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Saturday, May 31, 2014 at 7:51 am

ND conquers Arkport, wins Class DD Title

post by Nick Sabato in sports

It has been quite a week for Notre Dame senior Alec Covel.

On Thursday he signed to play for Division II Mansfield University, and the very next day, he pitched the Fighting Irish past Arkport 11-5 to win the Class DD Section V Championship.

“It’s a good way to go out,” Covel said. “There isn’t really much left to do, but hopefully we can finish the season off and keep it going as long as we can.”

Oh, and by the way, he will receive his diploma on Saturday evening.

Things got off to a rocky start for Covel and the Irish, as Arkport took a quick 2-0 lead after the first inning after Brandon Stephens drove in the first run on an RBI triple, and then scored on a passed ball.

The Blue Jays would let Notre Dame back into the game, as they tied the game at 2 on the heels of four Arkport errors.

“We got some gifts early and then later I thought we earned them,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rapone. “Early in the game they certainly gave us some and we gave them some. We didn’t play well defensively and I think it affected Alec a little bit because he never really got into a rhythm.”

In the second Notre Dame would start to get things going at the plate.

Jarrod Wall scored the tying run after getting on base on an error and then advancing to third on two passed balls before third baseman Jordan Wood committed his second error of the game (scoring the first two runs of the game) on a grounder by Tyler Prospero.

The Irish took the lead after pitcher Nate Warzcok walked Tyler Stroud with the bases loaded.

On the very next at bat, Andrew Mullen would drive in his second and third runs of the game on a 2-out 2-run double.

The defending Class DD champs would continue to battle, not allowing Covel to get into a groove on the mound.

Arkport scored two more runs to cut the lead to 5-4 in the third after Josh McDaniel knocked in a run on an RBI single and Wood scored on an errant throw by Mullen.

“They kept me off balance,” Covel said. “They kept taking their time, untying their shoes and all that. They were in my head a little bit. I was frustrated for awhile but then I found it and finished off well.”

The senior hurler would finish off well, allowing just one run in the final four innings.

The Irish would shake off the surge by the Blue Jays as they broke the game open in the bottom of the fourth.

Jason Hart got things rolling with a one-out walk, followed by a walk by Covel and a single by Tyler Stroud to load the bases.

Mullen would strike again, driving in another run on a single before Cal Tygart drove in two on a double.

If you recall, it was Hart who hit five three-pointers in the Section V championship game not three months ago. Well, in the Section V baseball title game, he reached base safely in all four plate appearances and scored three times.

“Jason just gets on base,” Rapone said. “He walks, he gets on with an error, a flare…he just seems to have that knack of being able to get on base. With Covel hitting behind him, he’s scored a lot of runs this year.”

Notre Dame got two more runs after the shortstop bobbled a Louis Reynolds ground ball that plated Tygart and Mullen.

It looked as if the five-time Section V champions were going to make a run, down 10 to 4 in the fifth.

Covel looked as if he was struggling, allowing three hits to load the bases after errors in the infield.

After Stephens struck out, Craig Lewis drove in a run on a sacrifice fly and Warzcok singled to reload the bases.

But, Rapone stuck with his senior ace and, as great players do, he dug himself out of the hole.

On a 3-2 pitch with two outs Covel faked a pitch and caught McDaniels stealing to end the inning.

“Alec is a seasoned pitcher,” Rapone said. “He’s not going to get rattled because of what’s going on. He made a heads-up play with a 3-2 count, knowing the runners were going to running. He did the fake with a swing-around pick-off. He’s just a smart baseball player.”

Covel would finish off the final two innings 1-2-3 to end the contest and finally get the Irish over the hump after losing to the Blue Jays in the finals in 2001, 2005 and 2012, while being eliminated in the semifinals in 2009.

“We’ve been the bridesmaids a lot of the time,” Rapone said. “Arkport has been on the other side a lot of the time, too. It was nice to come out on top, especially for our seniors.”

Stroud was named the Class DD tournament Most Valuable Player after going 5-for-7 with four RBIs in three games, while also striking out 13 batters and allowing just one run on three hits in the semifinals against Jasper-Troupsburg.

“From Little League it’s something you dream of,” Stroud said. “Now it’s finally here.”

Covel finished the game allowing five runs on nine hits and striking out eight batters to pick up the win.

Mullen went 3-for-3 at the plate with four RBIs, while Louis Reynolds had two RBIs and reached base three times.

Warzcok allowed eight runs on six hits and walked seven batters in four and one-third innings pitched for Arkport (14-5).

Notre Dame (15-3) will play Class D winner Whitesville on Tuesday at a site to be determined for the opportunity to play in the Far West Regional.

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Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 11:37 am

Covel, ND shut out Fillmore to advance to DD semis

post by Nick Sabato in baseball, Notre Dame, sports

Sometimes in sports a star player can get rolling and it’s hard to stop him.

That’s what happened as Alec Covel started off hot on the mound and never looked back as Notre Dame blanked Fillmore 5-0 in the Class DD quarterfinals at Dwyer Stadium.

Covel started out the game hot, as he struck out his first five batters and he dominated the Eagles all night long.

“He was strong tonight, he had good stuff,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rapone. “His last couple starts, he’s pitched well, and actually he’s pitched well all year. He has good command of the strike zone, he doesn’t walk many people. When you don’t walk anybody, it’s hard to score.”

The senior right-hander pitched seven scoreless innings, allowing just two hits and striking out 13 batters to improve his record to 4-1 on the season, with an astounding 0.55 ERA.

“I threw real well tonight,” Covel said. “I’ve had a lot of time off to get ready for this game, and I’ve got a week if we make it to the finals.”

Notre Dame got off to a solid start from the plate after Cal Tygart scored on a sac fly from Louis Reynolds in the bottom of the second to take a 1-0 lead.

The Fighting Irish would score two more in the third on a 2-run triple from Andrew Mullen, before adding two more in the fifth on an RBI double from Tygart and an RBI single from sophomore Tyler Prospero.

“We had some nice hits,” Rapone said. “We got the ball up in the air too much, we’ve got to keep the ball down a little bit more, but we didn’t strike out so that’s good.”

The only time that Covel appeared to be in any danger, was in the sixth inning after loading the bases on two walks and a hit batter with one out. He quickly dug himself out of the hole, picking off Joe Mullen at second base, before getting a strike out to end the inning and preserve the shut out.

Notre Dame (13-3) appears to have a double-headed monster on the mound with Covel and Tyler Stroud, who is 3-1 with a 1.11 ERA.

“It’s a big advantage having two pitchers,” Rapone said. “We didn’t have to space Covel out tonight, say when we want to pull him out and get somebody else in, because he’s not going to pitch Tuesday, Stroud is.”

The second-seeded Fighting Irish will play Tuesday as Tyler Stroud takes the mound with a chance to advance to the Class DD finals.

Kyle Redman allowed five runs on seven hits while striking out four batters for Fillmore.

Saturday, May 24, 2014 at 11:33 am

Batavia clips Eagles as Scheuerlein tosses no-no

post by Nick Sabato in baseball, batavia, Batavia HS, sports

In baseball, getting strong play from your pitcher is as important as a quarterback in football, and that was evident as Batavia topped Wayne 8-2 in the Class A quarterfinals at Dwyer Stadium.

