Here are the top 10 topics for the March 9 edition of the Inside High School Sports show.
1. After a 25-year wait, West Genesee earned the Section III Class AA boys basketball championship, but it sure wasn’t easy. Utica-Notre Dame, held to 10 points in the first half of Sunday’s sectional title game at the Carrier Dome, caught up with Jaylen Warmack’s 15-point third quarter, but the Wildcats regained the lead and, down the stretch, held on largely thanks to Will Amica’s clutch plays and free throws to beat the Jugglers 41-38. Now West Genesee faces Saratoga Springs (who ended its own 31-year sectional title drought in Section II) in Saturday’s regional final at SRC Arena, with the winner getting to Binghamton for the state final four the following weekend.
2. For the second time in three years, J-D won the boys basketball sectional Class A title, using a big second-half run to take charge and eventually hold off Bishop Grimes 73-68. The Red Rams likely face Troy in Saturday’s regional final at SRC Arena after the Class B game which pits Lowville against Owego. Quite unlike J-D, Lowville had to wait a long time – 55 years, since 1964 – to get a sectional title, but got it emphatically as the Red Raiders routed General Brown 77-47 led by Aidan Zehr’s six 3-pointers and 21 points overall. It proved that the Red Raiders’ massive fourth-quarter comeback to beat defending champion Westhill in the semifinals was the pivotal moment of the sectional tournament.
3. Cooperstown reclaimed the boys basketball sectional Class C crown it lost to Tully one year ago, rallying from 10 points down to overtake Utica Academy of Science and win 61-57 in the sectional final at the Dome, avenging a February defeat to the Atoms and setting up the Hawkeyes for a regional final Sunday against Unadilla Valley in the same Binghamton arena where the state final four is taking place. As for Class D, the sectional title went to top seed Lyme, who ended a 41-year championship drought with a tight 54-50 win over DeRuyter in the sectional final. Having improved to 21-2 overall, the Indians go to SUNY-Potsdam Friday night for its regional final against Harrisville, from Section X.
4. It was a three-pete for the West Genesee girls basketball team in the sectional Class AA final last Friday at the Carrier Dome. A 20-2 domination of the second quarter helped the Wildcats handle C-NS 62-48, and now it looks to avenge a lopsided late-December defeat to Shenendehowa in the regional final at SRC Arena on Saturday. J-D, meanwhile, made it eight consecutive sectional Class A titles, trailing Bishop Ludden at halftime but then smothering them in the second half, giving up just nine points on the way to a 57-44 win. J-D would, for the sixth straight year, try to beat Averill Park in the regional round, needing two wins to get back to Troy for a shot at a fourth straight state championship.
5. South Jefferson is back on top in Class B girls basketball after a thrilling 54-50 win over Westhill in the sectional final at the Dome. Having lost a close one to the Warriors late in December, the Spartans here relied on the guard play of freshman Jackie Piddock and forward Alyssa Stevenson to build a double-digit first-half lead and then hold on as Westhill got within one in the fourth quarter, but never caught up. On Saturday, South Jefferson gets to play its regional final at SRC Arena against a strong Section IV side from Norwich, the Spartans looking to again make it to Troy, where it has a history of success, winning two state championships under coach Pat Bassett in 2004 and 2006.
6. To claim the sectional Class C girls basketball title, Cooperstown had to beat the top two seeds, topping Weedsport in the semifinals and then claiming a hard-fought 54-45 decision over Little Falls in the sectional final. The Hawkeyes, having won its third sectional title in five years, meet Watkins Glen in the regional final at Binghamton this weekend. Over in Class D, no one could touch top seed Copenhagen, whose defense, along with a 13-5 push in the second quarter, put away Madison 39-29 in the sectional championship game. With legitimate state title ambitions, the Gold Knights move into the regional finals where it will take on Edwards-Knox Friday night at SUNY-Potsdam.
7. It will be a busy ice hockey weekend for Section III’s best at Buffalo’s HarborCenter. Syracuse got there in Division I with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Pittsford in the regional final at Meachem Rink. The Cougars got first-period goals from Ryan Durand and Nate Frye and then relied on its defense to hold on the rest of the way, avoiding the four-OT melodrama of its sectional finals win over West Genesee and claiming the state “Frozen Four” berth that eluded them in 2018. Syracuse meets Orchard Park in Saturday’s state semifinals, the winner to get Suffern or Canton in the finals – and Suffern needed two last-minute goals, four OT’s and a shootout to oust Bethlehem in its regional final.
8. The pressure of holding the no. 1 ranking in state Division II ice hockey hasn’t bothered Skaneateles one bit. After jumping all over Cortland-Homer in the sectional finals, the Lakers, on home ice at Allyn Arena, dominated from start to finish against Grand Island in the regional final, shutting out the Vikings 4-0 as Charlie Russell had two of the goals. A state champ in 2016 and a finalist in 2017, Skaneateles knows plenty about getting this far, but in Saturday’s state semifinals at Buffalo’s HarborCenter it will take on state no. 2-ranked Webster Thomas, which may serve as the de facto title game since both were ranked well ahead of Queensbury and John Jay-Cross River, the other two teams in the Frozen Four.
9. In the state indoor track and field championships last Saturday at Staten Island’s Ocean Breeze Complex, C-NS‘s Jeremiah Willis nearly repeated both of his 2018 titles in the long jump and triple jump, finishing second in those events by tiny margins – a quarter of an inch in the long jump (23’5 1/4″ to Mount Sinai‘s Kenneth Wei’s 23’5 1/2″) and one inch in the triple jump (49’6 1/2″ to Uniondale’s Jason Hanson’s 49’7 1/2″). Another second-place finish came from Tully’s Brooke Rauber, who tore through the 3,000-meter run in 9:42.73, but had the misfortune of trying to catch North Rockland superstar Katelyn Tuohy, who won in 9:15.35 (!) and also won the 1,500-meter run in 4:24.01.
10. And in the state boys swimming championships last weekend on Long Island, J-D/CBA’s Chris Bushnell secured a second-place finish in the 100-yard backstroke, twice breaking his own program record and ending up with 51.34 seconds, only behind the 50.30 by Hauppauge’s Trenton Burr. Also, Watertown was seventh in the 400 freestyle relay and J-D/CBA’s Lucas Dekaney had a top-10 finish in diving. It’s also the weekend of the state bowling championships at Strike-N-Spare Lanes, with Division I sectional champions Liverpool (boys) and Rome Free Academy (girls) competing Friday, All-Star teams competing Saturday and Division II sectional champs VVS (boys) and Camden (girls) bowling on Sunday.