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March 24, 2013 - 11:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports, high school sports, Notre Dame.

Parents, ensure the moments from the recent basketball season are preserved for years to come -- buy prints of photos from the games of the Batavia Blue Devils and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

We captured the post-season action (and for the Notre Dame girls, the Rotary Tournament). (State championship photos are not for sale because of NYSPHSAA rules.)

Click the graphics in this post for links to the galleries of each of the games, which includes all sports covered so far in 2013 for both schools. Or for Batavia, click here, and for Notre Dame, click here.

And for today only, we'll offer one more time: become a member of The Batavian Club and receive a free 13x19 print of the basketball photo of your choice. Click here for details.

March 19, 2013 - 10:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, high school sports.

It should come as no surprise that Notre Dame, the state's Class D champion in girls basketball has been ranked #1 in the final state rankings by the New York Sprotswriters Association.

What may be surprising is the team the Fighting Irish beat in the first round of sectional play is ranked #5.

The Elba Lady Lancers made the top five despite being knocked out in the first round of post-season play.

Elba finished with a 19-2 record and came into the post season as the reigning state champions.

Notre Dame, with 21 wins, suffered only two losses on the season, both to Elba.  The case could be made that Elba should be ranked #2.

Ranked ahead of Elba was Oriskany (22-1) at #2, the team Notre Dame beat in the state finals, and Ford Edward (22-1), who lost to ND in the semi-finals is #3. The #4 team is Hammond (21-3), which lost to Fort Edward in regional play.

Sherman, whose coach Mel Swason, complained about Notre Dame being a private school, was ranked #8 with a 18-3 record.

Mt. Morris (16-6), which lost a Class D Section V consolidation game to Notre Dame, is ranked #11.

March 18, 2013 - 1:58am
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, high school sports, Notre Dame.

Team leaders step up in big games, and that's what Mel Taylor did Sunday to help the Fighting Irish secure a St. Patrick's Day victory in the Class D Girls State Championship game at Hudson Valley College in Troy.

"I figured Mel would come up big today," said Head Coach Dave Pero. "She struggled yesterday, and she’s the type that if she struggles once, she’s not going to struggle a second time."

Notre Dame beat Oriskany 52-40 to capture the team's second state championship (the first came in 1999). It was Pero's first state championship as head coach of the Lady Irish.

Taylor finished with 24 points and was named MVP, but it was her 12 points in the first half that put Notre Dame in a position to win.

"Mel is great ball handler," senior Riley Norton said. "She’s very smart. She sets up our offense. Without her, we know we wouldn’t have gone anywhere. It was a team effort, but Mel played amazing tonight. It was a great night (of) play, amazing."

As usual, the Fighting Irish defense made it very hard for an opponent to take many shots and then keep them off balance when they do, but like the semifinal game against Fort Edward, the Lady Irish couldn't get many of their own shots to drop, except for Taylor.

On Taylor's back, Notre Dame carried an 18-18 tie into the half.

"In the locker room we all said, 'just keep shooting' " Norton said. "Miss as many as you want because it’s going to happen. It’s always going to happen. If you get down on yourself then obviously you're not going to score."

Norton, who finished with 14 points, only hit three of her 10 three-point tries on the game, but two of those came early in the third quarter to help spark a rally that put Oriskany in a deep hole.

The Irish outscored Oriskany 22-10 in the quarter.

"We tried to wear them down with our press and they finally collapsed for about two minutes, and that’s all it takes in a game like this," Pero said.

For several of the girls, this is their second state championship in 12 months. Some of the team played on the 2012 softball team.

For Laurie Call, this was her third state championship. She also has a patch on her jacket for cross-country.

"It feels pretty great, but I just take it one thing at a time," said the junior from Oakfield. "I'm just so blessed and honored to be doing this."

While Call is credited with three points total for the game, she is many ways the spark plug of the team. Her main contribution -- defensive play that makes it hard for opponents to organize their offenses -- isn't something that gets measured on stat sheets.

Call is an aggressive, in-your-face defender. That aggression got her into foul trouble against Mt. Morris in the Section V Class D consolidation game, but she learned her lesson.

"I kept saying today – no steals, just pressure," Call said. "I just kind of kept that in my head the whole day."

Notre Dame's playbooks are written around defense -- keep the other team close, because eventually, you will start scoring.

"You can't turn them (shots) down," Pero said. "Maddie Mancuso, who’s coming off the bench, she shot five threes in the first half. They’re all great looks. They went in and out. I told her at half-time, you keep getting them, you keep shooting them. One drops, that’s three points. That’s our motto, we’ve got to keep shooting the basketball."

Shea Norton also contributed to the defensive effort with nine rebounds. She also added six points.

Oriskany's leading scorer, Christina Graziadei, was held  to four points. Only one Redskin managed double-digit scoring, and that was sophomore guard Madison Zizzi, who had 11.

Ever since the Section V playoff win against Elba, the Lady Irish have been playing with more and more confidence each game.

Going into that big match with their chief rival, the Lady Lancers were defending state champions and had beaten Notre Dame five straight games, including the first two regular season games this year.

"Beating Elba just showed us we can do anything," Norton said. "We knew in our hearts we could beat them, but they came back and beat us the two times during the season. After we beat them, it was just 'thank the Lord,' and we were ready to go. We were ready to come here."

There's no doubt the Elba game helped propel the Irish forward, Pero said, but the whole season has been full of games that helped prepare his team for state-level competition.

