Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Thoughts From The Press Box: Sectionals

Two games remain on the docket, with the Class AA Championships being held at the Times Union Center on Tuesday, but for us, our sectional season is over.

And what a fun sectional season it has been.

First, I was hoping to be able to write every day about the past day's activities, but other projects and home life prevented some of those blogs from being authored.

In addition, I was hoping to be able to recap my thoughts about the games I was at for broadcasts, but couldn't do that either, for the same reasons.

But I have some time now.  First, I'll offer my reflections on the games we were honored to be a part of, and then reflect upon the sectional tournament as a whole.

All that begins after the jump.


If you wanted two thrilling games, the Class D Quarterfinals held at Warrensburg Junior-Senior High School came through.

In the first game of the double-header, Argyle came back multiple times to force overtime against Fort Ann, but the four minute extra session was too short for Argyle to pull through.

Then in the nightcap, Warrensburg was in danger of falling as the home seed as Hartford led through much of the way, but then the Burgers came through in the fourth quarter to get past the Hartford Tanagers.

It was a fun night of basketball that had a little bit of everything.  Some good looks.  Some solid defense.  Some overtime basketball.  Some electrical delay.

After the game, talking with Scott Smith, he was very excited about four Adirondack League teams playing in the Sectional Semifinals.  It is an attest to how strong the Adirondack League is, especially in small-school girls hoops.  With Fort Edward continuing their strong stance at the top, it trickles down to the other teams in the league as they train harder in order to try to topple the reigning league champs.


Waterford passes half-court during the second half
in their semifinal against Greenwich
Lake George fell into a hole early.

Only to pick themselves up.

Then they fell into a deeper hole.

It brought up a question whether or not the Lake George Warriors were going to overcome what the day brought -- a relocation of the game from the Glens Falls Civic Center, only 7 miles from the school, to Watervliet Junior-Senior High School, 15 miles away from Hoosic Valley's campus in Schaghticoke.

The swing allowed for Hoosic Valley to have a bigger presence inside the Watervliet gym, which is unlike any other gym I've seen before, featuring a walk-around balcony at the school that's built on the side of the hill as you walk away from the Hudson River on Route 2.

Early on, John Rooney was playing both ends of the court very well.  His presence altered many a Warrior shot, and he got good looks for scores on the other end.  But whatever Lake George Warriors head coach Dave Jones said to the squad at the half, they answered in the second half as John Rooney was held to only two points in his final high school basketball game in his career.

Joel Wincowski tied his season-low with 24 points, but the Warriors didn't need Wincowski to light up for points.  Not when Kyle Jones and Dylan Hubbard were hot behind the arch for a combined 8 threes.

I admit... I was one to feel concerned when the Indians opened that 11 point lead at 26-15, as at that point, John Rooney was using his size and strength to beat the Warriors on both ends of the court.  But the Warriors had a strong comeback, and that fueled them for a third quarter where they seized control of the game and began to run away.

And because of that ... they earned a trip to the Class C Championship.  Against a Waterford squad that impressed many in their win over the Greenwich Witches, a team that played all season long as a clear #2 seed behind Lake George.

Now, to the people who offered negative comments about the conditions where the Class C Semifinal was played, the conditions weren't optimal.  Watervliet was a packed house well before the Lake George/Hoosic Valley game, and as a result, parking was sparse anywhere in a two block radius from the school.  And those who weren't careful found themselves stuck in the snow, like the couple I found who were trying to find a parking spot on the school side of Hillside Street, only to find their vehicle stuck in the snow-covered downslope of the hill.   With a little assistance, they got their vehicle back on pavement.

But Watervliet's Athletic Director, Michael Foust, and the rest of the staff at Watervliet need to be thanked for allowing Section 2 to use their gym on only 5 hours notice.  It was a stressful day for Section 2, and schools that were willing to keep their doors open to host the games need to be applauded.

As stated before, the change resulted in a longer travel for the Lake George Warriors and their fans.  The 40 mile difference, coupled with Hoosic Valley's shorter travel to the game venue by about 30 miles, resulted in a larger crowd backing the Indians than may have otherwise made the travel to the Glens Falls Civic Center.

But the Warriors took care of business.  And the Watervliet Police did a great job getting traffic moving out onto the main streets in a timely manner.


Well ... I didn't see that coming.

It was a stress-free championship for the Lake George Warriors as they easily surged to a 60-28 win over a Waterford Fordian team that held Greenwich to only 32 points three nights prior.

Joel Wincowski set a new season low, scoring 23 points, but this game didn't need him to break scoring records.

We've already recapped the championship, and discussed the components that have led to Lake George to their second championship in three years.