The sixth-seeded Blue Devils got strong pitching from starter Jake Scheuerlein and reliever Greg Mruczek, while capitalizing on pitching errors from the 14th-seed Eagles.

Scheuerlein pitched four no-hit innings without allowing a run before Mruczek came in to close out the contest.

“Both pitchers threw the ball really well,” said Batavia Head Coach Rick Saunders. “I’m riding both Scheuerlein and Mruczek all the way through sectionals as long as the run goes.”

On the other side, Wayne pitcher Nate Currier struggled with his command all afternoon, as the Blue Devils got their first five runs without recording a hit.

Batavia struck first as Rich Francis scored from third on a sacrifice fly from James Fazio to take a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Then the floodgates opened in the third.

The third frame saw the Blue Devils score four runs on an error and three passed balls before Ryan Mullen singled (the team’s first hit of the game) in the final run of the inning to take a commanding 6-0 lead.

“Guys had quality at-bats to get on base,” Saunders said. “If they don’t catch the ball behind the plate, that’s a nice way to get a lead. It makes a little more relaxing as a coach. At this point in the tournament, you’ll take them any way you can get them.”

Fazio would score Batavia’s final two runs on a 2-run double in the fifth to go up 8-0.

Batavia would lose their no-hit bid on the first at-bat of the sixth, before finally scoring on an RBI single by Joe Dell’Olio.

Despite giving up two runs on two hits in three innings of work, Mruczek pitched a strong game as he struck out five batters, showing that the Blue Devils have a strong one-two punch on the mound.

“I like it because it puts a lot of pressure on a high school guy to go seven innings,” Saunders said. “Especially this year with the weather being so bad, it’s hard to stretch guys out. This way I can keep them both fresh the whole way, you roll the dice and take a shot.”

The Blue Devils were led by Fazio, who finished 1-for-2 with three RBIs, while Francis and Zeke Lynn added two runs each.

Batavia (13-5) will next face second-seeded Brighton on Tuesday.

Currier pitched five innings, allowing eight runs on four hits, while striking out four batters for Wayne (7-13).

 

Saturday, April 19, 2014 at 6:35 am

Batavia baseball bounces back to beat Akron

post by Nick Sabato in baseball, batavia, Batavia HS, high school sports, sports

After winning the first two games of the season, the Batavia baseball squad was handed its first loss of the season in an emphatic fashion, losing to Honeoye Falls-Lima 15-2 on Thursday afternoon.

Twenty-four hours later, the Blue Devils got back on track, beating up on Akron, 15-8.

“I thought it was a good comeback win for us,” said Batavia Head Coach Rick Saunders. “We got lit up pretty good yesterday by a good HF-L team. Today we came out and jumped out on top and got those three runs in the first.”

Batavia opened up the game with three runs on three hits in the bottom of the first inning on a bases-clearing hit by Zeke Lynn.

The Tigers would battle back, loading the bases with one out in the second inning.

Akron would score on a fielder’s choice by D.J. Carlson, then on a passed ball, and they then tied it up on a RBI single by Zach Pfentner.

Quinten Weis would settle down after that, pitching two more scoreless innings and allowing just one more hit before Greg Mruczek relieved him.

“He was a little wild to start the game,” Saunders said of Weis. “I thought he settled down the rest of the game and he threw well that last two innings he was in the game.”

The Blue Devils regained the lead in the third after Nick Bauer was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.

Steve Borowczyk appeared to get himself out of the jam, ending the inning with the bases loaded and just one run allowed, but it was not to be.

Batavia exploded for four runs on four hits in the bottom of the fourth inning to extend the lead to 8-3.

Luke McComb was walked with the bases loaded, followed by an RBI single from Rich Francis before Bauer drove in two runs with a double to right field.

Akron appeared to make a bit of a comeback in the top of the fifth, getting two runs off of Mruczek (helped by a few defensive miscues), but he settled down to strike out the side in the sixth.

“I thought he threw the ball real well,” Saunders said of Mruczek. “I think our defense let him down a little bit. That happens, these are high school kids. If we played tight defense like we did in the first three games, we probably only would have let up a few runs.”

The Blue Devils' batters went to work in the bottom of the frame to put the game out of reach as they sent seven runners across home plate, including a two-run single from senior reserve Pat Wrobel.

The Tigers got three runs in the seventh, but it wasn’t enough to get close.

“The biggest difference between yesterday and today was that we hit better,” Saunders said. “We got the bases-clearing hit by Lynn and that was clutch for us today.”

Lynn finished the game 2-for-5 with four RBIs, while Bauer went 1-for-4 with four RBIs. As a team, Batavia combined for 14 hits on the game.

Weis picked up the win for the Devils, allowing three runs on three hits in four innings pitched.

Borowczyk took the loss for Akron, allowing eight runs in six innings pitched.

Batavia improves to 3-1 on the season, and next travel to Aquinas on Tuesday. First pitch is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 12:55 am

Slow start ends state dreams for Notre Dame boys

post by Nick Sabato in sports

Have you ever heard the phrase "It’s not how start, it’s how you finish"?

Well, today that didn’t turn out to be true, as Sherman used a monster first half to end Notre Dame’s spectacular postseason run, 57-52.

The game began with both teams struggling to find their rhythm on offense, but Sherman found their touch midway through the first quarter, using a 13-0 run to end the period.

In the second quarter the Wildcats picked exactly where they left off, outscoring the Fighting Irish 24-15, shooting 10-of-20 from the three-point line in the first half to take a 40-20 lead into the locker room.

While Sherman couldn’t miss, Notre Dame struggled to make baskets, as they shot just 26 percent from the field during the first 16 minutes, while Tim McCulley went 0-for-7 in the first half for just two points.

“They shot the ball extremely well,” Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rapone said of Sherman. “I don’t think we defended like we have been. We gave them a lot of open looks but they knocked them down. You have to give them credit; they shot the ball extremely well. We tried every defense and it just didn’t work.”

The Fighting Irish also struggled to handle the Sherman press, as they committed 12 turnovers in the first half.

The lone bright spot in the first half was junior Josh Johnson, who scored all 13 points in the first half, including eight in a row during the second quarter.

“Josh had a really good game,” Rapone said. “He played really well tonight. We needed more offense in some of the spots than what we got and that was the difference.”

Notre Dame came out strong to start the second quarter, getting two quick baskets and a steal, but they failed to get that third shot in a row to fall, and the Wildcats quickly pushed their lead.

That would be a theme throughout the second half, as the Irish cut the Sherman lead to 10 early in the fourth quarter, but two quick baskets pushed the lead back to 15.

“That was the story of the whole game,” Rapone said. “We weren’t as mentally focused as we have been. We were supposed to be doing certain things that we didn’t do. I’ll take that load. I’m the coach, I’m supposed to make sure that they are in the right sets. We didn’t do what we talked about doing and that’s why we got beat.”

While the team struggled to remain consistent, McCulley struggled to find his offensive touch in the third quarter. He made his first basket of the contest with just two minutes left in the third quarter.