"Our schedule really played a part of this post season," Pero said. "Not only playing Elba three times, and Romulus, but Plattsburgh was a great team in our first opening round game. They’re going to be a team to beat down the road. Then playing Batavia at the college in the Rotary Tournament, all of those things are a plus for us. We use those every game to talk about who we have to play and what we have to do. We look back at those and compare them to what we have here, it really forces the girls to focus on what they have to do to win."

When it came to crunch time Sunday afternoon, Taylor said she was so focused she didn't even realize her team had built a commanding 10-point lead. 

Before that run, she said, she gave her teammates a pep talk.

"I didn’t want another Mt. Morris," Taylor said. "I didn’t want us to go down and lose confidence. I told everyone pull it together. It’s zero zero. That shot you missed never happened. We have short memories as athletes. We need to get over it so we can keep shooting and eventually they’ll go in."

The girls all said it felt like a dream once they realized victory was in their grasp. Norton said she wasn't counting on a win until the final 16 seconds, with a 12-point lead, but even then, she still couldn't believe it.

"I was sitting on the bench and I looked at everybody and I’m like ‘we just won?’   This feeling, I can’t describe it. I’m overjoyed. It’s just an amazing feeling."

Top photo: Taylor, Riley Norton, Shea Norton and Laurie Call celebrate as time expires.

Taylor in for a lay-up in the first quarter.

Driving up the lane, Taylor passes during third-quarter action.

Riley Norton and Mel Taylor wait for Shea Norton to take her second free throw during the closing minute of the game.

Pandemonium reigned for several minutes after time expired on the championship game.

When the team returned to Batavia, the caravan of players, fans and parents were given a police and fire escort down Main Street.

Following the return home, a victory party at T.F. Brown's.

Two slide shows below. One from inside the arena, the other, post-game celebrations. NYSPHSAA rules prohibit any media outlet that received credentials from posting photos for sale, so I can't sell the photos in the first slide show. You can purchase prints from the second slide show. To do that, click here.

March 16, 2013 - 8:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, high school sports, Notre Dame.

After a low-scoring first half, Fort Edward came out of the locker room ready to make a run at Notre Dame in Saturday's Class D girls state semi-final playoff game and managed to turn a seven-point deficit into a one-point lead.

That's when sophomore Emily McCracken seemed to take the team on her shoulders, hitting a couple of key baskets, playing aggressive defense, making steals and controlling the ball when it was in her hands.

McCracken was a substitute for team floor leader Melanie Taylor, who was in foul trouble.

"I’m like 'oh my gosh, no Mel,' " senior Riley Norton said. "But we’re a team where like all year we come together and do better. Emily came in and she did amazing. That’s just what our team is all about. We can step in and do the job if somebody is in foul trouble."

While being outscored in the third quarter 15-13, the fourth quarter was all Notre Dame, with Norton helping spark the offense, as the Fighting Irish put the game away with 13 points to four for Fort Edward.

The final score: 49-35.

The win puts the Irish in position to make a run at the school's second state championship in girls basketball (Notre Dame won in 1999) and the second consecutive state championship for a girls team from Genesee County (Elba won last year).

The game is noon tomorrow against Oriskany.

A consistent defense and strong bench were keys to the game, Head Coach Dave Pero said.

"Our bench has really, really been giving us some quality minutes," Pero said. "If you’re going to be successful up higher at this level, you’ve got to have that. You can’t win with five players at any level, but you come here and you get a little boost off your bench."

The two teams scored only a combined 19 points in the first quarter, with Notre Dame taking a one-point lead, and nearly four minutes passed in the second quarter with no scoring. The half ended 23-16.

The Lady Irish had plenty of open shots, but the ball wasn't dropping through the rim.

It was defense that kept Notre Dame in the game.

"I think our defense is doing alright if not the best we’ve ever done, so we definitely limited them," Norton said. "But we tend to start off either really, really good or a little bit cold. I think no matter what, we always push through and that’s what we did today."

In the third quarter, Taylor got her third and fourth fouls in short order so Pero was compelled to sit her down.

"We had to spell her as long as we could because she’s not, what do you want to call it, disciplined," Pero said. "She’ll get her fifth in 30 seconds if you let her. So we had to sit her as long as we could and as long as we had a lead."

Pero wasn't surprised that McCracken step forward to give the Fighting Irish a little spark.

"Emily’s been feeling her way, feeling her way all season long and all the sudden she’s popped into our game," Pero said. "She’s really given us a plus. She’s more confident handling the ball. We tell the girls right along, you got a shot, you’ve got to take it. I think once she realized she has the green light just like anybody else, that makes her more positive."

McCracken finished with six points, and Norton had 22. Laurie Call picked up eight and Emma Francis, six. Norton hit four of seven three-point attempts. Norton had 11 rebounds.

Taylor scored four points and seven rebounds and Shea Norton had six rebounds and McCracken, three.

March 16, 2013 - 12:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, high school sports.

We'll have full coverage as soon as possible.

March 16, 2013 - 2:34am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports, high school sports.

Buddy Brasky said it before the game, the key to a Blue Devils win in the semi-final of the Class B state championship basketball game would be slowing the attack of Watervliet's two Division I guards.

That didn't happen.

"We knew we had to try and keep those two guards combined in the 30s and they got 43," Brasky said after Batavia's 60-53 loss at Glens Falls. "It seems to me they seemed like they were shooting from 30 feet out and making them. I don’t know what to say. I mean we hung in there, we battled and they answered every time."

Three times, the Canoneers built 10 and 12 point leads, and for extended periods, Watervliet would maintain a nine-point lead, and then Batavia would pull close enough that a single basket -- three or two -- would tie the score.

