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November 20, 2013 - 9:48pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, elba, high school sports.

Tom Redband is feeling like perhaps the luckiest first-year varsity basketball coach in the State of New York.

He's taking over an established program with a long history of success and is able to call on two coaching mentors who are among the best in the business -- Tom Nowak, his predecessor, and Buddy Brasky, whom he worked for in Batavia prior to moving to Elba to teach business and coach the Lady Lancers.

"It's rare to take over a program like this," Redband said. "You have to get a little lucky. You have to be in the right place at the right time. It has to be good timing and a good fit. And to have them both (Nowak and Brasky) here, where I can call them up, I can go to either of their houses right now and watch film, it's just a tremendous resource to have."

Redband was a special education aide in Batavia and coached seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders and assisted with the basketball program before he was offered the job in Elba. Redband is also the older brother of Jeff Redband, the junior forward for Batavia High School who sunk that all-important buzzer beater in last year's regional championship game.

Under Nowak, the Lady Lancers won eight section titles and a state title and was ranked among the top 10 Class D programs in the state each of the past eight years (the furthest the records go back). 

Rather than feeling intimidated to step into such big shoes, Redband is feeling excited and fortunate.

"There's so much passion for basketball here," Redband said. "The girls love it. There's a system all set up. There's a ton of postives. There's a youth program. Having him (Nowak) as a resource is amazing. He wants to spread his knowledge to anybody who wants to listen."

In many ways, Redband doesn't see much changing. He shares the philopsphy of Nowak and Braksy, that building winning varsity teams begins with players in the third grade.

"You don't just hope the girls come to high school ready to play," Redband said.

Redband said he will certainly have his own way of doing things, but the core values will remain the same.

"We're blending a lot of what they know," Redband said. "I 'm learning a lot about what they know and then blending in what I know. Hopefully we can get a great fit."

One aspect of the Batavia program Redband is used to is there's almost always some hoops going on somewhere, even in the off season and he will look for an opportunity to get the girls more involved in basketball -- so long as it doesn't interfere with other athletic pursuits -- in the spring, summer and fall.

"That's one thing I learned from Coach Brasky in Batavia," Redband said. "If you want to be good and you want to be good compared to the best, then you've got to put the time in."

How good will Elba be in 2013-14? It's hard to say.

The team graduated five seniors, losing four starters, so it will be a young team. 

"We lost a lot but we still have a lot of talent," Redband said.

The Lady Lancers will be the only Class D team in the Genesee Region, so they will spend most of the regular season playing mostly against larger schools, which makes for a challenging schedule but also preps them for sectionals.

Kelsey Bezon, a starter on the 2012 state champion team, returns as a senior and the point guard.

"We're going to rely heavily on her," Reband said. "That's no secret."

Alex Reigle, Haley Brown, Alyssa Bogue, Bri Pangrazio are also all returning players and Redband said there is a lot of talent in that core group of players.

He praised Reigle, a guard, as smart and strong, a player who loves the game and has a good attitude.

"We're going to be competitive," said Redband, who will be assisted this year by Nathan Shirk. "There's no reason (reaching sectionals) shouldn't be our goal."

Redband also expects the team will benefit from the strong support the Elba community always gives its basketball teams.

"I'd rather coach some place like this where there's an expectation and where people come and they're into it and they watch and it's a community thing rather than some place where it's not that big of deal," Redband said.

Kelsey Bezon

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

November 19, 2013 - 9:47pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, high school sports, Notre Dame.

It will be impossible in 2014 for the Notre Dame girls basketball team to repeat as Class D state champions.

Section V officials made sure of that.

If the Fighting Irish make it to the post season -- very likely given the fact that all but one top player from last year is returning -- making a deep run in the post season will be difficult.

Again, thanks to Section V officials.

Notre Dame, with only 149 students, has been moved from Class D to Class B2 where eight of the 10 schools in the class have an average of 283 students, and all but Le Roy (283) and Bishop Kearney (216, and last year's Class C state champions) have more than 300 students.

Section V officials moved Notre Dame past Class D1 and three Class C divisions to get the team in with schools nearly twice as big.

"I always thought sports was about the kids, but they're doing what they have to do to make it difficult for the private school and that's just the way it is," Pero said.

Any shot at a State Championship will mean getting past several schools in Class B1 with more than 400 students.