“Their wings were up on my side,” McCulley said. “So I wasn’t able to get a shot from the 3-point line or off drive and kicks. It was just tough to score.”

After a torrid first half, Sherman cooled off from the field in the second half, shooting just 5-for-24 from the field and 3-for-12 beyond the arc.

Andrew Graham, who entered as the Wildcats’ leading scorer, went just 1-for-7 in the second half after scoring 12 of his 14 points in the first half on 4-of-7 shooting beyond the arc.

Unfortunately for Notre Dame, they shot just 32 percent from the field in the second half, and the one statistic they own in the first half was matched by the opposing team in the second.

Sherman was out-rebounded 44-27 for the game, but they managed to grab six offensive rebounds in the second half that doomed the comeback dreams by the Irish.

“Rebounding in the third quarter killed us,” Rapone said. “At least four times they missed the first shot and got the ball back. Even if they didn’t score, they would run 20 to 25 seconds off the shot clock. So, second half rebounding, and especially in the third quarter really hurt us.”

The loss came as a surprise to many people after winning 10 games in a row and 15 out of the last 16.

McCulley entered the game with a 12-game streak in which he had notched at least 20 points, while Alec Covel had reached double figures in six straight games.

The two seniors combined to shoot 5-of-23 for the game and turned the ball over 10 times.

“It’s a little easier to accept to go out and play a strong game and get beat somebody else that plays a strong game,” Rapone said. “They played a strong game and we didn’t answer it. When that happens, you have to give credit to the opponent. Whatever they did worked well for them so we have to give them credit.”

Notre Dame clawed their way back late in the game, cutting the lead to just five but they simply ran out of time and ran out of magic.

McCulley finished his last high school basketball game with a team-high 15 points, 11 rebounds, two steals and two blocks. He ends his career with 1,210 points on 452 made field goals and 424 rebounds.

“It was a hard game to get to the hoop,” McCulley said. “They played good defense and we didn’t get a lot of good looks.”

Johnson finished with 13 points, six rebounds and three steals while Caleb Nellis scored 10 points and pulled down seven rebounds.

Sherman (21-1) will advance to the state semifinals in Glens Falls next weekend after getting a game-high 22 points on 5-of-9 shooting beyond the arc from Ryan Robson. As a team, the Wildcats connected on 13 three-point field goals.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame (19-4) hadn’t allowed more than 50 points since Feb. 12, and it was only the fourth time all season that they had scored less than 55 points in a game.

This was the first loss in a Far West Regional under Mike Rapone, as they had won their first five.

Photos by Howard Owens.

To order prints of photos, click here.

Friday, March 7, 2014 at 8:09 pm

With a little history between them, Notre Dame set to meet Sherman in Far West Regional

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

Saturday’s New York State Class D Far West Regional contest will feature two programs that are no stranger to the magnitude of the game.

Notre Dame is appearing in the Far West Regional for the sixth time in school history, and the second in three years. Meanwhile, Sherman will be representing Section VI for the second-straight year.

While Sherman returns their top three scorers from the team that fell to University Prep a year ago, Notre Dame has a vastly different look from the team that advanced to the state semifinals in 2012.

Tim McCulley started in 2012 as a sophomore, but he is the lone returning player from that team. But, the Fighting Irish may not need to rely on his experience too heavily.

“They’re always talking to him about this and that,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rapone. “They’re going to use him, but they are experienced enough now that they should be ready to go.”

The Wildcats will look to continue to rely on their hot play over the course of the season, along with their experience from a year ago.

“We lost to U-Prep last year in this game,” said Sherman Head Coach Cory Emory. “But we returned pretty much our whole team, and we worked hard in the off-season. We had a lot of games that were close and then we had a run and were able to stretch the lead.”

Both teams come in on a roll, as the Fighting Irish have won 10 straight games, and 15 out of 16 since the New Year, while the Wildcats come in 20-1 on the season and are winners of nine in a row.

Notre Dame will undoubtedly be led by McCulley, who is averaging 23.7 points per game, 8.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 2.8 steals and two blocks per game this season, but as of late he is getting some help from his teammates.

While McCulley has reached 20 points in each of the last 12 games, senior Alec Covel has been in double figures in six straight to give the Irish another scoring threat.

“[McCulley] scores points so many ways,” Rapone said. “With Covel stepping up and becoming more assertive on the offensive end, it takes away those junk defenses that teams play against us.”

Unlike Notre Dame, Sherman will not rely on their interior play, but with the play of their guards.

Senior guards Andrew Graham and Ryan Robson are the team’s leading scorers for the second-straight year, with Graham averaging 14.8 points per game and Robson averaging 12.8.

“We could be a little contrasting in playing style to Notre Dame,” Emory said. “We aren’t very tall and we like to press in order to take advantage of our quickness.”

Their top inside player, Jake Card, only stands 6-foot-2 and comes in averaging 9.5 points per game and 9.1 rebounds per game.

Many people may remember Sherman from a season ago, as their girl’s squad fell to Notre Dame in the Far West Regional.

They also may remember some controversial comments from Sherman girls' coach and athletic director Mel Swanson, who expressed his displeasure with private schools playing public schools following the game.

''It is tough. It's an inequality,” said Swanson of Notre Dame. “Their players played hard and they were very good players and they did great things with the basketball. But when you're a small school like ours that graduates 30-something kids and you have to compete at that level it's just such a different field they get to draw from."

It’s an ongoing debate statewide, as Section VI does not allow private schools to participate in sectionals. However, Emory does not care who his boys play.

“Whoever we end up playing is who we end up playing,” Emory said. “Is it fair? That’s up for debate. You can go around and around on that topic. But we play who we play, and at this level, whoever we play is probably going to be pretty good.”

Rapone and the Fighting Irish will be focusing on how to stop the Wildcats on Saturday, and advance to Glens Falls.

“They have been there once before and have the experience,” Rapone said. “They use a lot of presses and a lot of traps. It’s something we haven’t seen a lot of, so we will have to get to work on that so everyone knows what their job is.”

Notre Dame and Sherman will square off on Saturday at Buffalo State College for the opportunity to advance to the state semifinals in Glens Falls. Tip-off is scheduled for noon.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 9:49 am

Notre Dame advances to Far West Regional

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

They say that championship teams peak at the right time of the year.

It’s March and things are coming together at the right time for Notre Dame, with one game separating them and a trip to Glens Falls after a 67-34 victory over Houghton Academy in the Section V consolidation game.

“The last six or seven games have been our best games of the season,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rapone. “That’s what you want. Hopefully the peak is going up and we don’t hit a plateau.”

One player that seems to be peaking is senior Alec Covel.

After reaching double-digits just once in the first 16 games of the season, Covel has scored in double figures in each of the last six contests.

In Saturday’s Class D1 final, Covel scored 11 points in the third quarter to help seal the win, but tonight he started the game hot to give his team the momentum.

“He’s been a work in progress all year,” said Rapone. “I’ve been trying to make him believe that he’s as good as I think he is. Now, he’s not hesitating. He got us started tonight. I’m glad to see him playing well.”

The senior forward got the Irish going, scoring seven of his 12 points in the first quarter as they used a 12-3 run to start the game.

