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Friday, April 25, 2014: McDermott stepping down after title run at O'Hara

   Leading off today: Fresh off a Federation girls basketball championship last month in Albany, Cardinal O'Hara coach Dan McDermott shocked the room by announcing at his team's season-ending banquet that he was stepping down, The Buffalo News reported.

   McDermott said he would remain involved with the Tonawanda school's team in a coaching capacity, but said Nick O'Neil would take over as head coach. O'Neil has played a significant role as the Hawks won three straight Catholic state championships.

   McDermott, who has been at O'Hara since 1999, has been a head coach for 24 years.

   A tale of two softball games: Julia DiMartino followed up a no-hitter in South Carolina with a perfect game on Thursday, striking out 18 as Brockport defeated Greece Athena 8-0.

   DiMartino, co-All-Greater Rochester player of the year last season, threw a no-hitter during the Blue Devils' trip to Myrtle Beach.

   And then there was Thursday's Section 3 slugfest; 43 runs, 39 hits, 6 hit batsmen and more than 75 base runners later, Fulton walked away with a 22-21, come-from-behind win over Syracuse CBA.

   Fulton scored 11 runs in the final two innings.

   "Yeah, there were a couple," Fulton coach Derek Lyons joked about the number of runners. "As a defensive coach, I was irate, but it was fun to be a part of. It was, kind of, fun to watch."

   Caitlyn Chrisman was 4-for-4 with three runs batted in and two runs scored. Mikayla Guernsey was 4-for-6 with two runs scored and three RBI.

   Following up: The New York State Public High School Athletic Association and Special Olympics New York this week formally rolled out Unified Sports, a Section 2 pilot program expected to be replicated across much of the rest of the state in coming years.

   The Unified Sports program brings together students with and without intellectual disabilities for the opportunity to compete on one team. It's being rolled out with basketball as the first sport. Practice began April 1 and the seven-game season commences May 5 and wraps up May 31 at the Glens Falls Civic Center.

   The 12 schools launching the program are Averill Park, Ballston Spa, Colonie, Columbia, Glens Falls, Guilderland, Mechanicville, Mohonasen, Queensbury, Saratoga Springs, Schenectady and Shenendehowa.

   The primary differences in rules between traditional high school basketball and Unified Sports contests have to do with personnel. All players will get at least eight minutes of action in each game and there must be three special- needs students ("athletes") and two regular-education students ("partners") on the floor at all times. All other aspects -- including referees, game situations, fouls and violations -- will be similar to a typical varsity game.

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   "Statistics show us that kids who participate in high school sports get better grades, miss less school, and have a better opportunity of getting to college," Robert Zayas, executive director of the NYSPHSAA said in a story on the organization's website. "This is why we are so excited to have partnered with Special Olympics NY to create this pilot program in efforts to increase participation to students that may have not initially had the opportunity to participate in high school athletics before."

   Said Special Olympics New York President and CEO Neal Johnson: "The dynamic partnership with NYSPHSAA will provide unprecedented opportunities for young people -- with and without disabilities, to positively impact each other and their schools through one of society's most common denominators, competitive sports."

   Johnson hopes to one day see the program become a modified, JV and varsity offering at the approximately 800 NYSPHSAA schools statewide. The next phase of Unified Sports likely will bring basketball to Section 5 next year, NYSPHSAA Assistant Director Todd Nelson told The Post-Star.

   "We've already met with Section 5 and the Rochester area, particularly with the Monroe County League, which is some of the bigger schools in the Rochester area," Nelson told the paper. "We've gotten very good feedback from some of those schools that are interested in moving forward with this program for next year."

   Extra points: Katie Murphy Decker, who recently became a new mom, has resigned as girls basketball coach at Irondequoit after going 33-10 with one Section 5 title in two seasons, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.

   "There are moments in life that you can't get back with your kid and I don't want to miss them," said Decker, a former star guard at Greece Athena and Niagara University.

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