jayden Gustaufson and Tyler Curran made it known that the communication was not there between the guys on the floor early on.
They were certainly right; Anderson could be heard harping on the players to talk and communicate at any point within a game.
“We are all good buddies… there’s no doubt about that; it’s just trying to overrule the other” Gustaufson conversed.
Ultimately the early adjustments paid off in favor of Wolfgang and his team. The combination of players on the floor at all times proved to be a handful for most of the opposition that the Gators faced.
According to Anderson the players had one goal in mind.
“They wanted to be ranked,” explained Anderson. “They wanted to be thought of as one of the best teams in the area for the whole season.”
They were able to do just that. Centercourt ranked them as high as #2 in Western New York. Even more impressively, on the night of their final game, the Gators were ranked ninth in Class B for all of New York.
It was not an easy road through the playoffs. The Gators had to play a league foe in Fredonia for a third time in the semi-finals in order to have a shot at repeating.
The younger Curran knew it was going to be tough but he knew his team needed to stay composed.
“We just had to play our best game,” he recalled on what was going through his head.
The Hillbillies were down ten with just over a minute left and scrambled all the way back to take a one point lead, forcing Anderson to take a timeout and draw up a play. Despite missing a down screen from a teammate Tyler Curran was able to swing the ball to his brother for the game-winner.
“I knew it was going in,” Tyler Curran said of the shot his brother launched.
Then came the real feat, beating the Newfane Panthers to repeat as Section VI Champions. Their lockdown defense did the job for them all game long and carried them to a title.
For Ben Giardini, it hit him before the buzzer sounded.
“I looked over to Anderson and smiled as soon as Michael (Wolfgang) hit the big three and looked at me and smiled back.” It was just an awesome moment,” said Giardini.
Three days later, the journey came to an abrupt end courtesy of a three-point punch from Olean standout Covi James.
Each player will tell you it was a hard loss but they take full responsibility for it.
Wolfgang said, “As soon as he shot it you knew it was going in. We missed a rotation there.”
It was hard for everyone to swallow, especially for the Senior class.
However, there is one thing that stuck with the group.
“Nothing I say to you right now is going to make you feel any better but this is not the greatest thing you’ll ever do,” Anderson explained to the team following the game.
The bus ride back was a quiet one as the pain stung on for days. However, they have come to terms with it. “It was one hell of a ride,” said Gustafson.
Now the team is looking forward to next year.
“We are really excited for the young guys we have coming up,” remarked Anderson.