“I haven’t been hesitating to let it go,” Covel said. “It just seems to be going down.”

Notre Dame jumped out to a 34-15 lead at halftime and cruised to the easy win.

Tim McCulley had another stellar game despite a slow start.

After going just 1-for-5 from the field for three points in the first quarter, McCulley slowly came alive to finish with a game-high 24 points.

“Their game plan was to keep him out of the lane,” said Rapone of McCulley. “He won’t force it. He just waits for them to clear and steps back. The one thing that he does that a lot of high school kids have lost is his pull-up jump shot. It just gives him another weapon.”

The senior reached the 20-point mark for the 14th straight game and surpassed 500 points for the season. He also added 12 rebounds, two steals and two blocks.

First-year senior center Charlie Herbert once again had a monster night on the boards, collecting 16 rebounds, with six coming on the offensive end as Notre Dame out-rebounded Houghton 50-23 for the game.

“He’s the difference between us being good and very good,” Rapone said of Herbert. “It gives us flexibility and substitution. At the beginning of the year I thought if we got three or four minutes out of him we’d be good. He’s so athletic and he’s like a sponge. Every time you tell him something he just soaks it up.”

Derek Brooks scored 18 points and grabbed five rebounds for Houghton Academy (12-11).

Notre Dame (19-3) advances to the Far West Regional to take on Section VI representative Sherman (20-1).

The Wildcats are outscoring their opponents by an average of 63 to 42 this season and are led by guard Andrew Graham (14.8 points per game) and Ryan Robson (12.8 points per game).

Sherman fell to University Prep in the Far West Regional last season 71-55.

Meanwhile, Notre Dame is making their sixth appearance in this game in school history, and last time was in 2012.

The game will take place Saturday at Buffalo State College, with tip-off set for noon.

Photos by Howard Owens

To order prints, click here (also, we've added a new product to the mix -- you can now order photo books of pictures from the complete gallery).

Monday, March 3, 2014 at 12:46 am

Batavia gets battered by Geneva in Class A2 final

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, batavia, high school sports, sports

After losing five starters from last year’s state semi-final team, not many people expected Batavia to reach the sectional finals this season…but they did.

Unfortunately, the magic ran out in the Class A2 at Blue Cross Arena tonight, as Geneva rolled to a 63-30 win.

The Blue Devils never led in the contest, as the Panthers dominated from start to finish.

“They’re very good, they have a lot of weapons,” said Batavia Head Coach Buddy Brasky. “Their game plan was good. They sat a few guys in the paint, and whenever Justice (Fagan) and Jeff (Redband) would get by their man, there would be two more waiting for them.”

Batavia hung tough in the first quarter, trailing by just five. But the second quarter was all Geneva.

The Panthers outscored the Blue Devils 17-3 in the frame and cruised into halftime with a 30-11 lead.

Batavia struggled to find their shot all night, as Redband scored all 11 of the team’s points in the first half and the team shot just 32 percent from the field for the game.

Geneva also cleaned the glass with ease all night, keeping Batavia without an offensive rebound until midway through the third quarter as James Sims Jr. and Terrell Johnson Jr. had their way.

“They were bigger and stronger than we were,” Brasky said. “They doubled our rebounding total; they killed us on the boards. They played better than us in every facet of the game.”

While Sims and Johnson took care of business inside, that left Steven Dolgos open all night and he responded with a season-high 19 points.

“Our concern was keeping Johnson and Sims away from the basket,” Brasky said. “We wanted to close out short and sag in to keep them away from the basket. He took advantage of what we were giving him.”

Dolgos was name tournament MVP after going 5-of-8 from behind the three-point arc.

While Redband had a respectable game, scoring 16 points, Justice Fagan never got going.

The senior who has been reliable all season long, was held to just five points on 2-of-7 shooting by Geneva’s Akia Johnson.

“He did a nice job, but it was more than just him,” Brasky said. “Any time Justice beat him, they had an extra guy standing right in the lane. They weren’t guarding a couple of our guys; they just stood them in the lane, so it was tough for Justice to get to the basket.”

Despite a tough end to the season, Batavia far surpassed many expectations from the start of the season.

“They’re a great group of kids,” Brasky said. “They were a true team, they played their role. We had no problems; they did everything I asked them to do. All they wanted to do was win. If they didn’t play their roles like that, they wouldn’t have gone to a sectional final this year. My hat is off to my team and I’m very proud to be their coach.”

Batavia finishes the season 14-6, while Geneva (19-2) advances to play Rochester East in the Class A regional play-in game.

Photos by Howard Owens.

To purchase prints, click here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 12:30 pm

ND shows Hart as Rapone earns record-tying 9th Section V title

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

What more can Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rapone accomplish in his career?

He became the first coach in Section V history to reach 600 wins. He’s won two state championships, 30 Genesee Region League championships, and after a 62-37 victory over Jasper-Troupsburg in the Class D1 final, he tied the Section V record for most sectional titles with nine.

“It’s all about the kids,” Rapone said. “The kids are the ones who earn it. We’re just along for the ride. It’s fun coaching these kids. It’s fun coming to practice every day. It’s the small reward I have for the great opportunity I have.”

Things looked bleak early for Notre Dame, as they found themselves down by 7 after the first quarter and as many as 10 at one point. But then they got some instant offense from perhaps an unlikely source.

Senior reserve Jason Hart (and Rapone’s neighbor) came off the bench to knock down four three-pointers in the first half to help propel the Irish back in front.

Hart would finish 5-for-5 from long range for the game and finished with a season-high 15 points.

“I was nervous coming into the game,” Hart said. “Coach made me the sixth man this year. He told me my role was to come off the bench and be a spark. Everybody knows their roles on this team and I filled mine today.”

The Fighting Irish outscored Jasper-Troupsburg 19-8 in the second quarter and were able to take a 30-26 lead into halftime and never looked back.

“We made a couple of changes on defense,” Rapone said. “That’s the way we’ve been playing all year. We’ve been playing good defense all year. And we have a few players that can make shots if they’re left open.”

The second half was all Notre Dame.

The Irish came out on fire to start the third quarter, opening on an 18-3 run.

Senior Alec Covel was a huge part of the surge, as he scored all 11 of his points on that streak, knocking down his first four shots of the second half.

If you are wondering why Tim McCulley hasn’t been mentioned, don’t worry.

McCulley had another monster game, scoring 16 of his game-high 24 points in the first half, while pulling down nine rebounds, dishing out four assists and making four steals.

“Tim is so steady, you don’t even notice what he’s doing,” Rapone said. “He kept chipping away and getting some baskets. Then Covel got hot to start the second half and broke it open.”

McCulley’s effort earned him tournament MVP honors, making him just the third player in school history to be selected to three sectional all-tournament teams.

“We’re on a big stage,” McCulley said. “Everyone was just so excited to be there. It’s just something so special. These are like my best friends, it means a lot.”

With his 9th sectional title in 18 championship game appearances, Rapone ties former Lyons Head Coach Dean Schott for most championships in the open tournament era (1975). It is quite remarkable, considering that Notre Dame had lost two out of three and was just 4-2 when the New Year began.