But that one shot wouldn't drop and Jordan Gleason, Tyler McLeod or freshman Ty'jon Gilmore would pour in a three-point jumper on the return. Gleason finished with 25 points, McLeod, 18 and Gilmore, 11. Gleason hit six three-pointers and McLeod and Gilmore had two apiece.

"We knew they were hard workers," Batavia's Jalen Smith said. "We knew they could shoot the ball. We knew they had an athletic guard. That was the game plan, stop their guards and their guards caught fire. There wasn’t much we could do about it. We played as tough as we can."

Smith finished with a team high 21 points. Justin Washington added 14 and Jamesson Etienne, 12.

Throughout Batavia's post-season run, the team has proven there's no quit in their approach to the game. Saturday night was no exception.

"They’ve got a lot of heart," Brasky said. "Jalen made some big shots. We kept crawling back. We would get it within two. We’d get it within three. We had the ball a couple of times with a chance to tie and we’d get good lucks but we could never get the final one to drop."

It was a special season for Batavia and even though the season ends a game sooner than anybody would like, there's no reason not to be proud of three championship wins.

"I told them it doesn't take away from their league championship, their sectional championship, their regional championship," Brasky said. "They're a great team. What stinks about the state tournament is only one team goes home with a win. Everybody else goes home with a loss and you feel horrible."

After the game in the locker room, Brasky hugged each of his senior players.

"They mean so much (to me)," Brasky said. "They're the ones who led us this year. They’ve been with me since third, fourth, fifth grade most of them, so we’ve got a bond that’s hard to explain. It’s going to be hard to see them go."

We're prohibited by NYSPHSAA from offering photos for sale.

March 15, 2013 - 10:25pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports, high school sports.

We'll have complete coverage as soon as possible.

March 14, 2013 - 11:08pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports, high school sports.

A fixture in local prep sports for decades, Bill Wade, who has led the Lady Blue Devils for five years, announced last night that he's retiring from basketball coaching.

Wade made his announcement during the annual girls banquet at Bohn's Restaurant.

Besides Batavia, Wade has coached at Byron-Bergen, Notre Dame and SUNY Brockport.

In 1984, he led Byron-Bergen to the state's final four, and did it three more times with Notre Dame.

“When I took the job at Batavia five years ago," he told WBTA, "I took it over with the challenge of building the program. I felt that we’ve been very successful in that because I’ve had Marty Hein and John McClellan to help me and the kids have been great. I just reached a point where it’s time to step aside. You have to do the off season work and the off season work takes a lot of time. I want to spend more time with my wife and actually head into a retirement.”

Wade has seen a lot change in prep sports since the 1980s.

"When I first coached at Byron-Bergen, there was no three-point line and the girls played with a guy’s ball," Wade said. "What I’ve always loved about the girls game is that I find it a very pure game of basketball. I think girls basketball is how James Naismith planned it to be when he came up with the game years and years ago and that it to be played below the rim.”

Wade led Batavia to the program’s first-ever appearance in the Section Five finals this year. He plans on following the girls' basketball careers.

“I told the girls, I am no longer yelling at you, I will only be yelling for you because I will be in the crowd for several of their games – as many games as my wife and I can make," he said. "I’ve been a coach of this game for so long, I’m really looking forward to becoming a fan of the game.”

Wade's successor has not yet been named.

Photo: File photo

March 14, 2013 - 9:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports, high school sports.

A full auditorium of Batavia High School students cheered on the varsity basketball team as it gets ready to head off to Glens Falls for the state championship basketball tournament.

The Blue Devils made the final four when sophomore Jeff Redband nailed a buzzer beater Saturday to beat Olean 63-62 in the Far West Regional championship game.

The shot was replayed during the pep rally and as the ball went in, the auditorium exploded in cheers, including from Redband's teammates (above).

Batavia takes on Watervliet at 8:30 p.m., Friday.

The Cannoneers come into the tournament with a seemingly unimpressive 16-8 record, but five of those losses were the result of a forefeit early in the season after officials discovered the team had an ineligible player on its roster.

The team has one three straight sectional championships and last year lost the state championship Class B game by one point to Bishop Ludden.

They’re a really good team," said Batavia Head Coach Buddy Brasky after the pep rally.

Like Olean, Watervliet features two high-scoring guards. Both seniors are headed to NCAA Division I schools next season.

"They’re probably going to be the two best players combined that we’ve faced all year," Brasky said. "They average about 45 points between them."

Jordan Gleason, wearing #1, is 6'1" and is heading to Sacred Heart. He averages 24 points a game and is a good three-point shooter, Brasky said.

Tyler McLeod, wearing #10, is 6'3" and is being recruited by La Salle in the Atlantic 10. He averages 21 points a game and is a "pull-up jumper" type of guard, Brasky said.

"Just like Olean had two kids who averaged about 40 points a game, our goal is to keep them in the low 30s," Brasky said. "If we can do that, we can be right there."

According to a Times-Union article, the Cannoneers will bring a freshman guard who has been a key part of the team's success this season. Ty'Jon Gilmore averaged 23 points in Watervliet's regional championship game.

Gilmore enters Friday's contest averaging 8.3 points, 4.5 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 3.0 steals per game.

DiBacco says Gilmore's ability to be disruptive defensively has strengthened the Cannoneers' ability to press and trap the opposition.

"It gives me the chance to put Jordan and Tyler in the back of a lot of our traps and use our length and speed," DiBacco said. "Ty'Jon is a big reason why we're (in the state semifinals)."

Brasky likes to pressure opponents and get them out of rhythm.

"They try to make up and down, high tempo game," Brasky said. "Our challenge is to handle their pressure, try to get it to a half-court game where we can get into our half-court sets. If we can get them into half court, I think we can be successful defensively."

