Here are the top 10 topics for the February 22 edition of the Inside High School Sports Show…
1. This week we hit the Section III basketball playoffs. In boys Class AA, West Genesee, the defending state champions, is well-positioned to at least defend its sectional title, having won 12 in a row to close the regular season, including close calls over two of its chief challengers, Corcoran and Baldwinsville. Those three, along with Bishop Ludden, should snare the top seeds, with the Gaelic Knights having gone 17-1 against everyone other than CBA, who swept their “Holy War” meetings. The fact that Henninger, Nottingham and Liverpool all beat, or stayed close to, the top seeds makes all of them dangerous in a single-elimination scenario, even if those top seeds have byes straight into quarterfinal games early next week.
2. Class A boys basketball will prove quite fascinating. Whitesboro made it through the regular season a perfect 20-0, but still might be an underdog to defending champion J-D, who has won 11 in a row. Plus the presence of ESM, red-hot CBA and Central Square in the bracket means that no one, regardless of seed, will have a smooth path to the championship. In Class B the field is large, but everyone is looking up at state no. 1-ranked Lowville, who rolled past rival General Brown for the Frontier League Division I title. Of the Red Raiders’ challengers, Solvay appears in the best position to challenge after securing a league title and going 16-4, the Bearcats returning from two weeks’ rest to debut in the playoffs later this week.
3. Another defending state champion in boys basketball, Cooperstown, will enter the sectional playoffs 15-5, the Hawkeyes in a fairly good position though it’s likely that 18-2 Weedsport will grab the top seed in its attempt to end a 43-year sectional championship drought, with the likes of Herkimer, Frankfort-Schuyler, Onondaga and Cato-Meridian also a threat. In Class D, it’s more top-heavy, starting with DeRuyter coming off a 20-0 regular season and defending champion Lyme sitting at 18-1. There’s Copenhagen and Hamilton poised to threaten, and the big X factor is Faith Heritage, who nearly knocked off DeRuyter this season and mostly faced Class C opponents while still going 14-6.
4. Baldwinsville girls basketball avenged its lone defeat of the season to C-NS last week, but the likely top two seeds for the Class AA playoffs are favored to meet a third time, with only defending champion West Genesee a serious threat. J-D’s run of sectional Class A titles will get challenged by the likes of CBA, Whitesboro and New Hartford, while in Class B there could be a record 23 (!) teams in the field. There’s the top teams like Oneida, South Jefferson (who beat J-D Monday), Marcellus and Westhill, challengers like Adirondack, VVS, Lowville and Syracuse Academy of Science, and some big-time stars like Cazenovia with its all-time leading scorer, Lindsey Lawson, and Chittenango with stat-stuffer Ally Shoemaker.
5. Just like on the boys side, the Class C girls basketball sectional playoffs has a defending champion in Cooperstown and a likely top seed in Weedsport, who went 19-1 in the regular season. Onondaga and West Canada are also in prime seeding position, with Port Byron and Thousand Islands also dangerous. Then there’s Class D, where Brookfield’s rout of Cazenovia completed a perfect regular season at 20-0, but the Beavers are just one of several prime contenders. Copenhagen, trying to defend its title, has an 18-2 record and buzzed through the Frontier League, while Hamilton was 19-1 and may have been the best team in the Center State Conference. Lyme, at 15-4, and Poland, at 14-5, could also pose a threat.
6. When the Section III wrestling championships took place last weekend at SRC Arena, Fulton (Division I) and Central Valley Academy (Division II) took home team honors by big margins. Also, 30 sectional champions qualified for the Feb. 28-29 state meet in Albany. They included CVA’s brother tandem of Mason and Marek Bush, both of whom won their championship bouts by pin, and Dolgeville’s Jacob Null, who won in Division II at 160 pounds and remained undefeated. Up in Division I, Fulton had eight finalists and three champions – Fred Pagan, Dominick Hofmann and Camrin Galvin. Central Square’s Kole Mulhauser won his 145-pound final with a pin over Whitesboro’s Connor Rowlands in just 15 seconds.
7. When they gathered at Nottingham High School for last week’s Section III boys swimming championships, it was Liverpool claiming both the Class A team title and then the overall George Falwell Cup at the state qualifying meet two days later. The Warriors’ Julien Brownlow won the 50 freestyle and Griffin Merkling the 200 individual medley, while Watertown’s Nate Carlos won the 200 freestyle and 100 butterfly. Fulton, in Class B, and Weedsport, in Class C, took those sectional team titles. In diving, J-D’s Lucas Dekaney won in Class A and the state qualifier, but a record seven divers have earned spots in the state meet, including two from West Genesee, Justin Byrne and David Puma, plus divers from New Hartford, F-M, Oswego and Mexico.
8. In boys ice hockey, it’s the start to the Section III playoffs this week, and there’s plenty to digest. In Division I, the top two seeds are Syracuse and West Genesee, and in the quarterfinals they’ll play the winner of games between Liverpool and C-NS, plus CBA/Jamesville-DeWitt and Cazenovia, while in the other quarterfinals on Thursday F-M hosts Rome Free Academy and Baldwinsville takes on Fulton, who it beat 2-1 last Friday to get that playoff game at Lysander. Division II playoff games that feature Cortland-Homer against Oswego, and Clinton against New Hartford, will determine who goes into the semifinals against top seeds Skaneateles and Whitesboro, who meet Wednesday as a tune-up for the playoffs.
9. The quartet of Section III girls volleyball championship matches had plenty of drama to them. Only in Class A was there a sweep, but it involved Cortland topping long-time power Carthage after it upended Chittenango in the semifinals. Class B had high emotion as Oneida knocked off its archrival, VVS, in the finals to give retiring head coach Cynthia Bobo a perfect ending to a great 25-year career. In Class C, the title belongs to Beaver River after it won a classic with Onondaga, the Beavers needing to rally twice to ultimately win in five sets and taking that final set 25-9 over the Tigers. And it was Sandy Creek prevailing in Class D, the Comets knocking off top seed Morrisville-Eaton in four sets.
10. Last week at Rome’s King Pin Lanes, Section III bowlers took part in their Shootout, where only the top two boys and girls finishers would advance to March’s state tournament at Strike-N-Spare. On the boys side, C-NS’s Tyler Dottolo shot a 235 average to finish at 1,410, while Fulton’s Mitch Donaldson finished at 1,395, edging Homer’s Rich Lambrecht by four pins for that second spot. Moving to the girls portion, the two spots were comfortably claimed by Fulton’s Alexis Ingersoll and Liverpool’s Ashley Hardy, with Ingersoll getting a 1,350 series that included six games of 208 or better, including a 255, and Hardy shooting a 1,303 series, more than 100 pins ahead of the third-place finisher, Auburn’s Amber Pidlypchak at 1,186.