“We have seven or eight kids that are really good players, who don’t have every aspect of their game,” Rapone said. “We have a lot of good role players, and that showed tonight. I’m just so proud of these guys, because at the beginning of the year I didn’t know if we’d get there. We were struggling with people accepting their roles, but since January I couldn’t have asked for anything more.”

Covel and Hart joined McCulley on the all-tournament team, as they combined to go 8-of-10 from beyond the three-point arc.

Bryan Guild led the way for Jasper-Troupsburg (18-3) with 11 points and five rebounds, while Dalton Cady added 10 points and seven rebounds.

Notre Dame (18-3) will next take on Houghton Academy (12-10), who defeated RCMCS in the Class D1 title game 75-55.

The game will be played Tuesday at Letchworth High School, with tip-off at 7 p.m. The winner will represent Section V in the Far West Regional next Saturday at Buffalo State College.

Photos by Howard Owens.

To purchase photos, click here.

Sunday, March 2, 2014 at 10:14 am

Lyons slays the Dragons in the Class C2 final

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, high school sports, pembroke, sports

The historic run by the Pembroke Girls Basketball Team came to an end just one victory shy of their goal…to win the first sectional championship in school history.

The Lady Dragons were out-muscled all night long, as they fell to Lyons, 50-36, in the Class C2 championship game.

It became apparent very early in the contest that Lyons would have the upper hand on the glass, as they out-rebounded Pembroke 30 to 9 in the first half, with 17 of them coming on the offensive boards.

“We knew that rebounding was going to be the key,” said Pembroke Head Coach Mike Wilson. “We planned for it. We tried to take some of their bigger kids out of it, but we weren’t able to do that. They just out-rebounded us.”

Despite the massive advantage on the boards, the Lady Dragons kept things close, trailing by just three at halftime after a pair of back-to-back three-pointers from Breanna Johnson to end the second quarter.

Pembroke got off to a strong start coming out of halftime as senior Chance Alexyn scored four quick points, but things quickly slid down hill.

Lyons would hold Pembroke to one point in the final 7:07 of the third quarter as they used a 12-1, to pull away for good, as turnovers doomed the Dragons.

“We’ve been turning the ball over 15 times or less per game for the last month,” Wilson said. “But we probably had 15 in that quarter. We were sloppy with the basketball. We gave them too many second-chance opportunities.”

Tournament MVP Abbie Shields dominated all night for the Lions, as she scored 17 points, grabbed 23 rebounds (12 offensive), and three blocks.

Meanwhile, Pembroke star Breanna Johnson struggled to find her shot throughout the match.

The senior class valedictorian managed just three points in the second half and was held without a field goal.

“We didn’t make enough baskets,” Wilson said. “We just didn’t finish. We’ve been finishing shots; we’ve been playing well down the stretch. Unfortunately we came up short.”

Despite the loss, the Dragons had one of their most successful seasons in school history and perhaps the best player to play in the program has played her final game.

Johnson finished with 11 points and four assists in her final high school game and her performance was good enough to earn her all-tournament team honors alongside her sister, Aralyse, and Alexyn.

“All of my seniors are very special to me,” Wilson said. “Bre and I definitely have a special connection. We’ve spent a lot of time developing her game. She has been nothing but dedicated to what we have wanted to do.”

Alexyn had a solid outing in her last game, scoring 10 points, pulling down four rebounds and three steals for Pembroke (15-6).

Lyons out-rebounded the Dragons 54-21 for the game, with 28 of those coming on the offensive boards.

Taniqua Johnson was also named to the all-tournament team for Lyons, as she scored a game-high 18 points and added 15 rebounds.

Photos by Howard Owens.

To purchase prints, click here.

Thursday, February 27, 2014 at 1:11 am

ND boys advance to Class D1 finals

post by Nick Sabato in sports

Notre Dame head coach Mike Rapone will find himself in a familiar place on Saturday evening…in the Class D1 sectional finals.

The Fighting Irish earned Rapone his 18th trip to the finals, the second most in Section V since the start of the open tournament in 1975, with a 59-37 win over Fillmore.

This trip may be one of the most gratifying however.

Notre Dame started the season 4-2, but since the New Year they have gone 13-1. They clawed their way to a share of the Genesee Region League title; earned the top seed in Class D1 and now they will play for a sectional championship.

“They have really come together as a team,” said Rapone. “They’ve grown as individuals, learned what their roles are and they have been rewarded with a chance to get to this game. Now hopefully they can close the deal.”

The Fighting Irish got off to hot start, closing the first quarter on a 13-3 run, with Tim McCulley notching 11 points in the frame.

The second quarter saw much of the same, as Notre Dame would go into halftime with an 18-point lead.

The third quarter was a struggle, though.

Fillmore came out of the locker room fast, starting the second half on a 10-0 run to cut the lead to 33-25. In fact, Notre Dame would not score their first points of the quarter until 2:58 to play.

“I thought we played well in the first half,” said Rapone. “The worst thing that could have happened was halftime. I think they thought they thought the game was over. It took us awhile to get back, but eventually we got things moving a little better. We played well defensively, but the offense wasn’t there.”

While McCulley finished with 27 points, he struggled to find his rhythm all night, shooting just 9-of-26 from the field.

“I think he pressed a little bit in the second half,” said Rapone. “He missed a shot or two and they made that little spurt at the start. He took a few shots he usually doesn’t take. But, he’s the guy who got us here and you live through those.”

Notre Dame made up for their lack of offensive production on defensive and on the boards. The Irish out-rebounded Fillmore 38-30 and compiled 10 offensive rebounds.

In particular, Charlie Herbert cleaned the glass all night.

The senior, who is playing in his first season of competitive basketball, grabbed 9 caroms, with 3 coming on the offensive end.

“Charlie has really come so far,” said Rapone. “He’s such a strong, athletic kid on the boards. He really works hard on the defensive end and on the boards. Even the ones he doesn’t get, he keeps them alive.”

Alec Covel continued to play well also, scoring 10 points and grabbing 10 rebounds. Josh Johnson had a strong all around game with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 steals.

While McCulley struggled shooting the ball, he was solid in other areas with 7 steals and 5 assists to go along with his game-high 27 points.

Kyle Redman led Fillmore (15-6) with 14 points and 10 rebounds, while Jordan Mullen scored 12 points.

If Notre Dame (17-3) can win on Saturday night, Rapone will tie former Lyons Hall of Fame coach Dean Schott for most sectional championships since 1975 with 9.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014 at 10:29 am

Pembroke advances to first title game since '87

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, high school sports, pembroke, sports

It has been a long time since Pembroke was a factor in Section V girls basketball.

The Lady Dragons can now say that they are, as they punched their ticket to the Class C2 finals for the first time since 1987 after defeating Clyde-Savannah, 45-39.

“We’ve put in a lot of time these last four years,” said Pembroke Head Coach Mike Wilson. “We’ve spent a lot of long hours in the gym. For a group of kids to step up and play the way they are playing right now is extremely special.”

One of the biggest reasons for Pembroke’s success is senior Breanna Johnson, the school’s all-time leader in points, rebounds, assists and steals.

Johnson came out fast, scoring 16 of the Lady Dragons’ 23 points in the first half for a seven-point lead at the break.

