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The Blackwell Blog

Joining the conversation

Now winter sports is fully underway. The last holdouts was indoor track, but last Wednesday and Friday the Jack Morse Relays kicked off the winter full of activity at SRC Arena.

Much like Manley Field House in the old days, OCC is now the go-to venue, which likely saved a fair amount of indoor programs in the area. So we're all grateful to have it.

As for the first meets, they were close ones. C-NS held off Baldwinsville for the boys championship, but the girls meet ended up a tie between F-M and Liverpool, more impressive considering that the Hornets had none of the national cross country champions with them yet.

Move on to wrestling, and another full weekend of meets saw Phoenix win at its own round robin, South Jefferson go to the top at the Camden Classic and General Brown outlast Indian River in the North Country Invitational. Also note how Holland Patent won at Ravena's Lewis Johnson Duals and Central Square prevailed over Cazenovia in the Groton Duals.

It's getting fun in Division II hockey. Just when Skaneateles appeared ready to pull clear of the rest of the field, Oswego reminded everyone that, yes, they were still the reigning sectional champions, toppling the Lakers 5-3. Now both of last year's finalists will deal with New Hartford, the Spartans 4-0-1 after blowing a late lead to Cazenovia in a 4-4 tie, but still miles ahead of the struggles that followed back-to-back state titles in 2009 and '10.

Division I hockey? Same as always, for now, as West Genesee, after giving coach Frank Colabufo his 300th win on Dec. 7, went on the road to beat F-M and Baldwnsville in back-to-back games, all setting up this Friday's big test at Kennedy Arena against Rome Free Academy.

The Black Knights' Nov. 30 win over C-NS looks better and better since the Northstars have won five in a row in response, including a tournament win in Canton last weekend as Eric Hamilton became the school's all-time leading scorer and is a serious Player of the Year front-runner.

Now, to hoops. Yes, you know about Bishop Ludden, and Henninger, and neither of them did anything to discourage the favorite's tags around them, including the Gaelic Knights ending a seven-year drought in a hard-fought win over CBA.

And certainly you are aware of the favorites on the girls side. C-NS may be just as tough this year without a megastar, as Liverpool found out, and Westhill is still the front-runner on the OHSL Liberty side until proven otherwise, as Skaneateles found out.

What's always fun about this time of the year, though, is seeing new faces at the top. Faces like Phoenix and Syracuse Academy of Science, both new to the OHSL Liberty ranks, both of them 4-0 going into this week after winning twin 60-58 thrillers on consecutive nights over established favorites - the Firebirds over Bishop Grimes, the Atoms over Westhill.

Then there's New Hartford, who staked a claim as the Mohawk Valley's top side by beating Utica Proctor 58-46, just days after South Jefferson announced its presence by shutting down previously unbeaten Beaver River, who was lodged in the state Class C top five.

You also have both teams from Cazenovia emerging as contenders. With the undefeated girls Lakers, it's a matter of not having yet faced the favorites, which will change when it hosts Skaneateles Thursday night, but it's still got a terrific go-to player in Maggie Carpenter and lots of defense, too.

Essentially, Paul Harney has built the same formula with the Caz boys, except that he's got two reliable scorers in Kevin Hopsicker and Andrew Vogl, plus a real sixth man in Ryman Seeley. The Lakers did take a blemish against those fast starters from Phoenix, but you'll hear from them the rest of the winter.

From Proctor-Henninger to F-M-Nottingham to Sackets Harbor-Beaver RIver, there's no shortage of big games, and no big let-up until the holiday break is in sight. There's a lot more to find out.

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