1. Most sports around the world virtually ground to a halt due to
COVID-19, and that included high school sports in New York State. The
state ice hockey championships at Buffalo’s Harborcenter, the “Frozen
Four”, did not take place. Nor did the state boys and girls bowling
championships at Strike-N-Spare Lanes in Mattydale. Finally, the
regional boys and girls basketball championships got canceled, and so
did state championships at Glens Falls’ Cool Insuring Arena (boys) and
Troy’s Hudson Valley Community College (girls). All of that, plus the
Federation championships that were supposed to take place in the
Bronx, were cast aside as the state, and the world, tended to a
pandemic that threatened everyone.
2. As a result, many local teams were denied opportunities at earning
state championships, none as good as the Skaneateles ice hockey team.
Already the 2019 state champions, the Lakers may have been even better
this season, going 22-0-1, its only blemish a December tie with Auburn
that it avenged by beating them 10-0 in January. Garrett Krieger,
Charlie Russell, Charlie Major and Cole Heintz were four of the top
six scorers in Section III Division II, and goaltender Adam Casper
stopped 92 percent of the shots he faced. The Lakers beat Whitesboro
in the sectional final and routed Starpoint in the regional finals,
getting within two wins of a fifth state championship in program
history before it all went away.
3. Despite that defeat in the sectional Division II ice hockey
championship game, Whitesboro also had a chance to earn a state
championship. As many times before, Section III had an at-large berth
for the state tournament and the Warriors, who were ranked in the
state top five all season, earned it by going 17-5-1, or to put it
another way, 17-2-1 against everyone not named Skaneateles. When the
Warriors went into the regional round to face Rye on March 7, it
dominated that game and won 4-0, meaning that it would join
Skaneateles in going to Buffalo’s Harborcenter to battle for a state
title and perhaps match what those Lakers did in 2015 by winning it
all as an at-large, but were denied that opportunity.
4. In boys basketball, it was the Corcoran Cougars ending a 20-year
wait for a Section III title when it won it all in Class AA. Beaten in
the semifinals by Utica-Notre Dame the year before, the Cougars
endured a regular season that included getting swept by West Genesee
and Liverpool, then didn’t have to meet either of them in the
playoffs. While it was DeJour Reaves setting the pace for Corcoran’s
offense most of the season with several 30-plus point outings, it was
D.J. Haynes that earned 15 points and 14 rebounds when the Cougars
knocked off J.J. Starling and Baldwinsville in the sectional final.
Corcoran was going to face Shenendehowa in the regional playoffs and
see where things went from there, but would not.
5. Lowville’s boys basketball team was denied a chance to earn the
state Class B title it got so close to earning in 2019 when Joe Girard
and Glens Falls denied them. The Red Raiders only lost to Albany
Academy during the regular season and was atop the state rankings as
it never got challenged throughout its entire sectional playoff run.
Meanwhile, in Class A it was CBA taking the title from
Jamesville-DeWitt, overcoming a 1-4 start with a tear through January
and February where long-time coach Buddy Wleklinski picked up his
500th career win. Finally, the Brothers upended Bishop Grimes in the
semifinals and claimed a classic over J-D, only to have things end
after a regional playoff victory over Franklin Academy on March 11.
6. No team may have felt sadder about the sudden end to the season
than Weedsport’s boys basketball team, who after four straight
sectional semifinal appearances and 40 years without a sectional title
finally broke those spells when the Warriors defeated defending state
champion Cooperstown in the Class C sectional championship game. That
came after undefeated DeRuyter completed its dominant run through
Class D’s sectional bracket. Having gone 20-0 in the regular season
with a deep lineup where five players averaged scoring in double
figures, the Rockets ran through Belleville-Henderson, Oriskany,
Brookfield and defending champion Lyme to lay claim to a sectional
7. Perhaps the biggest development in Section III girls basketball
this year was the end to Jamesville-DeWitt’s eight-year run as Class A
champions. Injuries hurt the Red Rams early (no Gabby Stickle) and
late (little of Momo LaClair in the sectional final), yet it nearly
got the title anyway, only to be denied in a sectional finals thriller
by CBA, whom it beat in the 2019 semifinals. Four seniors – all-time
leading scorer Brooke Jarvis, Tori Hall, Emily Hall and Maura Clare
Conan – formed an “iron five” with junior Leana Heitmann, and the
Brothers started fast, overcame a mid-season slump and roared through
the sectional playoffs, using its defense to make the key stops late
and finally end J-D’s time on top.
8. Two very familiar teams claimed other sectional girls basketball
titles. C-NS, so dominant in Class AA until West Genesee took over the
last three years, let Baldwinsville have most of the spotlight in the
regular season, but then gave the Bees its only two defeats of the
season, inclduing the sectional final where it led from start to
finish. South Jefferson, the 2019 champions in Class B, repeated amid
a wild 23-team bracket where a no. 13 seed, Bishop Grimes, knocked off
three of the five top seeds, including no. 1 seed Oneida. But the
Sparatns, led by Jackie Piddock, withstood a comeback from Marcellus
in the semifinals and then turned back Grimes in the title game to add
another championship to its long ledger.
9. Just when it looked like Weedsport would take over Class C girls
basketball from reigning champion Cooperstown, the Hawkeyes beat the
Warriors in the sectional final and added to a growing resume of the
last decade that included a 2015 state championship. An even better
story emerged from tiny Brookfield, who made it through 20
regular-season games without a blemish and then, with most of the town
following along, swept the sectional playoffs, too, surviving a tough
semifinal with Lyme and then taking out defending champion Copenhagen
in the title game. Brookfield’s lineup included a seventh-grader, Lily
Vleer-Elliott, who made big contributions throughout the post-season.
10. And a whole bunch of fine local high school bowlers never got a
chance to compete for state championships at Strike-N-Spare Lanes.
They included girls teams from Rome Free Academy and Camden, who made it to the top of their respective sectional team tournaments on
February 2, along with top individuals like Fulton’s Alexis Ingersoll
who earned spots during the sectional shootout. In boys bowling,
Baldwinsville’s boys were a surprise Division I champion, having gone
just .500 in the regular season, while VVS was victorious in Division
II. Individuals such as Fulton’s Mitch Donaldson and C-NS’s Tyler
Dottolo would have represented Section III in that same tournament had
not everything got shut down.