However, Clyde-Savannah threw a wrench into the plan, as they switched from a man-to-man defense to a zone in the second half, causing Pembroke to go cold in the third quarter.

Pembroke would only manage to connect on one shot from the field in the frame, and the Lady Eagles would hold Johnson without a point in the third.

“We didn’t really move the ball as much as we should have,” Johnson said. “We weren’t cutting and we weren’t getting to the basket.”

While Johnson was unable to get anything going, Clyde-Savannah was taking it to the Dragons on the glass, out-rebounding them 38-25 for the game.

In particular, Ally Fenton had a monster game for the Lady Eagles taking advantage of Pembroke’s 2-3 zone, scoring 17 points and grabbing 15 rebounds (six offensive).

“We wanted to keep our girls out of foul trouble,” Wilson said. “We tend to play too aggressive in man-to-man and zone preserves our players.”

Leading just 27-24 going into the fourth quarter, Johnson came back to life. She made her first basket of the second half with on a three-pointer with just 1:58 left in the game.

In total, she scored 12 points in the last frame, racking up nine from the foul line to guarantee the victory.

“To have a kid like [her] play as well as she is,” continued Wilson. “Mel Taylor and Kelsey Bezon get a lot of press in the league, and they deserve it, but tonight Breanna Johnson showed that she deserves to be in the conversation. She does everything she can to help the team.”

Clyde-Savannah (12-6) was unable to answer the call, and the Lady Dragons escaped with the win.

Pembroke (15-5) already garnered their first sectional win since 2007, and now they return to the sectional finals for the first time in 27 years. The school has never won a sectional championship in girls basketball.

The Lady Dragons will take on top-seeded Lyons on Saturday at Rush-Henrietta High School. Tip-off will be 5 p.m.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014 at 1:19 am

Hornets stung by Wheatland-Chili

post by Nick Sabato in sports

The clock has struck midnight on Oakfield-Alabama’s Cinderella run.

After upsetting third-seeded Dundee in the Class C3 quarterfinals, the Hornets were blown out by Wheatland-Chili, 62-32.

In last Friday’s victory over Dundee, Hunter Spiotta scored 29 points and both teams knew that his success would be the key to victory.

Spiotta started off the contest hot, hitting his first two three-point field goals and scoring 9 points in the first quarter as Oakfield-Alabama only trailed by two.

The second quarter was a different story for Spiotta and the Hornets.

Wheatland-Chili clamped down defensively and Rodney Roberts, who had only scored 3 points in the first quarter, came alive with 8 in the second.

The Wildcats used a 10-2 run to end the first half and took a 27-15 lead into halftime.

“We got out of the flow of our offense,” said Oakfield-Alabama head coach Ryan Stehlar. “Playing from behind, you get the tendency to take quick shots. When they get up on you, they’re a tough team to play with.”

The third quarter was much of the same as the quarter started with back-to-back steals and lay-ups by Tyler Roberts, and the Wheatland-Chili took off on a 14-3 run to open the second half.

Roberts scored 10 of his 21 points in the quarter to help the Wildcats pull away to a 45-24 lead heading into the final quarter.

The Roberts’ combined for 43 points in the game, as the Hornets keyed in on big man Andre’ Gulley, who only managed 5 points on 1-of-4 shooting.

“They were packing it in,” said Wheatland-Chili head coach Scott Lund. “We realized that and we are glad we got some stops defensively and were able to beat their zone up the floor for some easy looks.”

After making his first two shots of the game, Spiotta only managed to shoot 3-for-15 for the rest of the game. He would finish with 15 points and 6 rebounds.

“Hunter did a great job in the first quarter of getting separation and getting his shot off,” said Lund. “In the second quarter we brought in Justin Clark and he matched up with him the rest of the game. We felt like if we could limit Hunter’s looks then we would be in good shape.”

As a team, the Hornets only managed to 3-of-14 behind the three-point arc.
Nate Nadolinski had a strong game inside for Oakfield-Alabama, finishing with 11 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks in his final high school contest.

Oakfield-Alabama finishes 13-8.

“I love this team,” said Stehlar. “These boys gave me everything. I’ve had the luxury of coaching them for four years. It’s going to sting and they’ll remember it, but we’ve also had a very productive season. We got to this point and they just set the bar higher for Oakfield basketball.”

Rodney Roberts continued his great season, finishing with 22 points, 8 rebounds and 5 steals, as Wheatland-Chili will play for their first sectional championship since 1985.

“It’s big,” said Lund. “We ended up in a tie with Notre Dame for the league title, but that was a milestone. Last year we lost in the semifinals by a point, so we’ve looked forward to this game for the last 12 months to get back.”

Wheatland Chili (17-3) will play top-seeded Perry on Saturday at the Blue Cross Arena for the Class C3 championship. Tip-off is 11 a.m.

 

Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Batavia shuts down HF-L

post by Nick Sabato in sports

The saying is that defense wins championships, and if that’s true, Batavia could be raising another sectional trophy next Saturday.

The Blue Devils’ defense was in full lockdown as they defeated Honeoye Falls-Lima, 56-37 in Class A2 action.

Batavia got off to a fast start offensively and defensively, as Justice Fagan scored the first seven points of the game as part of a 14-0 run to open the game. In fact, the Blue Devils held HF-L without a point until Evan Quackenbush knocked down a free throw with 57 seconds left in the first quarter.

“We had almost ten days to prepare for them,” Batavia Head Coach Buddy Brasky said. “We stressed our man-to-man defense all week. We saw, scouted them well, and we were pretty familiar with some of their sets. I thought we played great defensively.”

Quackenbush would score five more quick points to cut the lead to eight to end the opening frame.
Batavia would get back to their stifling defense at the start of the second quarter though, holding the Cougars to just 11 points in the first half.

“We got off to that good start, but then we struggled scoring,” Brasky said. “But, I preach all year that when the shots aren’t falling, your defense keeps you in it.”

One player that did not struggle in the second quarter or throughout the game, was sophomore forward Malachi Chenault. He scored eight of his 18 points in the frame to propel the Blue Devils to a 24-11 halftime lead. He also would add nine rebounds for the game, as Batavia dominated the glass 34-16.

“Malachi had a monster game,” Brasky said. “We’ve been waiting for a game like that from Malachi. If he can play like that then we will be a tough team to beat.”

The third quarter saw a familiar face get hot, as Jeff Redband picked up the scoring load coming out of halftime. The junior forward scored eight of his game-high 20 points in the third quarter as Batavia extended their lead to 39-23 heading into the fourth.

Until the final quarter, the Blue Devils had not allowed a three-point field goal the entire night.

Finally, HF-L was able to break through, knocking down four from beyond the arc.
The lead was cut to nine with just 3:53 to play, but every time the Cougars made a push, Batavia had an answer.

Justice Fagan countered with his own three-pointer on one occasion and Redband knocked in another basket to extend the lead.

In fact, only three Blue Devils found the scoring column, but Redband (20), Fagan (18) and Chenault (18) accounted for 56 points.