"I'm not crying wolf," Head Coach Dave Pero said. "To me it's not fair, but sometimes life just isn't fair. There's a lot worse things out in life than us going to Class B."

Rather than cry over what he can't change, Pero is doing what good coaches do -- getting his players ready to play, running through offensive and defensive drills, working on conditioning and planning how to use his available resources for the best possible results.

"It is what it is," Pero said. "We're preparing our girls to play and I think they'll handle that, and the chips will fall where they may."

There will be a lot of tools at Pero's disposal: Mel Taylor, the MVP of the state championship game, returns to her play-making guard position; Laurie Call, a Scottish terrier on defense who gets a hold of an opposing player's leg and won't let go; and Burgundy Bartlett, who's quick and strong with three-point range, but is coming off a missed season because of a knee injury.

Then there's Shea Norton, who's grown from last year's 5'10" to 6'1" and added some muscle. The sophomore may be primed for a breakout year. She worked hard on her game over the summer, improving her ball handling and perimeter shooting, making her a threat in the paint and from long range.

"Last year, she was here, but learning," Pero said. "She's improved by leaps and bounds. She's playing the inside, but also making shots outside."

At the post positions, Pero can also look for big contributions from two other tall and strong sophomores, Taylor DiMartino, returning from last year's team, and Becca Krenzer, a transfer from Pavilion. Both are six-footers who can pull down rebounds on both ends of the court.

Also returning are Bailee Welker (who is also made big off season strides, Pero said), Hannah Green, Emily McCracken and Emma Francis, who all made significant contributions during the course of ND's championship run.

"We have 11 players who can contribute, who can come off the bench and I won't feel like we're losing much," Pero said.

That kind of quality player rotation will be important in a season where coaches are expecting refs to call more fouls.

Just like the NCAA, officials have decided the pendulum in basketball has swung too far toward the defense and it's time to let the offense reassert itself. There are no new rules, but rules about hand checking and giving driving shooters space will be more rigorously and consistently enforced.

So far this season in NCAA men's hoops, there have been an average of 10 more fouls called per game. In last Saturday's Niagara and Seton Hall game, there were 72 fouls called and 102 free throws. Men's game scoring has increased to 76 points per team, up from 67.5.

Notre Dame made it through the post season last year in large part because of a never-let-up defensive style that kept opponents off balance and out of sync.

Nobody was more tenacious or aggressive on defense than Call, but after a scrimage yesterday in which the Irish were called for 21 fouls in the first quarter, Pero believes his team learned a valuable lesson, and the lesson wasn't lost on Call.

"She's matured so much and I think her eyes really opened up last night in the second quarter," Pero said. "Even last year through the run, we were worried she was going to get into foul trouble but she changed her game and I think she's mature enough to do that again."

Pero still expects Call to spark the defense.

"If Laurie's on you, you're going to have a lot of problems," Pero said.

Last year Call lead Section V with 120 steals. If she hits that mark again -- and Pero believes she will -- that would put her at 400 career steals, which Pero said would be quite a milestone.

Taylor will also be closing in on a career milestone of 1,000 points scored.

The lone senior to graduate after the state championship was Shea's older sister, Riley Norton. Riley was the team's leading scorer, hitting about 14 points per game, but Pero believes with the improvements in his younger players and the strong rotation he can put on the floor the team can fill the scoring gap.

The Lady Irish will only go as far as the girls are willing to focus and play hard, Pero said, and that's true whether they're in Class D or Class B.

The Genesee Region League -- the majority of ND's regular season opponents -- is comprised mainly of Class C teams. Only Elba -- which won the state championship in 2012 and had a seven-game winning streak against ND snapped in Sectionals last year -- is Class D. The Irish are probably the pre-season favorites to when the GR title.

Which puts them into sectionals, where anything can happen, even when playing bigger schools.

"It's all breaks," Pero said. "When you get into the post season, you've got to catch some breaks and the post season is so far away right now that we want to get through our 18 games and then the post season will be here and we can concentrate on that."

Top photo: Dave Pero.

Mel Taylor

Asst. Coach Dave Pero Jr.

Laurie Call

Bailee Welker

Shea Norton

November 17, 2013 - 12:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, football, sports, elba, high school sports.

In a room filled with friends, fans and supporters last night, former Elba Lady Lancers Head Coach Tom Nowak was all smiles.

"It's really special," Nowak said. "It's a little bit, I don't know, I want to say the word, 'imposing,' because you want to be in the background as a coach. It's difficult when you come out here and you're the person, but it's really nice to see."

