1. When the dust settled from the early rounds of the Section III boys basketball playoffs, the top four seeds had made it through in each of the three biggest classes. But it wasn’t easy in Class AA for either of the top seeds, as Corcoran trailed Nottingham in the fourth quarter of their quarterfinal, only to have the Cougars rally to win. Similarly, West Genesee trailed Baldwinsville by 14 in third quarter of its quarterfinal, but without an injured J.J. Starliing the Bees’ offense went quiet and the Wildcats came back to win. So in Sunday’s sectional semifinal at SRC Arena, West Genesee plays Rome Free Academy, who ousted Bishop Ludden, and Corcoran faces Utica-Notre Dame after the Jugglers knocked out C-NS.
2. Similarly, the top four seeds made it through also in Class A and B. Whitesboro, the top seed in Class A, survived a mid-game power outage that delayed the finish 24 hours and topped Auburn, leading to a semifinal against Bishop Grimes, who took out ESM, while no. 2 seed J-D beat Cortland for a third time and readied for a semifinal against Central Square, with whom it split two regular-season meetings. In Class B, top seed Lowville rolled through the early rounds but faces a semifinal Saturday night against two-time defending champion Westhill, while Skaneateles edged Jordan-Elbridge 55-54 as the no. 2 seed Lakers moved on to a semifinal against General Brown, the no. 3 seed Lions taking out Sherburne-Earlville.
3. Form did break a bit in the Class C boys basketball sectional playoffs, where no. 12 seed Herkimer made it through the early rounds to earn a semifinal against top seed Utica Academy of Science, while no. 2 seed Cooperstown, back at full strength, smashed through its first two games and gets a juicy semifinal against no. 3 seed Weedsport. Meanwhile, in Class D, the lowest remaining seed is Tom Blackford’s Hamliton side, who won at LaFargeville, giving the no. 5 seed Emerald Knights a chance to challenge top seed Lyme in the semifinals. DeRuyter, the no. 2 seed, turned back Faith Heritage, and defending champion McGraw ousted New York mills, so it’s the Rockets against the Eagles in the semifinals.
4. In the girls basketball Section III playoffs, the big surprise came in Class A, where CBA rose from a no. 10 seed to win in the first round at Central Square and then use a last-second 3-pointer from Kaily Campbell to stun no. 2 seed New Hartford 61-59, earning the Brothers a chance to knock off reigning three-time state champion J-D in the semifinals as top seed Bishop Ludden gets Indian River in the other semifinal. Meanwhile, in Class AA all the home teams won their quarterfinals, so in the semifinals two-time defending champion West Genesee will get challenged by Liverpool as C-NS, who gained the top seed, battles Nottingham for berths in the March 1 title game at the Carrier Dome.
5. Westhill holds the top seed in the girls basketball sectional Class B playoffs, and it has made it to a semifinal Sunday against no. 4 seed VVS, while Syracuse Academy of Science upended no. 2 seed Oneida in the quarterfinals to earn a semifinal date with South Jefferson. A really good Class C sectional semifinal pits top seed Weedsport against no. 4 seed Cooperstown, who has charged through the last two months of the season, while no. 2 seed Little Falls gets a semifinal challenge from Pulaski, who won at no. 3 seed LaFayette. And in Class D, the top four seeds remain, top seed Copenhagen against LaFargeville (who pushed them to OT earlier this month) and no. 2 seed Madison facing Brookfield.
6. Now the Section III ice hockey championship games are set for next Monday at the War Memorial. In Division I, it’s Syracuse defending its title against its predecessors, West Genesee, this after semifinals on Wednesday where the Wildcats fended off a challenge from F-M 4-2 and the Cougars were impressive in blanking Baldwinsville 5-0. In Division II, state no. 1-ranked Skaneateles will face Cortland-Homer, as in the semifinals the Lakers dethroned defending champion (and Route 20 rival) Auburn in a tense 4-3 battle with Jack Henry’s three-goal hat trick, while the Golden Eagles romped past Whitesboro 6-1 and are trying for a first-ever sectional title, in contrast to Skaneateles seeking a third championship in four years.
7. This is the weekend where the state wrestling championships take place at Albany’s Times Union Center. As usual, Division II (small school) wrestlers from Section III are favored in many weight classes, including two former state champions, Central Valley Academy’s Hunter Shaut at 145 pounds and Phoenix’s Ross McFarland at 182 pounds, who didn’t win their sectional tournaments yet still could win it all, with Marcellus’ Cahal Donovan challenging Shaut at 145 while at the state tournament for the fourth time. CBA/J-D’s Tyler Kellison, a third-place finisher at 126 pounds in Division I a year ago, has as good a chance as any local wrestler to seek a state title in the tougher large-school portion. Finals are Saturday night.
8. In the boys swimming Section III championships at Nottingham, a unique thing happened – a tie for first place in Class B when Mexico and Fulton both finished with 425.5 points. Meanwhile, Liverpool repeated as both Class A champions and claimed the George Falwell Cup during the state qualifier, with Weedsport earning the Class C championship. During that state qualifier, J-D/CBA senior Chris Bushnell was named the Most Outstading Swimmer after winning the 100 butterfly and breaking his own school record in the 100 backstroke. But another great story was Syracuse’s Belal Hamad, who won both the 200 and 500 freestyle, qualifying for the state meet in both of those races.
9. They crowned the Section III girls volleyball champions last Saturday. New Hartford survived a five-set epic with ESM in the semifinals and went on to defeat Carthage in four sets to finish a perfect season and earn the Class A title. In Class B, it was all Chittenango as the Bears swept Canastota for a third striaght sectional crown, also undefeated, this following a semifinal four-set win over Oneida. And Mount Markham completed its own perfect season by rolling past Sandy Creek for the Class C sectional championship after surviving a four-set semifinal with Beaver River. Only Morrisville-Eaton lost a match this winter and went on to a sectional title, the Warriors sweeping Old Forge in the Class D final to finish 14-7.
10. They held the Section III Shootout in boys and girls bowling last week at Rome’s King Pin Lanes. The top two finishers advanced to next month’s state tournament at Strike-N-Spare Lanes. The boys title went to Central Square’s Dimitri Queior, who shot a 279 in his last game to finish at 1,426 as Indian River’s E.J. Omiola finished second. Whitesboro’s Tom Davis had a 300 game as he finished fifth. In the girls shootout, ESM’s America Carhart beat 25 challengers, shooting six games of 190 or better, including a 257, to finish at 1,341, holding off Utica Proctor’s Kaitlynn Conte by 18 pins for that top spot, though Carhart and Conte will both represent Section III in the state tournament.