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Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 7:47 pm

Notre Dame continues winning ways to secure berth in state finals

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

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.

Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 11:48 am

Notre Dame moves onto state final tomorrow with 49-35 win over Fort Edward

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, high school sports, sports

We'll have full coverage as soon as possible.

Saturday, March 16, 2013 at 1:34 am

Watervliet's star guards rack up the points to end Batavia's season a game too soon

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, batavia, high school sports, sports

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

That didn't happen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Friday, March 15, 2013 at 9:25 pm

Batavia drops states semi-final game to Waterlviet, 60-53

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, batavia, high school sports, sports

We'll have complete coverage as soon as possible.

Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 10:08 pm

Lady Blue Devils head coach, Bill Wade, announces retirement

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, batavia, high school sports, sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wade's successor has not yet been named.

Photo: File photo

Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 8:56 pm

Students rally to support Blue Devils as team heads off to Glens Falls for Final Four

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, batavia, high school sports, sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

After the rally, a team picture.

The senior players.

Thursday, March 14, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Photos: Notre Dame pep rally for girls team about to head off to final four of the state championship tournament

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, high school sports, Notre Dame, sports

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 6:31 pm

Laurie Call and teammates stifle Section VI's top scorer to stomp Sherman in Far West game

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, batavia, Notre Dame, sports

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

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

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

Notre Dame beat Sherman 70-32.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 10, 2013 at 1:00 am

When his teammates needed it the most, sophomore comes up big for Blue Devils

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, batavia, sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach Brasky called a time out.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brasky told his players not to sweat the hot streak.

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

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

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

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

Bathurst led the Huskies in scoring with 18 points.

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

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

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

Saturday, March 9, 2013 at 7:48 pm

Photo: Jeff Redband's buzzer-beater to lift Batavia over Olean, 63-62

post by Howard B. Owens in basketball, batavia, sports

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

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

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

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

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

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

UPDATE:  Here's another video by Josh Stendts.

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