Nowak was honored with a retirement party at the Elba Fire Hall that featured a collection of memorabilia and lots of memories from 26 years of serving the community by teaching young people how to compete and win.

In 1977, after two years at Dundee, Nowak joined Elba Central as a history teacher. He also became the varsity football coach and the varsity girls basketball coach.

His football record over 22 years was 130-60-6 with two sectional titles.

Leading the Lady Lancers, Nowak compiled a 457-132 record, eight sectional titles and, most significantly, a state title in 2012.

"Just that one precious one," Nowak said of the state championship. "It was special. We went in 2000 and lost in the finals. I always thought I'd never get a chance to go back and I got a chance to go back and the girls came through."

Teaching and coaching in Elba was a perfect fit, he said.

"I've always considered myself a shallow person," Nowak said. "I like history and I like sports. I first got to be a history teacher at Elba and then I got a chance to coach, so it really worked out well for me."

It takes time and dedication to be a successful varsity coach in any sport, and that means, Nowak acknowledged, that he maybe wasn't home as much as his wife might have liked over the years.

"We're going to do some things for my wife," said Nowak, who retired from teaching in 2009. "She spent so many years staying home on a Friday night watching Dallas and Falcon's Crest while I was out gallivanting around scouting football games. It will be nice to give her the opportunity to do some of the things that maybe we didn't get to do when I was a coach."

With all those wins and all those titles, surely young coaches could learn something from Nowak, and here's his advice:

"Find a mentor," Nowak said. "Find the people who are successes and spend some time and find out why they're successful.You will see something you can incorporate into your own plan. That's something I did. I looked at some role models because as a young coach you really don't know what to do and that was really beneficial to me."

November 14, 2013 - 9:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports, high school sports.

In recent years, even on the first day of practice, Buddy Brasky said he was eager for go-time. He thought his teams were ready for their first regular season game.

This year, with six seniors graduating and a roster stocked with sophomores and juniors, it's going to take a little time to get the team into championship form.

"We've got to get better throughout the year," Brasky said following a practice at Batavia High School today. "We get a little bit better, a little better, a little bit better, and hopefully we peak by the end of the year. Where in the past couple of years we've been really good right from the beginning, I think it's going to take a little while this year."

The core of the starting squad appears to be Justice Fagan, a senior guard, and Jeff Redband, a junior forward whose clutch buzzer beater in last year's regional championship helped send the Blue Devils to the state championship semi-finals.

"We've got two really good players, two first-team, all-league type of players," Brasky said. "If we can get the guys around them to step up, yes, we can win the league title and then the next step from there is sectionals."

It's a little bit of a setback, Brasky said, that Redband is sitting out pre-season wth an injured ankle. He's already been sidelined for three weeks and is at least two weeks away from returning for action. He may not be ready for the opening tip-off.

Also missing a big chunk of practice time is starting senior guard Andrew Turner, who will miss the next 10 days of practice after suffering a mild concussion.

Brasky is also expecting a big contribution from sophomore forward Malachi Chenault, who made the varsity last year as a freshman.

Coming up from JV is that squad's second-leading scorer last year, guard Jerrett Laskett, a junior.

"These are good kids," Brasky said. "They listen. They're coachable. Our schemes are pretty complicated. Our defenses are not easy to pick up, so little by little, I see improvement every day. I'm pretty pleased with how they're working right now."

The Blue Devils, in Class A-II this year, opens the season Dec. 7 against Williamsville South at Niagara Falls HS. There are no home games scheduled before the Lions Tournament, Dec. 27 and Dec. 30 at Genesee Community College.

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

November 13, 2013 - 10:32pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, high school sports, Notre Dame.

In the late 1960s, when David Pero played boys basketball for Notre Dame, one of the schools annual opponents that always presented a challenge was St. Mary's School for the Deaf out of Buffalo.

The boys played hard and and ran their plays with no verbal communication.

It was quite an experience, as Pero remembered it. As the girls basketball coach at Notre Dame, Pero thought his team should share the same experience.

"This is a life lesson," Pero said. "Our girls get a chance to see that people with disabilities might play the game differently, but it's the same game and they're just as aggressive as we are."

Notre Dame hosted a pre-season scrimmage tonight with St. Mary's, the Rochester School for the Deaf and Geneseo High School participating.

