With a little history between them, Notre Dame set to meet Sherman in Far West Regional
Saturday’s New York State Class D Far West Regional contest will feature two programs that are no stranger to the magnitude of the game.
Notre Dame is appearing in the Far West Regional for the sixth time in school history, and the second in three years. Meanwhile, Sherman will be representing Section VI for the second-straight year.
While Sherman returns their top three scorers from the team that fell to University Prep a year ago, Notre Dame has a vastly different look from the team that advanced to the state semifinals in 2012.
Tim McCulley started in 2012 as a sophomore, but he is the lone returning player from that team. But, the Fighting Irish may not need to rely on his experience too heavily.
“They’re always talking to him about this and that,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rapone. “They’re going to use him, but they are experienced enough now that they should be ready to go.”
The Wildcats will look to continue to rely on their hot play over the course of the season, along with their experience from a year ago.
“We lost to U-Prep last year in this game,” said Sherman Head Coach Cory Emory. “But we returned pretty much our whole team, and we worked hard in the off-season. We had a lot of games that were close and then we had a run and were able to stretch the lead.”
Both teams come in on a roll, as the Fighting Irish have won 10 straight games, and 15 out of 16 since the New Year, while the Wildcats come in 20-1 on the season and are winners of nine in a row.
Notre Dame will undoubtedly be led by McCulley, who is averaging 23.7 points per game, 8.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.8 steals and two blocks per game this season, but as of late he is getting some help from his teammates.
While McCulley has reached 20 points in each of the last 12 games, senior Alec Covel has been in double figures in six straight to give the Irish another scoring threat.
“[McCulley] scores points so many ways,” Rapone said. “With Covel stepping up and becoming more assertive on the offensive end, it takes away those junk defenses that teams play against us.”
Unlike Notre Dame, Sherman will not rely on their interior play, but with the play of their guards.
Senior guards Andrew Graham and Ryan Robson are the team’s leading scorers for the second-straight year, with Graham averaging 14.8 points per game and Robson averaging 12.8.
“We could be a little contrasting in playing style to Notre Dame,” Emory said. “We aren’t very tall and we like to press in order to take advantage of our quickness.”
Their top inside player, Jake Card, only stands 6-foot-2 and comes in averaging 9.5 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game.
Many people may remember Sherman from a season ago, as their girl’s squad fell to Notre Dame in the Far West Regional.
They also may remember some controversial comments from Sherman girls' coach and athletic director Mel Swanson, who expressed his displeasure with private schools playing public schools following the game.
''It is tough. It's an inequality,” said Swanson of Notre Dame. “Their players played hard and they were very good players and they did great things with the basketball. But when you're a small school like ours that graduates 30-something kids and you have to compete at that level it's just such a different field they get to draw from."
It’s an ongoing debate statewide, as Section VI does not allow private schools to participate in sectionals. However, Emory does not care who his boys play.
“Whoever we end up playing is who we end up playing,” Emory said. “Is it fair? That’s up for debate. You can go around and around on that topic. But we play who we play, and at this level, whoever we play is probably going to be pretty good.”
Rapone and the Fighting Irish will be focusing on how to stop the Wildcats on Saturday, and advance to Glens Falls.
“They have been there once before and have the experience,” Rapone said. “They use a lot of presses and a lot of traps. It’s something we haven’t seen a lot of, so we will have to get to work on that so everyone knows what their job is.”
Notre Dame and Sherman will square off on Saturday at Buffalo State College for the opportunity to advance to the state semifinals in Glens Falls. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.