February 22, 2013
Yes, we'll get to the basketball, but we must start on the ice, where four Section III hockey semifinals brought varying degrees of drama - and in the case of Division II, they played for quite a while.
At Allyn Arena Tuesday night, it all started with Skaneateles hosting CBA/J-D. When the Lakers, trailing 3-1, finally woke up and tied things in the third period 3-3, most of the Laker partisans were convinced that, in overtime, it wasn't a question of who, but when, and which Skaneateles player would do the honors.
Funny thing, though - no Laker did. And neither did any Brother through two tense and scoreless OT periods. Only in the third extra period did someone put it in the net - and that someone was Ryan Durkin, who broke away and beat Ethan Kupp to win it 4-3.
So CBA/J-D, without a title for 32 years, have knocked off Auburn and Skaneateles on the road. After coach Mike McKie lost his father a week ago, is some sort of cosmic fate at work here?
They'll really feel that way if the Brothers beat Oswego in Saturday's final at Utica Auditorium. Not to be topped, the Buccaneers and semifinal opponent New Hartford also went deep into the night on Thursday.
Again, the road team gave up a late two-goal lead as the Spartans, down 4-2, tied it 4-4 on Greydon Nimey's goal with a minute left. Again, the visitors didn't panic, even through one overtime where New Hartford's possible game-winner nicked the pipe.
And in the second OT....again, the road team came out on top, David Walpole broke in, eluded a defender and put home the decisive goal, and the Bucs, 5-4, earned a shot at keeping its title.
Both of the top seeds lost epic games at home. Did the long layoffs (13 days for the Lakers, 15 days for the Spartans) play a factor? They played an extra round in Division I, and without the long break, every team with home ice came out on top.
Rome Free Academy did so by displaying its depth against Baldwinsville on Tuesday in one semifinal. Trailing 2-1, the Black Knights erupted for four unanswered goals, with Mike Seifert (two goals, one assist) leading the charge, and won 5-2, earning yet another chance to end a two-decade-long sectional championship drought.
And once more, West Genesee is in RFA's way. The dream season of C-NS, who sat atop the state rankings for more than a month, merited better than a semifinal at Shove Park, but that's what the Northstars got, and short-handed goals from Nick Mellen and David Procopio , plus the usual defense and great work in goal by Henry Burns, helped the Wildcats prevail 2-1.
This is the third straight year West Genesee and RFA are playing for it all. Either the Black Knights get long-awaited satisfaction, or the Wildcats make it six in a row, which given that it has just three seniors and lost so much talent from a year ago, would be, arguably, Frank Colabufo's best coaching job.
While all this was going on, it was quarterfinal time in Section III basketball, where all the big teams hit the stage and, with one very notable exception, stayed on the stage for this weekend's semifinal festival.
That exception was Westhill's girls, who were a bit unlucky to have a no. 2 seed in Class B - and have to face Emily Durr and Utica-Notre Dame. And it was all Jugglers, a 60-40 masterpiece where Durr got most of her 23 points in the first half and her teammates put it away later.
Though it was less of a surprise, no. 3 Holland Patent fell, too, Bishop Grimes edging them 55-53, and getting a semifinal with UND. South Jefferson, the top seed, is now 19-0, bashing Skaneateles to set up a semifinal with short-handed Cazenovia, who needed late drama and a bunch of 3-pointers from Audrey Burbidge to survive Sherburne-Earlville.
Home court held everywhere on the girls side in Class AA and A, leading us to see C-NS against West Genesee (who was impressive taking out Nottingham) in a 2012 title game rematch, while CBA squares off with Corcoran in pursuit of reaching its first-ever AA final.
In Class A J-D, defending its top seed, gets revived Oneida right after two stars, Carthage's Zakiya Saunders and Whitesboro's Jennifer Deuel, meet in the other semifinal. Deuel comes off a 34-point performance in a quarterfinal rout of Cortland.
That sound you hear from Fabius-Pompey is utter relief after the 20-0 Falcons, despite baskets from just two players (Kirsten Dodge and Rachel Scalisi), scraped past West Canada 27-25 in the Class C-2 semifinal. This means the Falcons must beat Weedsport for a third time this season in Saturday's final after the Warriors pushed past Onondaga.
Up in C-1, the champs from Little Falls won its own thriller, 42-41, over no. 2 seed Thousand Islands, getting 17 points from Gen Schoff, and now the Mounties will go after top seed Cooperstown, who had an easier time eliminating Herkimer 47-34.
The top four seeds moved ahead in Class D girls, too, leading to Sunday semifinals where unbeaten Oriskany awaits Sackets Harbor and New York Mills, who survived a tense battle with Hamilton, now will face Copenhagen.
Alas, for the Sackets Harbor boys its state Class D title reign is over. Faith Heritage ended it - or, more accurately, Luke Last ended it, his 26 points pushing the Saints past the Patriots 51-43. Now the easy part for Faith - beating the other megapower, NY Mills, as top seed McGraw puts a 16-game win streak on the line against Cincinnatus in the other semi.
Quite a story at Mohawk - it's about to merge with Ilion, but might win Class C-2 boys hoops before it goes. The Mohicans and West Canada clash in one C-2 semifinal on Saturday, while Waterville, who held off Port Byron 61-57, now must confront Fabius-Pompey. Seeds have held in Class C-1, where no. 1 Beaver River takes on Little Falls and no. 2 Tully takes the measure of Thousand Islands.
To win in Class B, top seed South Jefferson might have to upend the entire OHSL Liberty power structure. Tom Bassett's 33 points saved things for the Spartans against Bishop Grimes, but red-hot Skaneateles now awaits after two easy playoff wins to start. Westhill, and Jordan Roland, has to be favored against a Clinton side that needed overtime to edge past Syracuse Academy of Science.
Bishop Ludden did end things for J-D, 57-45, so for the first time since 2007 the Red Rams aren't going to Glens Falls. The Gaelic Knights could, but it must pass a brutal semifinal Sunday with Cortland, who pushed Ludden hard in January. A few 3s might be flying when top seed Carthage meets New Hartford, since both sides love to hit from downtown.
F-M's scary beatdown of CBA must worry Utica Proctor in the Class AA semifinal, as the Raiders had a tougher time fighting off C-NS and knows that its close call with the Hornets two weeks ago was largely due to Jake Wittig's absence.
West Genesee might have to topple the top three seeds to pull this off. Phil Allen got them started with his 29 points to knock off no. 3 Nottingham, and now it gets a no. 2 Henninger side that it nearly beat twice in January. The Black Knights, who held off Liverpool with clutch free-throw shooting, is trying to get to the finals for the third time.
Both AA semifinals, girls and boys, take place at Le Moyne, but everything else is up at OCC, a veritable festival of 18 games spread out over three days at the larger SRC Arena and the smaller Allyn Gym. In between SU-Georgetown stuff, get up there if you can. It will be fun.