"We thought it would be a great experience for our kids, our girls, to have a scrimmage with hearing teams and with another deaf team," said Tim Kelly, St. Mary's superintendent. "All four schools are getting a great experience playing against schools they wouldn't necessarily play against."

Notre Dame and St. Mary's haven't played competitively against each other in years, since both left the Smith League. The Fighting Irish are now part of Section V and the Genesee Region. St. Mary's and Rochester School for the Deaf are independent teams.

"They were always, always a good basketball team," Pero said. "They would give you all you wanted. We probably only ever beat them, all the years we played them, by three, four, five points, because they always had very good teams."

The scrimmage was a great chance for the teams to learn from each other and about each other, Kelly said.

"We're always looking at our school to have our kids reach their full potential both academically and athletically and this certainly helps our girls reach their full potential," Kelly said.

The scrimmage was sponsored by T.F. Brown's owner Rick Mancuso.

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

November 12, 2013 - 10:39pm
posted by Andrew Crofts in basketball, GCC, sports.

Shanell Glover helped pace the Genesee Community College women's basketball team to its first win of the season on Tuesday night, compiling a performance of 31 points and 15 rebounds in a 72-65 win over visiting Lakeland Community College.

GCC (1-4) got off to a fast start thanks to 20 first half points from Glover.

Dashawna Jenifer recorded her third double-double of the season, finishing with 17 points and 14 rebounds.

Genesee grabbed a total of 57 rebounds on the night and took advantage with 28 second chance points.

The Lady Cougars took a four-point lead into halftime and used 11 points off the bench in the second half to hold off Lakeland.

Breana Gleaton added eight points and Markina Robinson chipped in six points.

Genesee will return to action on November 23rd when it travels to Davis College.




The Genesee Community College men's basketball team could not hold on to a late lead against #17 Lakeland Community College on Tuesday night, and dropped its home opener of the 2013-14 season, 90-84. 

Lakeland led the majority of the first half, shooting 60% from three-point range. The Cougars battled and stayed in the game by shooting 50% from the field in the opening period.

The Cougars took a 79-76 lead with four-minutes remaining in the game when Alastair Cole hit his fourth three-point basket of the night. Lakeland responded and with under a minute to play, broke an 82-82 tie with a layup and a chance at a three-point play. The Lakers could not capitalize with the free-throw.

Trailing by two with 40-seconds remaining, the Cougars forced a five-second violation on a Lakeland inbound attempt, but could not capitalize and were forced to put the Lakers at the line the remainder of the game.

Ervin Mitchell scored a game-high 26 points on 10 of 13 shooting. Cole finished with 23 points, Naquil Jones added 19 points and five rebounds and Gabriel Burroughs scored ten points.

Genesee (1-2) will return to action on Saturday against St. John Fisher (JV) at home at 12 p.m.

October 26, 2013 - 5:03pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, Le Roy, Le Roy Christian Community Project.

Le Roy Christian Community Project hosted a three-on-three basketball tournament today at Le Roy Physical Therapy. Here are some shots from one of the games.

There were nine teams and about 30 players participating.

October 17, 2013 - 10:55am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports, high school sports, Buddy Brasky.

With the basketball season only six weeks out, some of the regions top hoops players have been heading over to the Batavia High School gym two days a week to drill on the game's fundamentals -- shooting and ball handling.

"It's a lot of skill work and a chance to get a ball in their hands," said Buddy Brasky, Batavia's boys varsity head coach and leader of the mini-camp, which he's been running for about six years.

Jeff Redband, a junior with Batavia, has been coming to the camp for five years, said his participation has definitely improved his game.

"This camp is based on the basics, so you don't learn new stuff, but it makes you better at the things you really need to know," Redband said.

Each session includes ball-handling exercises and shooting drills, but Brasky noted drilling just two days a week isn't going to cut it. The 45 players participating -- which range in age from eighth grade to high school seniors -- need to practice and play every day if they're going to improve.

"We tell them you can only do so much here," Brasky said. "You've got to take what we do here -- we're only here two days a week -- and go home and do it on your own at home."

One of the drills involves shooting 100 baskets from at least 12 feet out, but that's just a drop in the bucket for the amount of practice necessary to become a competent shooter.

"The games give them the opportunity transfer what they're learning in skills in a game situation," Brasky said.

"You've got to get a couple hundred shots in a day," Brasky said.

Following drills, the players break off into four-on-four games, which give the kids a chance to play against players from all over the region, not just Genesee County and not just their own schools.