After Redband's big shot and the national attention it gained, it was a bit of a challenge to bring the Blue Devil players down from the excitement, Brasky said, and he kind of let them ride the high through Monday's practice, but on Tuesday, they came in focused and have remained focused since.

"They believe they can win and that's half the battle," Brasky said.

The senior leaders of the team's boosters give the players a pep talk.

After the rally, a team picture.

The senior players.

March 14, 2013 - 8:35pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, high school sports, Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish girls basketball team got a rousing send off from the junior and senior classes of Notre Dame High School during a pep rally Thursday.

The girls begin play in the Class D state tournament final four on Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College.

Athletic Director Mike Rapone said the school and the community are proud of what the girls have done and he said he's sure the players will represent Notre Dame well in the tournament.

Head Coach Dave Pero said he's proud of his players and that they're ready for the challenge of the final four.

March 10, 2013 - 7:31pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports, Notre Dame.

The other basketball hero to come out of Genesee County Saturday was Laurie Call.

Call was given the job of guarding Sherman's Elle Reed, the top scorer Class D Section VI, who averaged 32 points a game coming the Far West Regional Championship game.

Reed was held to 19 points in the contest, and fouled out with more two minutes remaining in the game.

Notre Dame beat Sherman 70-32.

"This wasn't the team we scouted," Sherman's head coach, Mel Swanson, told the Jamestown Post-Standard.

By Swanson's estimation, the Notre Dame girls were much more proficient with three-point jumpers, which helped the Fighting Irish jump out to a quick 20-4 first quarter lead.

Melanie Taylor scored 24 points and Riley Norton added 14 and Emma Francis, 9.

Swanson also expressed some frustration with playing against a private school, which is something Setion VI teams don't face until they match up against Section V.

''It is tough. It's an inequality. 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. .... "

Notre Dame enters the Final Four state championship round ranked #5 in the state and will square off against #2 ranked Fort Edward at 10:45 a.m., Saturday, at Hudson Valley Community College.

PHOTOS: By Bare Antolos. Click on the headline to see more photos after the jump.

March 10, 2013 - 1:00am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports.

With six-and-half seconds left in the game, down by two, who are you going to give the ball to? Jalen Smith? Justin Washington? Jamesson Etienne?

How about a lanky sophomore who spent most of the season on the JV squad?

According to Batavia Blue Devils Head Coach Buddy Brasky, Jeff Redband was always part of the plan.

"He's the second best shooter on the team," Brasky said. "I don't care what grade he's in."

For most of the night, the Far West Regional Championship game between Batavia, the #9 Class B seed in the state, against the #1 ranked Olean Huskies, was a prototypical seesaw.

Batavia took an early lead; Olean tied it up. Batavia jumped out in front again to lead at the half, and Olean looked like they were about to put the game out of reach in the third quarter, scoring 21 points against Batavia's 10.

The fourth quarter, though, the fourth quarter belonged to Batavia, who outscored the Huskies 20-12.

"It's all about defense," said junior guard Jake Brasky. "In the beginning of the fourth quarter, we came out, we made a statement. We shut them down."

Even with the Huskies' taking fewer shots and missing the chances they got, Batavia had to claw back from what at one point was a 12-point deficit.

That meant that with less then a minute to go, the game was notched at 60 apiece.

Wil Bathurst, Olean's leading scorer on the season, out maneuvered Redband on a lay-up to put the Huskies up by two.

As the Blue Devils hustled the ball down the court, a missed pass sent the ball bounding back toward Olean's goal.

Washington stumbled after the ball as he got tangled up with a Huskie. Redband sprinted down the court and managed to nab the ball before it went out of bounds.

Coach Brasky called a time out.

That's when he layed out the plan: Washington would bring the ball down the court and head for the basket. If he found a lane, he could go in for the shot, but if his path was blocked, he was told to pass it to Redband waiting in the near-side corner.

"I knew they would be all over Jalen," Brasky said. "They would not let Jalen get the last shot."

As Washington headed toward the basket, Olean's Patrick Scholla stepped in his way. Washington started to fall and he shoved the ball in the general direction of Redband, who was ready, right in the spot Brasky had told him to be.

"I put him there and told him on the bench, 'if it’s kicked to you, you’re going to nail the shot to win the game,' " Brasky said. "That's not exactly how we planned it, but we'll take it."

Redband, Washington, Smith and Jake Brasky were all pretty speechless after the game. It was a wild end to a hard-fought game.

"When Jeff hit that shot, I didn't even know what to say," Jake Brasky said. "I was shocked."

With a battery of television cameras in his face after the game, Redband struggled to find the words to express how we felt. We spoke later and he summed it up nicely.

"It's a blessing because to be on the team for eight games, six, seven or eight games now, and to get the game-winning shot to save all of our seniors' seasons and high school careers, it's the best feeling in the world," Redband said.

Smith said he wasn't surprised Redband came up big when the team needed it.

"I always knew he'd be on varsity eventually," Smith said. "He can shoot and he's a hard worker."

Etienne also came up big in the fourth quarter, scoring six of his 10 points on the night.

Again, Etienne stepping it up was by design, Brasky said.

"We thought we had an advantage high screen and roll because their big guy who was guarding Jamesson was hedging out on Jalen, so that left Jamesson rolling to the basket," Brasky said. "That’s one of our key sets and Jalen was the one who suggested (it). He came to me at half time and said I can hit Jamesson on the roll, so we kind of went to that at the beginning at fourth quarter."

All along, Brasky said he was worried about Olean's shooting guards, Nick Schmidt and Max Portlow.

