Here are the top 10 topics for the March 2 edition of the Inside High School Sports show.
1. Of all the developments during the Section III boys basketball semifinals at SRC Arena, none was as big as top-seeded Corcoran, in Class AA, getting knocked out by Utica-Notre Dame, the Jugglers prevailing 63-50 as it started fast and never got caught, Jaylen Warmack earning 30 points. Having won Class A a year ago, UND now aims for the big crown, with West Genesee in the way. The Wildcats were awesome in all phases of the game in its 79-52 semifinal rout over Rome Free Academy, led again by Lucas Sutherland, who had 26 points. If West Genesee prevails over the Jugglers Sunday night at the Carrier Dome, it will end a 25-year sectional championship drought that dates back to Jerry Wilcox’s days coaching the Wildcats.
2. The unmatched drama of Bob McKenney coaching against the school he took to five state titles marks the sectional boys basketball Class A final, Bishop Grimes having shut down top seed Whitesboro 53-41 in the semifinals to set up a final against J-D, who closed fast to beat Central Square 63-55. In Class B, an all-Frontier League final was set up when top seed Lowville staged an incredible comeback from an 11-point deficit with less than four minutes left to upend defending champion Westhill 63-60. So it’s the Red Raiders in the title game against General Brown, who played a big fourth quarter of its own to oust Skaneateles 71-65 and give the Lions a shot at a rare sectional basketball title.
3. It should be a great sectional boys basketball Class C final Sunday at the Dome, with the top two seeds, Utica Academy of Science and Cooperstown, squaring off. The Atoms survived an upset bid from no. 12 seed Herkimer 66-62 in the semifinals in overtime, while the Hawkeyes bashed a good Weedsport team 59-34 and have torn through the playoffs so far. The Class D sectional final also has the top two seeds going at it, Lyme facing DeRuyter. During the semifinals, Lyme took over in the second half against Hamilton and knocked out the Emerald Knights 63-51, while DeRuyter was in a thriller against McGraw, but with five players scoring in double figures, the Rockets held off the Eagles 77-72.
4. Of the five sectional girls basketball title games at the Carrier Dome, Friday’s Class A final is particularly special. It’s J-D, winners of seven consecutive sectional championships and 23 straight sectional playoff games, challenged by Bishop Ludden, who won the last two sectional Class B titles before getting moved up and have won 17 in a row. In the semifinals at OCC, the Red Rams had to ride big performances from Gabby Stickle and Momo LaClair to grind out a 47-37 win over a CBA side that knocked out no. 2 seed New Hartford, while the Gaelic Knights, despite Aurora Deshaies’ foul trouble, still pushed past Auburn 63-51 to set up this rare clash of multiple defending sectional champions.
5. Familiar foes go at it for the girls baskeball sectional Class AA and B titles. West Genesee, fresh off seeing Madison and Mackenzie Smith combine for 50 points in a semifinal win over Liverpool, is again challenged by C-NS, who fought past Nottingham in its semifinal led by 29 points from Jessica Cook. It’s a rematch of the 2018 final West Genesee narrowly won. In Class B, long-time powers Westhill and South Jefferson renew acquaintances, the Warriors having prevailed in a close one between them late in December. During the semfiinals, Westhill shut out VVS in the third quarter to break open a close game and win 61-37, while the Spartans pulled away from Syracuse Academy of Science 75-58 to get this far.
6. Not even a special season from Weedsport could get them to the girls basketball sectional Class C championship game. Instead, it’s Cooperstown going after the Hawkeyes won a 63-60 semifinal thriller over the top-seeded Warriors. And Cooperstown gets Little Falls, who shut out Pulaski in the first quarter, only allowed four first-half points and won its semifinal big 56-19. They’re preceded on Thursday night at the Carrier Dome by the Class D final between Copenhagen and Madison. The top-seeded Gold Knights cruised in its semifinal, handling LaFargeville 51-34, but it was far more difficult for the Blue Devils as it needed to play well in the final minute to fend off Brookfield 45-40 to advance to the title game.
7. No one will ever forget the ice hockey sectional Division I championship game at the War Memorial. Syracuse, the defending champs, and West Genesee went at it through 51 minutes of regulation and four overtimes, the Wildcats getting 52 saves from goaltender Chris Wells to keep the game alive and nearly reach a shootout. However, league Player of the Year Sean Eccles scored on an odd-angle goal 2:12 into the final OT period before a possible shootout, and the Cougars won 3-2 to repeat its sectional title. Now it gets to play on home ice at Meachem Rink against the Section V champions, Pittsford, in the regional final Saturday night, hoping to advance to next weekend’s state “Frozen Four” in Buffalo.
8. On the other hand, the Division II ice hockey sectional final at the War Memorial was settled early. Three times in a span of less than three minutes, Skaneateles put in goals to jump out in front of Cortland-Homer, and the Lakers never looked back, eventually prevailing 4-1 over the Golden Eagles, who were playing in its first title game in 20 years. Ryan Gick scored twice for Skaneateles and sophomore goaltender Adam Casper stopped 20 of 21 shots he faced. Like Syracuse, the Lakers get to play on home ice in the regional final, though it lost the last two times it had this chance. Skaneateles faces Section VI champion Grand Island at Allyn Arena Saturday night to see who gets to Buffalo for the Frozen Four next weekend.
9. During last weekend’s state wrestling championships in Albany, just one Section III wrestler won it all – Central Valley Academy’s Hunter Shaut, who claimed a second state title in three years. At 145 pounds in Division II (small schools), Shaut edged Letchworth’s Chase Runfola 3-2 in the finals after Runfola had beaten Marcellus’ Cahal Donovan by that same score in the semifinals. Other wrestlers that got to the finals couldn’t win, most painful that of Phoenix’s Ross McFarland, disqualified in the title bout when it was alleged that he bit Edgemont’s Nick Meglino, a charge McFarland and coach Gene Mills furiously denied. The lone Division I (large schools) wrestler to reach a final, J-D/CBA’s Tyler Kellison, lost 5-4 to Hilton’s Ryan Burgos.
10. Two sets of state championships take place this weekend. There’s indoor track and field at Staten Island’s Ocean Breeze complex, where C-NS’s Jeremiah Willis defends titles in the long jump and triple jump as Liverpool’s Antwan Kelly is favored in the weight throw, with Tully’s Brooke Rauber (distance running) and RFA’s Sarah Crockett (throwing events) favored to medal, too. At Long Island’s Nassau Aquatic Center, there’s the state boys swimming championships, where you could see medals from J-D/CBA’s Chris Bushnell in the 100 backstroke and 100 butterfly, plus good work from Baldwinsville’s Nick Schultz in the 100 breaststroke as he also is part of three different relay teams for the Bees.