All that drilling on fundamentals has really paid off for Elba's Haley Brown.

"It helps a lot," Brown said. "It's made me a lot better shooter and ball handler and it shows during the season."

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

September 19, 2013 - 3:56pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports.

Boys and girls in grades 9-12 looking to advance their hoop dreams are invited to a basketball mini-camp starting Oct. 7 at Batavia High School.

The camp is hosted by Batavia Boys Varsity Basketball Coach Buddy Brasky and sponsored by the Batavia Boys Basketball Booster Club.

The camp will focus on improving offensive skills and it will be held from 7 to 9 p.m. every Monday and Thursday in October.

The cost is $125 and Brasky said the camp is designed for experienced and serious players only.

For more information, contact Brasky at (585) 356=4050 or e-mail him at [email protected]

July 22, 2013 - 5:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports, pembroke, Le Roy.

Five girls from Genesee County are part of a Genesee Valley Pride basketball program that recently took third place in a national tournament held in Florida.

The team is made up of Samantha Jurek and Hunter Jurek, from Alden, Abby Kamysz, Attica, Tiara Filbert, Batavia, Rebecca Grimaudo, Churchville-Chili, Kayla Heimlich, Le Roy, Niki Templeton and Logan Fugle, both of Livonia, and Pembroke’s Rylee Mosher, Breanna Johnson and Michaela Nati.

This was the inaugural season for GV Pride, which competed in six regional tournaments before traveling to Florida. For more on the program, visit the team's Web site.

July 2, 2013 - 7:40am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports, Williams Park.

Sunday, we posted photos from the 3-on-3 tournament at Williams Park. Last night organizer Dave Smith e-mailed us some pictures and information about the winners.

The 30 and over champs: Oldies But Goodies. Team members are Dontre Woods, Tyrone Woods, John McCulley and Alton Williams.

The boys 14-15 champs, The Unit. Team members are Adonis Davis, Malachi Chenault, Terrell Mapes and Anthony Gallo.

The girls 14-25 champs, The Pride. Team members are Tiara Filbert, Essence Williams and Maddie McCulley.

The girls 12-13 champs, Da Truth. Team members are Maggie Cecere, Dajah Williams and Alissa Polk.

The 6-7 year-old champs, Showtime. We have last names only: Woods, Welker, Sherwood and Brohmstead.

The 10-11 girls champs, They Got Game. Team members are Thomas, M. Reinhardt, M. Reigle, R. Stefaniak and J. Cuttney.

More after the jump: Click on the headline.

June 30, 2013 - 7:24pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports, Williams Park.

Nice turn out today for the 3-on-3 tournament at Williams Park, which ran from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

No word yet on the winners.

To purchase prints of photos, click here.

June 29, 2013 - 8:06pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in basketball, sports, Williams Park.

Alessio LaRock and Isaiah Banks were at Williams Park late this afternoon getting in a little basketball practice prior to tomorrow's 3-on-3 tournament. The two 14-year-olds intend to play in the tournament.

LaRock is from Buffalo and Banks is a junior varsity player with Batavia High School.

Players and teams that wish to participate in the tournament who haven't signed up yet should get to the park before 9 a.m..

June 28, 2013 - 5:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, sports.
Event Date and Time: 
June 30, 2013 -
9:30am to 4:30pm

Rise to the Occasion -- the 2nd annual 3-on-3 Basketball Tournament at Williams Park. $100 per team to enter, guaranted 4 games per team. Brackets for ages six and up. Also a skills competion, three point contest and slam dunk contest.

June 10, 2013 - 12:30am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, basketball, wbta, sports, Jerry Warner.

If you happen to be in Miami for the NBA finals, and happen the Largo Bar & Grill, across the street from the American Airlines Arena, you'll hear a familiar voice -- WBTA's Jerry Warner.

Stephen Warner, manager of the Largo, streams WBTA every morning to keep up with the news from back home and listen to his father.

A graduate of Oakfield-Alabama High School, Genesee Community College and SUNY Brockport, Warner has been managing the bar and grill since it opened in 2010.

The place is popular with Miami Heat fans -- players might even stop in -- and it's been hopping with the Heat making the finals again this year, Warner said.

Western New Yorkers pass through the Largo regularly, Warner said. Notre Dame alum Paul Merrill (bottom photo) is the bar manager at the Largo.

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.


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