"We knew it was going to be tough to hold them to 13 or under per quarter," Brasky said. "They have so many weapons. I said to my coaches before the game if their guards shot the ball well, it’s going to be tough for us to win. They’re guards shot the ball extremely well and we still won."

Schmidt scored all 12 of his points in the game on three-point jumpers. Portlow hit two three-point goals and Bathurst added two more.

Each three-pointer in the third quarter brought the Huskies' bench to life, and the whooping and hollering didn't go unnoticed by Washington.

"When the other team gets pumped and starts screaming, I don’t like it," Washington said. "It motivates me to play better."

Brasky told his players not to sweat the hot streak.

"When you live by the three, sometimes it’s fool's gold," Brasky said. "They have good shooters. Their guards are good shooters, but they’re hot and cold. They did get hot, but I kept telling the guys on the bench, they’re going to start missing. Weather the storm. We’re OK. Just get the rebounds when they miss."

And Batavia did get the rebounds, the most important from the likes of Etienne and Redband, who were able to convert rebounds under their own goal into scores.

In all, Redband ended the night with 11 points, including three three-point goals, and five rebounds.

Smith scored 24 points, hitting five three-pointers. Washington had 16 points and 10 rebounds, including nine big grabs on defense.

Bathurst led the Huskies in scoring with 18 points.

Even when his team was down by 12 in the third quarter, Smith said there was nobody on the team ready to throw in the towel.

"Our mentality is to fight to the end, to play to end and we talked about it during timeouts that we need to keep fighting and keep playing," Smith said. "When the fourth quarter started, we started to pick it up. They went on a little run, but our team sticks together and we play with confidence."

The Blue Devils trip to Glens Falls on Saturday is the first trip to the final four for Batavia since Washington was a freshman, when the team got knocked out in the first game. Washington, Smith and Jake Brasky said they're all feeling confident as they head into the state championship series.

March 9, 2013 - 7:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports.

With six-and-half seconds left and down 62-60, Batavia in-bounded the ball on the far end the court. Justin Washington brought the ball past half court to the top of the key, where he was met by two Olean players who blocked his path to the basket. As he was tripped up and started down, he flipped the ball toward sophomore forward Jeff Redband, who was waiting well outside the three-point line. Without hesitation, Redband grabbed the loose ball, and as the last second ticked off the clock, Redband flicked the ball toward the hoop. Swosh. All net.

The final score, Batavia 63 and the state's #1 rank Class B team, Olean, 62.

Batavia will move onto the final four of the state championships in Glens Falls on Saturday.

We'll have more photos and full coverage later tonight, or more likely tomorrow morning.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame crushed Sherman 70-32 at Buffalo State in the girls Far West Regional Championship game. Bare Antolos will send some photos to us later.

UPDATE: Here's a video of the final play:

UPDATE:  Here's another video by Josh Stendts.

March 7, 2013 - 8:37am
posted by Nick Sabato in batavia, basketball, sports.

Batavia used a 21-4 run over the final five minutes of the game to defeat Hornell and advance to the Class B Far West Regionals, 65 to 51.

The fourth quarter belonged to Batavia senior forward Justin Washington, who scored eight points and grabbed eight rebounds in the final frame alone.

Washington entered the quarter with only six points and having sat the majority of the third quarter with three fouled. But when he reentered the game, he immediately took over.

“(Washington) took the game over. Plain and simple,” said Batavia Head Coach Buddy Brasky. “I think he just decided it was time. He pretty much just took the game over, put us on his shoulders and carried us home.”

In the first half it was a different story for the Blue Devils, who jumped out to an early lead behind an unexpected source.

As Washington and Jalen Smith struggled to find their stroke in the first half, it was senior T.J. Powell who stepped up and delivered.

Powell scored all 13 of his points in the first half, while grabbing six rebounds, to give Batavia a 30 to 24 halftime lead.

“T.J. was tentative in the Newark game and we talked about it in practice,” Brasky said. “I told him to go out and be aggressive. I told him tonight is going to be your night and that was key. That’s the T.J. we need.”

Hornell began to cut into Batavia’s stingy defense during the third quarter, outscoring the Blue Devils 18-12 in the period, and eventually tied the game on a three-point field goal from Richard Brooks with just under a minute to play in the quarter.

“We weren’t sprinting back on defense,” Brasky said. “Their secondary break killed us. We were jogging back and they took advantage.”

The two teams headed into the fourth quarter tied at 42 and traded baskets before Brooks hit another three to give the Red Raiders the lead before Smith and Washington began to take over.

Smith had been struggling from the field all evening, going just 7-of-20 from the field and 2-for-13 from three point range for the game, but he began to take over in other facets.

The senior came up with three assists in the quarter, one on a gorgeous pass to sophomore Jeff Redband for an easy lay-up that forced a timeout.

“I trust my teammates to score, too,” Smith said. “I can’t score all of the points and my teammates help out a lot. They play hard and we all play together.”

Washington scored the first two baskets of the quarter for Batavia, and had matched both his point and rebound total for the entire game in the first four minutes of the frame.

After Hornell had taken a 47-44 lead, the Blue Devils went on to score the next 12 points during their 21-4 run to end the game. In total, Batavia held the Red Raiders without a point for nearly four minutes.

“Our team handles pressure very well,” Smith said. “We stuck together as a team, we played hard, we kept our confidence and we all stuck together.”

Smith would finish with a game-high 25 points, including several key free throws down the stretch to ice the game for Batavia (19-3).

Washington chipped in with 14 points, 14 rebounds and two steals for the Blue Devils, who will face the state's top-ranked team on Saturday in Olean.