So, skipping the recap, it was nice to see over the course of the last two games, Kyle Jones and Dylan Hubbard evolve into dangerous three point threats for the Lake George Warriors.  Joel Wincowski is the focus of the Lake George offense, which leads to teams guarding him well.  What makes him special is how he shakes himself free of the defenders to get open looks.  Having a viable second scoring threat like Jones or Hubbard forces teams to loosen their watch on Wincowski, more than they would otherwise want to, because otherwise Kyle Jones or Dylan Hubbard will be wide open for a great chance behind the arch.

And in both games, they have burned teams for letting them loose.  Eight threes against Hoosic Valley, and another five against Waterford.

Waterford couldn't drain buckets, and one of the coaches told me "bad time to go cold on the floor", but Waterford didn't help their cause with the turnovers.

Waterford has a senior-laden lineup.  While Kyle Fairclough is a sophomore and will return for two more years, key starters like Connor McCrea, Josh Orton and Christian Jones are seniors and ended their careers in this title game on Saturday.

Going back to Wednesday, where I set up to broadcast the game up in the bleachers, some of the Fordians were watching on the balcony above me.  During the half, I talked to a few and they expressed their disappointment about the Glens Falls Civic Center being suited unusable for the Section 2 Boys Championship.

Waterford is not like a Germantown, a team that gets to make a yearly trip to the Glens Falls Civic Center for sectionals.  The Fordians last claimed the Sectional Championship in the early 1990's, several years before any of these kids were born.

This was their one opportunity to play on the same floor that State Champions have.  And because of circumstances that was beyond their control, they lost that opportunity despite playing the best season they have in two decades.

And now, they won't ever get to play on that court in downtown Glens Falls.


-- While we're talking relocation, need to give props to the entire Section 2 committee for working hard to keep the tournament going despite what happened at the Glens Falls Civic Center.  As noted above with Watervliet, there were some inconveniences, as fans were forced to remain standing outside the gym in Colonie and many more outdoors while Germantown and Fort Ann played into overtime, but in the long run, our teams are better off getting the tournament completed so that our sectional champions can properly prepare for the road ahead in states.

One man, annoyed at the wait outside the gym prior to Waterford/Lake George, said to me "Why not just wait for the Civic Center to be done and play the games Tuesday or Wednesday."  The problem with that solution is that three of the four teams play a regional semifinal against a Section 7 or 10 opponent, and a delay on our end would force delays on their end as well.  SUNY Plattsburgh, the host for two of the boys games on Wednesday, shouldn't have to rearrange the use of their facilities to other days because of issues here in Glens Falls.

Nor is it fair to the Section 2, 7 or 10 champ to prep for an out-of-region opponent on only a day's notice.  With the Class B semifinals, the opposing team is there and can scout out the team that they could face in the finals.  It's not that easy to send coaches and players to a venue three or four hours away so that they can observe the team they're going to play.

-- A tough fall for Fort Ann, who had a double-digit lead with half a quarter left to play in their sectional championship against Germantown.  The old adage of free throws making or breaking a team came true in the early game at Colonie High School.  Fort Ann went 8-for-22 from the charity stripe, while Germantown went 34-for-45.  Allowing the Clippers twice as many free throws is tough enough, but allowing them to score four times as many points as you did from the free throw line is a recipe for disaster.

That disaster came through in the late minutes of the fourth quarter into overtime. Fort Ann would show disappointment after the game, but if there's a silver lining, it comes in the fact that the Cardinals will be returning several major components of their team, including Tyler Mattison.

The end result ... we should be talking about Fort Ann again come late February/early March of 2016.

-- Of the #1 seeds assigned in Section 2, Hoosick Falls's top seed was thought to be the most unstable.   That's not because the Panthers deserve a lower seed, it was because there were so many good teams in Section 2 Class B.  But the Hoosick Falls Panthers pulled through, scoring wins against Schuylerville, Ravena and Schalmont on their way to the sectional championship.

With Hoosick Falls's win over Schalmont, all #1 seeds in Classes A through D have won their Sectional Championship.  Scotia won over Troy in A, Lake George won over Waterford in C as earlier mentioned, and Germantown came back to topple Fort Ann in D.

So, in closing, the sectional seeding committee got it right all along.

-- Finally, congratulations to Joe Cremo, who etched his name as the 10th player in Section 2 to reach 2,000 points during his win against Troy on Saturday.  Joe Cremo is one of the section's best athletes, so to see that he was able to exceed the benchmark is wonderful to see.  He's a thrill to watch on the court, always making moves to help set up his team for the best scoring opportunities.

If Scotia gets to come back to the Glens Falls Civic Center for the State Semifinals or Championship, you need to check him out.

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