“We’d like to have more, but all year long that’s kind of what the deal is,” Brasky said. “We’d like to have more, but we’ll do whatever it takes to win. We’re trying to play really good defense. We try to get the ball to our go-to scorers, have our role players play their roles, but as long as we win we’re fine with it.”

Redband also added 12 rebounds and three blocks, while Fagan pitched in five rebounds.
Quackenburg finished with 10 points and six rebounds for HF-L (7-12).

Batavia (13-5) will play second-seeded Newark (17-2) on Tuesday at the Blue Cross Arena. Tip-off will be at 7:15 p.m.

Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 6:23 pm

Pembroke survives in overtime

post by Nick Sabato in sports

It’s not quite March yet, but that madness has begun in Western New York.

Second-seed Pembroke survived a nail-biter, defeating seventh-seeded Cuba-Rushford, 55-49 in overtime of a Class C2 quarterfinal game.

The win ends a drought in which the Lady Dragons hadn’t won a sectional game since 2007, something that narrowly slipped through their hands today.

“We have a special group of girls,” said Pembroke Head Coach Mike Wilson.

The Rebels held the lead for the majority of the game, despite the fact that their leading scorer, Whitney Kent, spent much of the second quarter on the bench with three fouls. Meanwhile, their second-leading scorer, Jade Joseph, couldn’t find her scoring touch all night.

“They have two great players,” Wilson said. “We went to a triangle and two in the second quarter and I thought it worked well. We made them work for everything and it created havoc for them.”

Cuba-Rushford led by one and at halftime, but Kent came alive in the second half.

She scored 13 of her game-high 21 points in the second half to keep her team in the lead.

The Lady Dragons finally came through in the fourth quarter, getting offense from an unlikely source.

Senior Chance Alexyn, who had been pulled 10 seconds into the third quarter, returned to knock down three straight baseline jumpers to give Pembroke the lead.

“I wanted to get her attention,” Wilson said. “I wanted her to see the mistakes she had made, and she came through in a huge way for us.”

Aralyse Johnson connected on two free throws to extend their lead to three with just 12 seconds remaining in the game.

The Rebels weren’t quite ready to give up just yet as Kent was fouled shooting a three with just 5.4 seconds remaining.

After making the first, she missed the second, meaning she would have to intentionally miss the third.

She did.

And Mikayla Moshier grabbed the offensive rebound and laid it in with just three seconds remaining for her first points of the game.

The overtime was just like much of the game, tight throughout, but disaster struck for Cuba-Rushford.

Just after Morgan VanDerHorst made a turnaround jumper to give the Rebels a 49-48 lead with under two minutes to play, both Kent and Joseph would foul out of the game.

Johnson would drive the Dragons to victory, dominating inside during the extra frame.

The sophomore scored five of Pembroke’s eight points in overtime, including the game winning basket with under a minute to play.

She was not just strong in overtime, but for the entire day. Johnson would finish with a team-high 17 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks.

Rylee Moser also had a big game, scoring 14 points, while Breanna Johnson added 12 points and five rebounds for Pembroke.

Kent was outstanding all night in defeat, whether it was scoring, rebounding or finding an open teammate. She would add seven rebounds to go with her 21 points.

While Joseph struggled to score, she did pull down 14 rebounds to go along with her five points. VanDerHorst was a terror on the backboards all game, pulling down 20 rebounds to go with her 12 points for Cuba-Rushford (13-7).

Pembroke (14-5) will play the winner of Clyde-Savannah and Dundee on Tuesday night at Honeoye Falls-Lima. Tip-off will be at 6 p.m.

Saturday, February 22, 2014 at 12:12 am

McCulley shoots Batavia girls past HF-L

post by Nick Sabato in sports

Much has been written about Notre Dame’s Tim McCulley this year, but Batavia has their own McCulley…Madison.

The sophomore has become one of the best girl’s basketball players in Section V, and she showed why as the Lady Blue Devils defeated Honeoye Falls-Lima, 59-39 in a Class A2 quarterfinal matchup.

McCulley connected on six three-pointers and finished with a game-high 23 points in the win.

Batavia got off to a sluggish start, making only one basket in the first quarter and HF-L led by two after the first quarter.

However, the start of the second quarter was all Batavia. The Blue Devils scored the first seven points of the frame and Essence Williams hit a three-pointer just as time expired to take a 23-18 lead into halftime.

“We’re kind of a second half team,” said Batavia Head Coach Marty Hein.

The first year head coach turned out to be right as his team used a 12-4 run to start the second half, behind nine-straight points by McCulley. HF-L continued to battle though, and they trailed by 11 at the end of the third quarter.

Batavia would come out fast once again, using a 12-2 run to finally pull away from the Cougars.

In total, McCulley scored 17 of her 23 points in the second half to give Hein his first sectional victory. Sam Cecere had another strong outing, scoring 14 points and pulling down 12 rebounds, while Tiara Filbert added 10 points, seven steals, four rebounds and four assists. Taylor Reed scored 15 points to lead HF-L (3-16).

Batavia will play the winner of Newark and Geneva on Monday night at Pittsford-Sutherland. Tip-off is slated for 6 p.m.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 at 7:42 am

Alexander opens sectional play with a bang

Sectional play is under way and it is now win or go home for local area high school teams.

Alexander got off to a strong start, defeating Marion 59 to 27 in the first round of the Class C2 bracket.

The sixth-seeded Trojans overwhelmed 11th-seeded Marion, who only brought five players to the contest.

“We prepared for a few more players,” said Alexander Head Coach Josh Bender. “Before the game started we found out that they were shorthanded, but it was business as usual for us. We brought the right intensity from the start and it was a good overall team victory.”

The Black Knights kept things within striking distance until midway through the second quarter as Alexander was just too much and too deep.

They took a 33-14 lead into halftime and never looked back, extending that lead to 25 at the end of the third quarter before the starters exited for the final time.

Seniors Johnny George and Zach Laird had strong nights in the last home games of their careers, scoring 12 points apiece. Another senior, Zach Dunbar pitched in nine points.

Preston Crego scored a game-high 14 points for Marion (4-15).

Alexander (12-7) will travel to third-seeded Cuba-Rushford on Friday evening in hopes to advance to the Class C2 semifinals.

The Rebels are 15-2 on the season and boast two star guards.

Carl Holmes is averaging 24 points per game on the season, while Caleb Edwards is averaging 20 points per game and both are lethal beyond the three-point arc. In their last contest, Cuba-Rushford made 17 three-point field goals as a team.

“They’re a tough team,” Bender said. “They run and gun; they look to shoot the three. It should be a good battle. They’re a good offensive team and I consider us one of the best defensive teams in the G-R League. It should be a good matchup for us.”

Tip-off will be 7 p.m. Friday at Cuba-Rushford.

Thursday, February 13, 2014 at 10:32 am

Notre Dame tops Wheatland-Chili for eighth-straight Genesee Region League crown

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

Around Christmastime, things were looking bleak for the Notre Dame basketball team.

In a span of 10 days, the Fighting Irish had their 70-game Genesee Region League winning streak snapped by Wheatland-Chili, and then they were beaten by Batavia in the Lions Club Tournament final.