The Huskies defeated East High School of Buffalo on Tuesday to win the Section VI championship, 62-50.

They are led by 6-foot-7 junior forward Sam Eckstrom, who notched his 1,000th point in the win and senior guard Wil Bathurst who scored 27 points, grabbed 19 rebounds and blocked six shots.

“Olean is the number-one ranked team in the state,” Brasky said. “We played them last year. We have everybody back and they have everybody back. They are just a solid team.”

The Blue Devils defeated Olean in their own tournament last year, 56-43. The Huskies would win their next 21 games before falling in the State Semi-Finals.

Tip-off is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Blue Cross Arena.

To purchase prints of photos, click here. To purchase prints of earlier Blue Devils games (boys and girls basketball, click here)

March 6, 2013 - 6:55am
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, GCC, sports.

Press release:

Genesee Community College freshman forward Vaughn Boler (Pittsford Mendon High School, Rochester) has been named the NJCAA Division II Region III Player of the Year for the 2012-2013 season.

Boler played in 27 games (26 starts) this year and led the Cougars in scoring, averaging 21.1 points per game. That mark was the second-highest scoring average in Region III and 14th most in the country. He also averaged seven rebounds per game, which was second highest on the team.

On three occasions this season, Boler scored 30 or more points in a game. He scored a career-high 37 points against ASA College on Dec. 9 and recorded 12 or more points in every game.

Boler missed four games during the middle of January due to an injury and the Cougars were 0-4 during that stretch. Genesee finished the regular season with a 15-15 overall record and fell to Mercyhurst North East in the opening round of the Region III playoffs, 97-94.

Boler is the first player at Genesee to receive the award since Leon Nelson, who was named co-Player of the Year in 2010.

Genesee Community College athletics program endeavors to provide a quality and competitive intercollegiate athletics program consistent with the National Junior Collegiate Athletics Association (NJCAA) philosophy and the overall educational mission of Genesee Community College. Participation in collegiate athletics should be an extension of the total educational experience for the student athlete. The inherent philosophy emphasizes the athletic setting as a classroom used to teach character, commitment, work ethic, respect for differences, and the importance of sacrifice, teamwork and cooperation.

March 5, 2013 - 10:17am
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, Notre Dame.

Notre Dame won it's state tournament qualifier game Monday, beating Mt. Morris 45-27 in a clash of Section V Class D champions.

Defense and a strong bench is what kept the Fighting Irish ahead all night as too often shots wouldn't drop, especially in the third quarter when ND scored only four points.

Fortunately for the ladies, Mt. Morris put only seven points on the board that quarter.

Mt Morris was held to single-digit scoring in each quarter.

"We knew at half time if we can get to 40, we're in pretty good shape," Head Coach Dave Pero said, who noted his girls missed at least 10 easy lay-ups. "We don't tell our girls to stop shooting because that is what they do, and they finally knocked some down and we got ahead."

A strong bench is a key part of the Fighting Irish strategy and Notre Dame was able to put some distance between themselves and Mount Morris in the 4th quarter, outscoring Mt. Morris 15-6.

"We try to wear teams down," Pero said. "By the fourth quarter, we're hoping they're fatigued and tired and maybe they start to lose their legs and we can get a couple of easy baskets out of that."

Riley Norton scored 12 points and pulled down 12 rebounds. Shea Norton added eight points plus nine rebounds.

Melanie Taylor scored 13 points.

The Fighting Irish will enter state tournament play with a 20-2 record so far this season. The only two defeats were regular season losses to Elba, whom Notre Dame beat last week to reach the Section V title game.

Notre Dame squares off against Section 6 Class D champions Sherman at 5 p.m., Saturday, at Buffalo State College. The winner will advance to final-four play in Troy next weekend.

To purchase prints, click here.

March 4, 2013 - 12:24am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports.

Jalen Smith scored 25 points as the Batavia Blue Devils rolled over Newark in the Section V Class B1 title game Sunday, 58-41

Here are the photos from the game. We'll have a game story later.

UPDATE: Story by Nick Sabato

Batavia captured their third sectional championship in five years after defeating Newark, 58-41.

The top-seeded Blue Devils stymied the Reds with strong defense to jump out to an early lead in the first quarter, helped by the hot shooting from Class B1 MVP Jalen Smith, and never looked back.

Newark struggled to score all game and was held to 6-of-23 shooting and committed 11 turnovers in the first half, while Smith scored eight points in the first quarter to give Batavia a 26-14 halftime lead.

“We built our program on defense,” said Batavia Head Coach Buddy Brasky. “We stress every single day in practice that every single possession counts on defense. That’s what we believe in.”

Coming out of the half, Newark began to gain some momentum as Batavia’s shooting went cold, including cutting the lead to eight with two minutes remaining in the third quarter before sophomore Jeff Redband, who was playing in his fifth varsity game of the season after leading the jayvee team in scoring, hit a three-pointer to extend the lead to 11.

Justice Fagan would add a three-point play to push the lead to 37-23 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Reds would open the scoring in the final frame on a three by Anthony Lombardi. Smith would answer with a three of his own.

From that point Smith would go off.

After another three from Lombardi, he connected on back-to-back threes to give the Blue Devils a 17-point lead.

In total, Smith would score 13 of his game-high 25 points in the fourth quarter, after only four in the second and third quarter combined.

“Coach (Brasky) always tells me to keep shooting, keep playing my game and trust my teammates to get me open,” Smith said. “It’s pretty much continuous for every game.”

Leading scorer Justin Washington struggled with his shooting touch all game, but he once again made up for it by stuffing the stat sheet for the Blue Devils, scoring 11 points, grabbing nine rebounds, five assists, five blocks and three steals.

