Ellicottville senior Tyler Dunne grabbed a rebound in Friday night's game with rival North Collins, and was ready to go back up to the hoop when a defender's elbow crashed down on the top of his head.
"I've gotten hurt driving hard to the hole before, so I thought I had a bruise," Dunne said. "I put my hand on my head, and everyone started looking at me funny."
That's because there was blood trickling down his face. There were plenty of gasps from a packed gym at Ellicottville Central, full of fans celebrating the school's Winter Weekend. With blood covering Dunne's jersey and his shorts, the scene was grisly enough that a few cheerleaders had to leave the gym.
Dunne had to leave the gym, too.
But he would be back.
Dunne's parents, Steve and Loria, took their son down Route 219 to the Ellicottville Orthopedic Clinic rather than wait for an ambulance ride to Olean. On the way, Dunne's father half-joked about how his son could "pull a Willis Reed," referring to the famous return from injury by the New York Knicks legend in 1970.
"My dad and I are on the same wavelength," Tyler said. "Once it came up, there was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to get back in the game."
Dunne had his wound shut with five stitches, asked the doctor if he could go back and play, and all of a sudden the Dunnes were headed back to the gym with Tyler clutching a doctor's note in his bloody hand.
He got back to the school, raced in the door of the gym and saw that it was only early in the third quarter. Meanwhile, the crowd went nuts.
"Fortunately it was Winter Weekend, so halftime took longer," he said. "I just walked right into the gym and . . . it was really humbling. I don't like to be the center of attention or anything like that, but it was really awesome."
He went to the bench and asked coach Tim Bergan where the clean uniforms were. "I didn't want to put him in danger," Bergan said, "but his father and the doctor felt there was no danger, so I let him have a go at it."
Great move, coach. Dunne scored nine of his 11 points in the fourth quarter, including a three-pointer and four straight free throws for his team's last seven points in a 65-57 win. "I just had all this energy bottled up," he said. "I just remember getting on the court and all my teammates were just nodding to each other.
"The best part of it was that when I got back, people told me how my younger brother [sophomore Austin] just played possessed, diving all over the court. I love this team. Everyone was making plays. We're not the biggest, fastest or strongest or the most talented, but we have tons of heart. And this game symbolized that."
>Not ready for Primetime
Paul Harris and Lazar Hayward won't be participating in Sunday's Primetime Shootout after all.
Harris, the former Niagara Falls standout headed to Syracuse University, and Hayward, a Traditional graduate who has signed with Marquette, play for Notre Dame Prep of Fitchburg, Mass., one of the top prep school basketball teams in the country. For several months, Notre Dame was scheduled to play in the prestigious event Sunday evening in the game prior to Niagara Falls' 6:30 p.m. game with Vashon of St. Louis.
Last week Notre Dame was dropped from the schedule because tournament organizers could not match up the prep school with a high school team that was able to play them. Many states, including New York, forbid high school teams from playing prep schools.
"They had too many [postgraduate players who graduated from high school]," said Jeff Hewitson, the team selection chairman and founder of the 28th-year event. "It just wouldn't work out. Schools who were part of their [state] federations are prohibited from playing them. We couldn't get anyone who wanted to play them and was able to play them. And not too many wanted to play them -- they have a great team."
>Around the halls
Niagara Falls junior guard Jonathan Flynn was called "the best guard in the tournament field" in rivals.com's review of this past weekend's Montverde (Fla.) Invitational, an event full of Division I recruits. . . . Ellicottville basketball and football coach (and lifelong Pittsburgh Steelers fan) Tim Bergan was a guest of the Rooney family at Sunday's Super Bowl. Bergan said he befriended A.J. Rooney, Steelers owner Dan Rooney's eldest son and a lawyer for the Steelers, when A.J. Rooney stayed with Bergan and his wife while Rooney attended St. Bonaventure.