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Saturday, Feb. 14, 2015: St. Francis Prep football coach Vin O'Connor dies

   Leading off today: St. Francis Prep's Vin O'Connor, the second-winningest football coach in New York high school football, died Friday, The Daily News reported today. He was 85.

   O'Connor recently completed his 61st season on the sideline. He won 341 games, good enough for second place in New York state (full list here) behind the 364 by Bethpage's Howie Vogts, who died in 2010. O'Connor guided his team to 16 CHSFL championships (14 in the highest classification), the most recent coming in 2005.

   "He's a football legend," Athletic Director Sal Fischetti told the paper. "Vincent O'Connor goes along with everything associated with football in New York."

   O'Connor had turned over much of the responsibility to his staff over the past decade, with assistant Rich Carroll taking much of the day-to-day duties, But he remained on the sidelines for all the Terriers' games.

   "I was blessed to play for him, fortunate to coach with him and just as fortunate to have him as an adviser," Rutgers University coach Kyle Flood told MSG Varsity. "Any decision I've made in my professional career I've consulted my wife, my parents and Mr. O'Connor."

   Early upset: Senior Kevin Cluess scored a career-high 41 points Friday in leading Floral Park in a 79-77 upset of Rockville Centre South Side, the state's No. 23 Class A team, in the Section 8 boys basketball tournament.

   South Side was the No. 1 seed and Floral Park to No. 16 seed in the tournament.

   Cluess' layup gave the Knights a 78-75 lead, and Nick Jounakos added a free throw with 30 seconds left. Cluess blocked a shot with two seconds left as Floral Park held on.    Cluess, the son of Iona coach Tim Cluess, also had seven rebounds, four assists and three blocks for the Knights, who trailed 68-58 entering the fourth quarter.

   "It was a big win and I'm definitely going to remember this for the rest of my life," Cluess told Newsday. "It's an incredible feeling."

   Floral Park next visits ninth-seeded Manhasset on Friday.

   Bethlehem fans honored: Bethlehem Central High School has won the second annual Battle of the Fans contest, the New York State Public High School Athletic Association announced Friday.

   Bethlehem beat out Pittsford and Skaneateles in the finals, conducted as a fan vote through social media during the week.

   Bethlehem will be presented a banner and honored at the NYSPHSAA boys basketball final fours in Glens Falls next month. NYSPHSAA officials will also visit Bethlehem for an on-site presentation.

   "Every season our student fan group and community do a tremendous job in supporting all of our athletic programs from football and field hockey to volleyball and basketball," Bethlehem AD Lenny Kies said in the state association's announcement. "It is truly a community event and we genuinely believe, through NYSPHSAA's annual fan competition, the level of sportsmanship demonstrated by our students has risen."

   Lengthy streak ends: A Montana girls basketball team's loss Thursday was its first since the 2010 state championship game and snapped the nation's longest active winning streak in the sport at 120 games.

   Choteau defeated Fairfield 50-38 to end the longest streak in Montana history and the sixth-longest ever in girls

basketball according to the National Federation of State High School Associations. Duncanville, Texas, won 134 games from 1987-91.

   A take on AAU: In the aftermath of Kobe Bryant's critical comments on the subject last month, the Times Herald-Record sought out local opinions about AAU basketball and found support for the NBA star's opinion.

   Among the criticisms of the AAU circuit: An out-of-whack ratio of games to practices and rosters comprised of all-star players rather than built to get the most of complementary skills.

   "Some teams, they just pick up some players and throw them out there, said Saugerties forward Paton Gibbs. "... You don't want to be out there with a team that is just running out there. That won't make you a better player."

   Said Pine Bush coach Stephen Distefano, "I like the fact that they are out playing basketball, but I think as far as the skill set and what they are learning at that level, I don't know if it's really what we as coaches want. Kobe Bryant said it himself: You have these big guys bringing the ball up the court that want to handle the ball, and don't want to play with their back to the basket."

   You can read the full story here.

   Extra points: The fifth annual BCANY Summer Hoops Festival will be held July 31-Aug. 2 in Johnson City. The event is for boys and girls who will be entering grades 9-12 net fall, with local chapters of the BCANY responsible for selecting the teams and coaches.

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  • 5/27: Football gets approval to add a game
  • 4/29: Officials turning focus toward the fall
  • 4/23: Boys all-state basketball (large schools)
  • 4/22: Westhill hoops star dies in crash
  • 4/16: Boys all-state basketball (small schools)
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