“Points don’t ever tell the story for Justin,” Brasky said. “He rebounds, he defends, he helps relieve pressure from the other team, he makes great passes in transition and that’s how Jalen gets quite a few of his shots.”

For Batavia, it was their fifth sectional championship in school history. It was also the first since 2010, a year that they made it all the way to the New York State semi-finals.

“There is a very proud tradition here with our ex-players,” Brasky said. “They built the program and pass it along every year to the young guys and now this year’s team can pass it along to the young guys coming up. That’s how good programs stay good.”

The Blue Devils’ roster is comprised of six seniors, five of whom are starters, which means they are a very tightknit group on and off the floor.

“We have been thinking about this day since we came together in fourth grade,” Smith said. “It feels great to get out there and finally achieve one of our goals. We work hard and play together as a family.”

Brasky, who was named the Section V Class B1 Coach of the Year, is also the father of one the seniors on the team, Jake Brasky.

Coach Brasky won a sectional championship in 2005 with his oldest son, Adam, and has coached this group of seniors since the fourth grade when they began to play organized basketball together.

“Since these guys have been in fourth grade I have been coaching them a lot in the off-season and in youth tournaments,” Brasky said. “So I have grown close to this group, partly because my son is in the group. So it is special to share this moment not only with my son but with these seniors.”

Smith was joined on the all-tournament team by Washington and senior Jamesson Etienne (eight points and four steals) for Batavia.

Lombardi, who was also named to the all-tournament team, led Newark (14-7) with 13 points and seven rebounds in defeat.

Batavia (18-3) will now face the Class B2 champion, Hornell (19-2), on Tuesday at the Blue Cross Arena. Tip-off is scheduled for 5:45 p.m.

To purchase prints of photos from this game, click here.

March 2, 2013 - 12:21pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, Notre Dame.

The Notre Dame girls put an exclamation point on their upset victory over Elba by claiming the Section V Class D2 title Friday in Gainsville against #3 seed Romulus, 56-41.

The Fighting Irish entered sectional play as the #4 seed, with only two losses on the season, both to the defending state champions and #1 seeded Lady Lancers.

Rather than an emotional letdown after beating the school's biggest rival, the Notre Dame girls came out fast and aggressive against Romulus, maybe a little too aggressive.

Riley Norton and Emma Francis seemed to knock down every three-point jumper they took and Romulus had a hard time scoring early in the game.

Midway through the first quarter, though, momentum started to shift and at the half, Notre Dame trailed 26-23.

Foul trouble dogged Notre Dame, with Norton and Laurie Call forced to sit because of two early fouls apiece.

Head Coach David Pero said he had his team trying some new defensive schemes, which ended up getting players out of position. Call said she was just had too much adrenaline pumping.

"I have a tendency to be aggressive, to put a lot of pressure on defense," Call said. "I had to calm myself down, dial my adrenaline down, and say, 'what do I need to do for my team,' and calm down, not try to get a steal, but get them to turn the ball over."

In the second half, Notre Dame went back to the defensive scheme that proved so successful against Elba -- the first time Notre Dame used it -- playing man-to-man.

And Pero was also able to put Norton and Call back on the court.

It was a whole different game through the final two quarters, with the Fighting Irish dominating the Lady Warriors, including a 10-0 run to finish the game.

"They struggled getting the ball up the floor and we knocked down some shots, made some free throws and the rest is history," Pero said.

Norton finished with 15 points, including 10 in the second half and was named tournament MVP.

She said the championship and the award were real special achievements as a basketball-playing senior.

"It's the best feeling in the world," Norton said. "It (the MVP trophy) means my hard work and my dedication to basketball since I was very young has paid off. I want to keep going and I want to keep winning, but this right now feels amazing."

Melanie Taylor scored 14 points,  had seven assists and six steals, while Call nabbed nine rebounds.

For Call, she's building quite a collection of trophies at home. She was on the Section V and state champion softball team and has a Section V title in cross-country.

"It’s been so fun," Call said. "Honestly, it’s the best thing ever because the girls I’m winning with are my best friends. They’re like sisters and it’s just like this family that keeps on helping each other and we’re successful in the end."

All-Tournament team: Jamie Marshall (Elba), Zoe McDonald (Romulus), Laurie Call (Notre Dame), Melanie Taylor (Notre Dame).

Notre Dame will play Class D1 champions Mt. Morris on Monday in Pavilion. The consolidated Class D champion will then represent Section V in the state tournament, starting with a regional championship game against the Section VI champion.

To purchase prints of these photos (parents, you want to make sure you always have copies, right?), click here.

February 27, 2013 - 12:13pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, elba, Notre Dame.

After five consecutive losses to defending state champions -- the Elba Lady Lancers -- the Notre Dame girls came into Tuesday's Section V semi-final match a little more determined and with a different game plan.

For the first time, the Fighting Irish ran a man-on-man defense.

The Lancers, who routinely score 70 or more points a game, were held to 40 on the night, scoring only 11 points in the first quarter and none in the second.

"Elba is a very good high school basketball team, a well coached team," said Head Coach Dave Pero after his team's 45-40 victory. "To shut out a team like that for even a few minutes is a feather in your cap. To do it to Elba is tough to do."

Riley Norton, who led Notre Dame with 16 points and 12 rebounds, said supporters have been encouraging the team to try a man-on-man defense.

The Irish always play Elba tough (one of the few teams that does) and maybe switching up the defense could make the difference.

"The defense worked," Norton said. "Going out and stopping them defensively is what we've been going out and working on day after day after day."

