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Sunday, March 24, 2013 at 10:24 am

Notre Dame and Batavia fans, remember those championship seasons

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

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.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013 at 9:48 pm

Elba Lady Lancers ranked #5 in state despite early post-season loss

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

Monday, March 18, 2013 at 12:58 am

An MVP game for Mel Taylor helps Notre Dame claim Class D state championship

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

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.

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."

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

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.

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