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Saturday, March 15, 2014: 'Heartbroken' Mahopac basketball coach resigns

   Leading off today: Two developments downstate made headlines Friday even as the NYSPHSAA conducted semifinals in boys and girls basketball in the Capital Region:

   Mahopac coach steps down: Saying he was "heartbroken" by racially charged tweets directed at the Mount Vernon team that beat his squad Feb. 27 in the Section 1 boys Class AA basketball semifinals, Kevin Downes resigned as coach at Mahopac on Friday after seven seasons at his alma mater.

   Although only eight Mahopac students were suspended for the offensive tweets, Downes found the support for their messages too widespread and felt the community only expressed appropriate outrage after the incident gained media scrutiny, the paper reported.

   "I did a lot of soul-searching the last two weeks and just felt like the best thing for me to do was to move on," Downes, 42, who is black, told The Journal News. "I was kind of heartbroken over all the stuff that happened -- not just the comments that were made but the 200-plus times those comments were liked, favorited and retweeted (on Twitter). It was tough. and it's been tough on my kids."

   Downes said he dealt with racism growing up in Mahopac, but he said the town is culturally different now. He added racism has not been prevalent during his coaching tenure.

   "I don't think it's everybody," he said. "Certainly, that's how people are looking at it now, but I still thought it was enough. I just felt like it would be hard to go back and feel like I was 100 percent supported."

   Downes' teams reached at least the sectional semifinals in each of the last four years, including a trip to the Section 1 final in 2012.

   Off to California: Cornwall football coach Marcus Hughes is leaving to take a coaching position in California, The Times Herald-Record reported.

   Hughes, who went 67-13 and won six Section 9 Class A titles in his seven seasons at Cornwall, has accepted the head football job and a physical education teaching position at Diamond Bar (Calif.) High School, about 30 minutes outside Los Angeles.

   Diamond Bar went 7-5 and lost in the quarterfinals of the CIF Southern Section playoffs last fall. AD Kurt Davies said he had 140 applicants for the vacancy at the 3,000-student school, including 100 from Southern California.

   Hughes, 34, accepted the job on Wednesday on a visit to the campus, where he met with players and parents.

   "It's very hard because I love the kids at Cornwall so much, Hughes said. "It's a really difficult decision, but I feel like it's the right one for me and my family. I always knew Cornwall wasn't forever, but the longer I stayed, the harder it was to leave."

   Hughes came to Cornwall after serving as an assistant football coach at several Colorado high schools. He is credited with installing the Cornwall team's high-octane offense.

   "I'm grateful for the opportunity I was given here," Hughes said. "But I always wanted to coach at a big school in Southern California. I couldn't pass up this opportunity and I'm excited about the next chapter in my life."

   Hughes, his wife and their three daughters, will leave Cornwall at the end of the school year.

   Boys semifinals highlights: As expected, the Class B games were worth the price of admission and certainly a stellar way to cap the opening day at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

   Olean found itself in early trouble as Wil Bathurst picked up his third personal foul late in the second quarter and the Huskies trailed Woodlands 36-32 at the half. But Sam Eckstrom scored 20 of his 30 points in the second half, rallying Olean to a 71-63 victory.

   Olean only began to assert control with a third-quarter run that ended

  
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with a Bathurst-to-Eckstrom layup for a 54-49 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Woodlands closed to 66-63 with 1:09 left, but Eckstrom scored one of his numerous low-post baskets to give Olean breathing room.

   In the other Class B contest, Westhill finally subdued Ogdensburg 74-67 on the strength of Tyler Reynolds' 27 points and Jeff Lobello's 10 assists. Both teams shot 27-for-54 from the field and committed eight turnovers.

   "We definitely had to work for it," Reynolds told The Post-Standard. "Definitely wasn't easy."

   Earning honorable mention for high-quality action were the Class C games, the outcomes of which were still in doubt entering the final minute. Buffalo's Middle Early College edged Friends Academy 72-66 and Hoosic Valley eliminated Waterville 62-58.

   Girls semifinals highlights: The Jamestown-DeWitt boys have won six NYSPHSAA basketball championships. The Red Rams' girls are still alive in the quest for their first.

   Maddy Frank finished with 11 points and 15 rebounds as J-D downed top-ranked Harborfields 44-30 in the Class A semifinals in Troy, rattling off the game's final 10 points after the Tornadoes pulled close. J-D will play Pittsford Sutherland, a 43-29 winner over Maine-Endwell, in Saturday's final.

   The final four has not been kind to Long Island teams recently, especially the smaller ones. Since the NYSPHSAA went to five classes in 2004, only John Glenn (2005, Class B) has won a championship below the Class AA division.

   Jamesville-DeWitt did it with defense. The Red Rams held Harborfields without a field goal for the final 7:28 of the first half and the final 5:45 of the third quarter. The lead was 33-22 entering the final quarter, when defensive pressure pulled Harborfields to within 34-30.

   But Kasey Vaughn hit Alyssa Robens under the basket for an easy lay-in to halt the rally, and J-D completed the convincing win.

   The Class AA semifinals played out according to form as Cicero-North Syracuse topped Baldwin 61-50 and Ossining defeated Gates Chili 69-62 to set up a final between the tournament's two most recent champions.

   With starters Jalay Knowles, Shadeen Samuels and Abby Squirrell saddled with three fouls apiece, Ossining turned to junior reserve Jenna Lividini, who made four 3-pointers in the first half and finished with 19 points.

   "Any other day I could've been off, but since it's the state semifinals, I've been really focused because I've always been watching from the sidelines," Lividini, whose previous high was 12 points, told The Journal News, "It's my time now; it's everybody else's time to just come in ... I just want a state championship really badly.


  
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