During the first half, the Lancers were often taking shots with only a few seconds on the clock. It was hard for the girls to find open lanes. When they did shoot, too often the ball didn't drop through the hoop.

"I thought, you know, we've got some quickness," Pero said, "let's roll the ball out and see where it falls. We went man-to-man and it paid off."

Tom Nowak, Elba's head coach, said man-to-man isn't something the Lady Lancers regularly see, but they've successfully played against that tactic before and they do prepare for it.

"We struggled in the first half," he said. "We didn't play Elba basketball."

In the previous five losses to Elba, the Irish have taken leads only to watch them slip away.

As the second quarter progressed, the Lancers turned a 12-point deficit into a two down, which raised the question: Would history repeat?

Of course, she thought that very question, Norton said, but she also felt this night was different.

"I knew we were going to fight through it," Norton said. "We fought through it last Friday. We’ve grown as a team since last time we played them. I knew this was our time and I knew we could hold onto it."

With the lead two, a three-point jumper from Emma Francis late in the 4th gave Notre Dame the emotional lift to hold back Elba.

"We said all along, and this seems to have happened the last four or five times they've beat us, we've got that one bad quarter," Pero said. "We seem to lose our momentum. Well, tonight, they hung in, they stayed composed and it's a great win for the girls."

The rivalry between Notre Dame and Elba is long-standing and crosses the lines between girls and boys sports and wraps in football as well as basketball.

On a slushy winter night, nearly 200 fans of the teams made the hour-long drive to Dansville for the game. Both sides were loud and proud until the final seconds of the game.

When the final buzzer sounded, Elba students rushed onto the court and mobbed the Elba players. The scene suited a championship game, not just a stepping stone to the next round.

Norton was clearly ecstatic after the win.

"This is my senior year," Norton said. "I didn’t want to stop playing. I want to get that patch on Sunday."

Pero admitted, it was a big win for him, too.

Personally, any time you can be a coached Tom Nowack team it’s great, because to me he’s one of the top coaches in Section V," Pero said. "Any time you can match wits with him,  it’s a feather, but it’s all about the girls. It’s not about me or my coaches. It’s about the girls. Without them I’d be nothing, so hats off to them."

Elba had a great run that included a state title and a breathtaking winning streak. Nowak said his girls should be proud.

"Like I told the kids, you’ll look back 10 years from now, 15 years, and realize what you accomplished," Nowak said. "I said I’ve been coaching 35 years in Elba and never did I experience anything like I did last year and this year, winning 44 games in a row. They will be really proud of that accomplishment down the road when they come back and think about it."

Notre Dame plays Friday for the sectional title, 8 p.m., against Romulus at Letchworth.

Photos: Laurie Call and Bailee Welker celebrate following the big win. Emma Francis drives for a lay-up against McKenzie Bezon. Riley Norton and Jamie Marshall fight for a rebound in the 4th quarter. Norton and Kelsey Bezon in the 4th quarter.

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

February 27, 2013 - 1:50am
posted by Andrew Crofts in basketball, GCC, sports.

For the second consecutive year, the Genesee Community College men’s basketball season came to an end at the hands of Mercyhurst North East. Last season, the Saints eliminated the Cougars in the semi-finals of the Region III playoffs. This year, Mercyhurst held serve at home on Tuesday night in the #4/#5 match up of the opening round.

The two teams split the regular season series this year with both teams winning a game at home.

Mercyhurst, the no. 4 seed, shot better than 54% in the opening half on Tuesday night including eight 3-point baskets. The Saints erased an early 5-0 GCC lead, and after not scoring a basket during the first three minutes of the game, connected on three quick baskets from long-range to take the lead for good.

The #5 Cougars found themselves behind by ten, 37-27 with under five minutes remaining in the opening period and gave up a 15-9 run during the final four minutes of the half to fall behind 52-36 at the break.

GCC clawed back early in the second half and cut the Saints lead down to single digits just four minutes in. Stanley Peacock got the Cougars to within nine with a layup and after a made Mercyhurst basket, GCC converted on three straight free throws to close the gap to eight.

Mercyhurst responded and went on a 7-0 run in a span of just over a minute to extend their lead back to double-digits. The Saints grew their lead back up to as much as 16 with 12 minutes remaining, but the Cougars still had fight left in them.

Maurice Bailey connected on back-to-back three point baskets and E.J. Blackwell added a three of his own to get Genesee to within 11. Trailing 77-67 with under ten minutes to play, Donte Meredith got the Cougars back to within eight with a layup.

GCC cut the Mercyhurst lead to four just two minutes later before Terryl Coombs converted a layup to bring the Cougars all the way back to within two with 3:30 left to play. The Saints answered, and regained a lead as high as six with two minutes left in the game.

Genesee put together a quick 6-2 run to get back to within two at 92-90 with one minute remaining. Forced to put the Saints at the free throw line, Genesee was able to inch to within one at 95-94 when Vaughn Boler scored after Mercyhurst hit one of two free throws. The Saints converted on two free throws with less than ten seconds to play and trailing by three, the Cougars were unable to get off a final shot and a chance at the tie, falling to Mercyhurst, 97-94.

The Cougars out-rebounded the Saints 52-33 on the night, but Mercyhurst shot better than 55% from the field in the game.

Boler led the way for Genesee with 24 points. He also grabbed 10 rebounds. Blackwell added 19 points, Coombs finished with 12 points and 11 boards, Bailey chipped in 16 points and Peacock collected six rebounds.

Genesee finishes the season with a 15-16 overall mark and will bid farewell to sophomores Donte Meredith and Terryl Coombs.

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