Chances of winning their eighth consecutive G-R League title looked to be slipping away. But since the new year, Notre Dame has gone 9-1 and a win on Senior Night against the very same Wildcat team that had pounded them earlier in the season would give them a share of the league championship.

Just like in the past 10 games, Notre Dame responded to adversity and defeated Wheatland-Chili to tie them for the league crown, 74-57.

“We are playing better now,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Mike Rapone of his team’s progress. “At that time we were still struggling as a team, but now I think we have found our identity.”

The first quarter was marred by fouls, as both teams struggled to find a rhythm offensively.

Wildcats star guard Rodney Roberts managed 11 points in the first quarter, nine of which came from the foul line, but it was Notre Dame who led 17-15.

The Fighting Irish came out hot to start the second quarter, scoring the first seven points of the frame.

Tim McCulley began to go to work at that time, scoring eight Notre Dame points in a row.

“He just takes what’s there,” said Rapone of McCulley. “If you give it to him he takes it, if not he gives it to somebody else. He just does so many things well.”

Wheatland-Chili managed stay close, using the three-point line to their advantage and knocking down four triples in the quarter to cut the deficit to five at halftime.

The third quarter started as a shoot-out between stars.

McCulley scored 13 of his game-high 36 points in the quarter, while Roberts matched him with 13 of his 30 points on the night.

Then toward the end of the quarter McCulley got some help from his friends.

The Fighting Irish finished the quarter on a 10-2 run to pull away. A big factor was senior Alec Covel, who scored eight of his 13 points in the second half to give the Irish a second scoring punch.

“Alec is real good ball player,” Rapone said. “In the last couple of games he’s really found himself. That’s what we need going forward.”

One factor in the early season win by Wheatland-Chili was the play of forward Andre’ Gulley, who dominated with 18 points and 24 rebounds.

Notre Dame also played without big man Caleb Nellis in that contest, and first-year senior Charlie Herbert had little experience at the time.

Two months seemed to do the trick, as Nellis scored nine points and grabbed seven rebounds, while Herbert added four points and nine rebounds.

Meanwhile, Gulley was held in check all evening, managing only four points and six rebounds before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter.

McCulley was also superb in every aspect of the game, adding 12 rebounds, four assists, three steals and three blocks to go with his 36 points as Notre Dame (15-3) appears to peaking as they head into sectionals.

“I told them before the game that starting tonight, it’s about winning,” Rapone said. “The rest of the time it’s about getting better, but now it’s about winning. We needed to win to win the league tonight. Now we need to win to keep playing.”

Roberts added six rebounds to go along with his 30 points, while cousin Tyler Roberts connected on four three-pointers and scored 16 points for Wheatland-Chili (15-3).

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 at 8:23 am

Vescovi drops 37 as Le Roy shocks Cal-Mum

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, high school sports, Le Roy, sports

It’s a game every athlete dreams of.

It’s senior night on the road against your big rival, with sectional implications on the line.

That’s what Le Roy was facing against Cal-Mum…and Montana Vescovi responded by pouring in a career-high 37 points and leading the Oatkan Knights to a comeback victory, avenging an earlier defeat to the Lady Raiders, 62-45.

In their first contest this season, freshman Gillian Flint went off for 25 points in a 5-point Cal-Mum win, and the start of this game appeared as if she was picking up where she left off.

Flint, who has been averaging 20 points per game over her last four contests, scored 11 points in the first quarter as Cal-Mum raced out to a 9-point lead.

Every aspect of Le Roy’s game seemed to be sputtering, as Vescovi only attempted one field goal from the field (a miss) and went 5-of-12 from the foul line in the first frame.

The second quarter was a different story however, as the Knights scored the first nine points to tie the game at 17.

Vescovi also came alive, scoring 10 points in the period, including eight in a row at one point.

“It was a hostile crowd, I told them to just settle down and relax,” said Le Roy Head Coach Brian Herdlein. “I just told my girls that they were going to have a run and they needed to just keep doing what they were doing.”

The Knights clamped down on Flint, holding her scoreless in the quarter, but Cal-Mum junior Hannah Anderson took charge, scoring six points in a row, and Adrianna Molisani buried a three-pointer at the buzzer to take a 28-25 lead into halftime.

But, Vescovi came out firing in the third quarter, scoring 11 points in the frame.

“She’s an exceptional player,” Herdlein said of Vescovi. “She’s always been a scorer, but she’s added to her game. I tell her all the time that there aren’t a lot of people that can stop her. Mentally she came to play and she didn’t want to lose tonight.”

The Knights took a 39-37 lead with 2:39 remaining in the quarter and never relinquished it.

Le Roy held Cal-Mum just four points, and Vescovi scored 11 more points to vanquish their rivals eight miles up Route 5.

Even more impressive, Flint was held to just seven points after her monster first quarter.

“Flint came out on fire,” Herdlein said. “We really needed to have a girl stay on her the whole time and deny her the ball. I think we did a better job of that as the game went along.”

The Knights also got a strong game from senior Alicia Conte, who finished with 13 points, 12 rebounds and three steals.

Vescovi’s 37 points puts her just 32 shy of 1,000 for her career, but she was solid in every facet of this game, adding nine rebounds and three steals to her stat line.

This win was not just important because of the rivalry, but because the win guarantees Le Roy (9-8) the fourth seed in Class B2 and one more home game.

“This was huge for us,” Herdlein said. “Any time you can play in this kind of environment, it gets you ready for that sectional environment. It’s always rough, you have to play four quarters and that’s what we had to do tonight.”

Flint finished with 18 points and six rebounds for Cal-Mum (11-7), while Anderson added 14 points and nine rebounds.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014 at 12:58 am

Notre Dame dominates Elba to complete season series sweep

post by Nick Sabato in basketball, elba, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

The Notre Dame girls are just one win away from clinching their 11th Genesee Region League title in school history after pounding Elba, 69-37.

The resounding victory also marks the first time that the Lady Irish have swept Elba in league play since the 2010-2011 season.

The Lady Lancers kept things close in the first quarter, but Notre Dame blew the game open in the second, led by Mel Taylor.

Taylor scored 12 of her game-high 24 points in the second quarter as the Irish increased their  seven-point lead after the first quarter to 23 at half time.

“It’s getting down near crunch time,” said Notre Dame Head Coach Dave Pero. “We’re trying to stress that you have to be more aggressive on whatever you do [well]. Mel is a scorer and we want her to try and score as much as possible.”

In the third quarter, junior Emma Francis picked up where Taylor left off, scoring 10 of her 15 points in the frame to put the contest out of reach.

“Emma’s got potential,” Pero said. “She’s starting to believe in herself and it’s a great time to believe. If we have Emma Francis at full-go come sectional time, we’ll be a tough team to beat.”

Taylor was not as terrific scoring the ball, but she had a splendid game overall, adding 11 rebounds, six steals and four assists.

Shea Norton also played strong underneath, scoring 13 points and 10 rebounds. Senior Laurie Call chipped in with seven steals, six assists and five rebounds for Notre Dame (15-1).

Kelsey Bezon had another solid game in defeat, scoring 14 points and grabbing four rebounds. Haley Brown chipped in with 10 points for Elba (12-4).

Photos by Howard Owens

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