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Monday, Feb. 23, 2015: Utica ND dismisses coach year after state title

   Leading off today: Less than a year after winning NYSPHSAA and Federation Class B championships in girls basketball, Mike Plonisch is out as the coach at Utica Notre Dame.

   Plonisch was let go Sunday, the Observer-Dispatch reported. Plonisch confirmed his dismissal Monday but said he would have no further comment at this time.

   First-year Notre Dame AD Jake DerCola said the decision was a "personnel matter" and he could not discuss it.

   "We will be searching for a new coach, probably near the end of March," DerCola told the paper.

   Plonisch, 34, was 104-31 in six seasons, capturing three Section 3 championships. The Jugglers went 10-10 this season in Class A.

   Plonisch, a 1998 graduate of Notre Dame, is not employed by the school. In 2014, he was as the state's Coach of the Year in Class B.

   Extra effort: Brendan Pratt's goal with 47 seconds left in overtime gave Grand Island a 2-1 win over West Seneca East in the Section 6 boys hockey quarterfinals Sunday.

   West Seneca East is ranked 13th in the state in Division II. The trip to the semifinals will be a first in the five-year history of the Grand Island program.

   Grand Island goalie Mitch Racz made 25 saves in the win.

   Tenth-ranked Hamburg also advance in extra time, beating North Tonawanda 4-3 on Brendan Hart's goal with 3:47 left in the second OT. It was Hart's fourth overtime goal of the season during and Hamburg's extra-time win of the season.

   Curtis Vivian gave North Tonawanda a lead with :57 left in regulation, but the Bulldogs tied with :12 to go on Eric Shearer's second goal of the game.

   Hamburg is riding an eight-game winning streak heading into the semifinals vs. No. 11 Kenmore East.

   Tough ending to a season: Granted, the clock is ticking on February. But it still seems to soon for top-five teams in the state to be knocking heads with each other in the playoffs.

   Israel Johnson scored 16 of his 21 points after the end of the third quarter Saturday as Southampton edged Babylon 80-74 in double overtime in the Section 11 boys Class B basketball final.

   Babylon is ranked second and Southampton third in the state in Class B.

   "That was hard work," Southampton coach Herm Lamison told Newsday.

   In winning their second consecutive Suffolk County title, Southampton advanced to the Long Island Class B championship against Malverne on March 10 for a spot in the state semifinals.

   Halfway to 2K: He's just a sophomore, but Argyle's Kobe Lufkin scored his 1,000th career point Friday in a 72-55 loss to North Warren. His final points, two free throws with :44 left, put him at an even 1,000.

   My kind of story: Nearly 500 wrestlers will take the mats Friday in Albany on opening day of the NYSPHSAA wrestling championships. Ron Moshier of the Observer-Dispatch found a guy who didn't earn a spot there but certainly deserved some ink.

   Moshier told the story of Dulton Griffith of Adirondack Central. Four teammates qualified for the state meet, but Griffth's season and scholastic career ended last week at the Section 3 state qualifier.

   Griffith went a very respectable 45-10 as a senior competing at 152 pounds.

   Go back three years earlier, though, and Griffith was a very different wrestler. We went winless as a freshman. In fact, he never even made it out of the first period of a match.

   "It was bad, very bad. Awful," Griffith said. "It got frustrating, always losing. It felt like I was letting the team down. I was always thinking, 'I'm never going to win.'"

   But he did win. He won the respect of his teammates for coming back to practice every day to get stronger, smarter and wrestling-savvy.

   "He's the proof in the pudding, that there is hope," coach Joe Galligan said. "When our younger guys are struggling, I use Dulton all the time. It's a great example for any kid in any sport who is struggling."

   Griffith graduates in June and heads to Paris Island, S.C., for basic training in the Marine Corps three months later.

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