Mar 10, 2011 Phil Blackwell Uncategorized
From a warm and windy Friday to a Sunday blanketed by relentless snow, they got in 12 basketball games at Utica Memorial Auditorium and handed out 12 Section III championships.
And each of the 12 contests provided a specific memory, something that lingers long after the awards are handed out and fates in the state playoffs are determined.
To start on Friday….Kirsten Dodge comes of age. Raw at the start of the season, the 6-4 Fabius-Pompey sophomore was the main reason the undefeated Falcons stayed that way. With Mohawk bent on stopping Stevie Ray in the C-2 final, Dodge kept getting open inside, kept receving the ball – and kept converting, to the tune of 30 points. And F-P had a first-ever girls hoops title to celebrate.
Then there was Watertown IHC’s first quarter against Cooperstown. So what if the Redskins were the top seed. The Cavaliers, led by Adrianna Spicer, spent those eight minutes putting on a clinic of full-court chaos, pressure leading to turnovers leading to fast breaks leading to baskets. In all, 24 points in a row, and IHC had the Class C-1 title firmly secured.
Saturday saw two city upstarts have their day, starting with Syracuse Academy of Science over Onondaga in the C-2 final. It was impressive enough that the Atoms could prevail while playing far from its (very fast-paced) comfort zone. But SAS also made the plays in the clutch – Kaleel Johnson’s steal and lay-up to get the lead, and Dakeem McLain’s two clutch free throws with 5.7 seconds left.
IT went from nothing (4-14 a year ago) to the C-1 championship on Jahcin Ingram’s wings. Merely good until late this season, he became the Eagles’ undisputed leader, and did just about everything in the final, from 23 points to eight rebounds and eight steals. Both SAS and IT played its best in the stretch, just when a newcomer ought to fold, which was quite impressive.
On the other hand, Jamesville-DeWitt is very used to this. Still, the toughest thing to do is what everyone expects, and when Cortland, in the Class A final, threatened to derail the Red Rams again, DaJuan Coleman got a bit assertive. Try 22 second-half points, everything from dunks that nearly brought the rim down to a pair of 3-pointers. So that makes four in a row.
No one delivered more than Westhill’s Kevin McAvoy in the Class B final – which figures, since his ace pitching got the baseball Warriors a state title nine months ago. Here, he fired up 34 points to put a stunning end to the Skaneateles dream season. Great athletes seem to deliver in the clutch, no matter what the sport in question.
In the third epochal Class AA final in as many years, the hero was…Terrell Nelson? He never even played at Henninger until his senior year, yet somehow he put up 19 points in this overtime classic and the Black Knights, overcoming the loud home crowd and three players fouling out, broke Utica Proctor’s hearts. Of course, the Raiders’ woes at the foul line contributed, too.
Like J-D, New York Mills only has a state championship in mind and a big man in the middle, Matt Welch, to take them there. The Class D final presented itself as a small bump, but Lyme made the Marauders work for its latest crown. It took Welch’s 24 points and 11 rebounds to get Mills home for its 43rd win in 44 games. A bit impressive, eh?
Move to Sunday, and what stick out most, out of all the girls finals played, was Hamilton’s Katie Weeks staying cool in the most heated of situations. Faced with three free throws in the waning seconds of regulation in the Class D final, and needing to make all of them to tie Sackets Harbor, Weeks went swish, swish, swish – none of them even touched rim. The Emerald Knights then fended off the Patriots in overtime for back-to-back sectional championships.
Nothing as dramatic took place in the other finals, but there was still a lot to praise, starting with Cazenovia’s dual sports threats. Like Kevin McAvoy on the boys side, Ellen Burr and Raeanne Clabeaux are state champions (from field hockey), love the big stage and relish big-time pressure. So was it any surprise that it was Burr and Clabeaux fueling the second-half comeback that the Lakers used to subdue Utica-Notre Dame in the Class B final?
Even less surprising was seeing Whitesboro complete its season-long Class A blitz over rival New Hartford. In each aspect of the game, the Warriors delivered, whether it was smothering defense (just nine first-half points allowed) or a diverse attack which mixes well the size of Allie Cady and Francesca Cotrupe with the skill of Jennifer Deuel. No wonder a huge Whitesboro contingent turned out for the coronation.
Finally, two stars glowed in the Class AA final. Pitt-bound Bri Kiesel did everything she could for Utica Proctor, causing defensive havoc and lighting up the board for 23 points. Alas, Cicero-North Syracuse had too much, and it doesn’t hurt to have UConn-bound Breanna Stewart turn into a point guard to help the Northstars get away in the second half. And Stewart still had the usual 12 boards and nine blocks.
True, it’s been a frightful winter, and the trip home from Utica Sunday night – an hour and a half through a 50-mile snow tunnel – was quite fitting. Still, seeing all that great basketball, and the champs it produced, was worth the trouble.