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Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016: CHSAA change makes life tough for MMA champ

   Leading off today: Cardinal O'Hara broke open a tie game with a 13-point run to open the fourth quarter and defeated Sacred Heart 72-60 in Monsignor Martin Association girls basketball action Wednesday.

   Anndea Zeigler led the winners with a game-high 27 points. O'Hara senior Summer Hemphill scored 18 of her 24 points in the second half and finished with 14 rebounds despite suffering a bloody nose after taking an elbow during the second quarter.

   Sacred Heart lost 6-foot-1 Brown commit Kathleen Ryan to a potentially serious knee injury late in the second quarter, The Buffalo News reported. She screamed in pain after her knee gave out while attempting to beat a defender with a crossover dribble at midcourt.

   More about O'Hara: O'Hara is on pace for a Monsignor Martin Association championship -- and then a very challenging postseason.

   The Hawks are ranked sixth in the state in Class AA -- which is a step up in competition for the 2014 Federation Class A champions and brings about a refresher course in the Byzantine process by which CHSAA girls basketball teams are classified for the postseason. Having to play in the highest class means O'Hara would have to beat the likes of Christ the King and/or St. Anthony's -- a pair of downstate titans -- to even reach the Federation tournament, where the PSAL and NYSPHSAA champions as well as perennial power Long Island Lutheran would be waiting.

   That's what you call the deep end of the pool.

   According to The Buffalo News, here's how O'Hara ended up in Class AA:

   The four dioceses making up the New York State Catholic High School Athletic Association voted before the season to have the MMA enter a team into the Class AA bracket of the NYSCHSAA semifinals for the first time since 2011 and to have the Rockville Diocese send a Class B representative the tournament, in essence serving to fill out the brackets in all three Federation classes.

   "We don't fit into the other three diocese systems because they are so big," MMA representative and Niagara Catholic coach Larry Puzan told the paper. "Our biggest school is small compared to theirs size-wise."

   The MMA decided that its regular-season champ -- almost certainly O'Hara after Wednesday's result -- would be designated as its Class AA representative. If O'Hara also wins the MMA playoffs, the tournament runner-up becomes the Class A rep.

   Reporter Miguel Rodriguez takes the stance that O'Hara is considered Class B locally in most other sports, so placement in Class AA is extreme. But the format revision is more or less consistent with the way the CHSAA (and PSAL, for that matter) has been operating for many years: Schools are classified within their diocese (or borough) by ability rather than enrollment.

   To some degree, arguing otherwise runs contrary to the case former Buffalo News preps editor Keith McShea made quite forcefully regarding the participation of Section 5 private schools in Class D of NYSPHSAA tournaments. Whether their potential foes are private or public schools, a small school without enrollment borders is more than just somewhat limited in putting forth a David vs. Goliath case.

   True, there are fewer players in Western New York than in New York City or Long Island, but they are also divided among fewer schools.

   On the other hand, the CHSAA did O'Hara no favors by arriving at its decision after the school year started rather than last spring. Given more time, O'Hara coach Nick O'Neal may have been able to line up a more demanding schedule in preparation for a potential battle with the champion of the Brooklyn-Queens league, possibly the toughest in the country.

   "The thing with New York City is their top five teams play a national schedule," O'Neal said. "They're traveling all around the country and playing the top schools in the country. We're limited to playing the top schools in our region."

   An additional thought: If anything needs fixing in the CHSAA girls system, it's the remainder of the classification process -- namely determining classes based upon standings during the just-completed regular-season. For instance, the MMA's top five teams go into the 'A' tournament, with the rest of the teams fighting for the Federation Class B berth.

   A year ago, the same format dropped Nazareth from Class AA to 'A' after a 6-19 regular season against all the best local schools and a challenging national schedule. The Lady Kingsmen then rattled off wins against bona fide Class A opponents Moore Catholic, Cardinal Spellman and Kellenberg.

   They then closed out with a pair of wins in Glens Falls over McKee/Staten Island Tech and Williamsville South to carry home a Federation championship with an 11-19 record.

   Southold update: Jeff Ellis, who coached the Southold boys basketball team for 14 years, has been brought back to finish out the season an the aftermath of Phil Reed's death Tuesday, The Suffolk Times reported.

   Reed was Ellis' JV coach and varsity assistant for seven seasons before taking the top job in 2012.

   "It was never just me," Ellis said. "He was a big part of what we did. He was obviously great with the kids, a great coach and more importantly he was an even better person."

   Knowing that three games still remained on the regular-season schedule for the First Settlers, Ellis volunteered his services and was approved Thursday as the interim coach. Ellis met with the players and led a practice later in the day.

   "I know Jeff and he always does what's right for the kids here," AD Michael Brostowski said.

   If you're interested: USA Today did a pretty good job last week with what I call a "weather" topic -- as in something that everyone complains about but no one does anything about.

   The paper took another look at what to do about blowout scores in basketball, noting 700 games decided by 30 points or more in Colorado over just the first two months of the current season.

   The story notes there isn't a large appetite for playing with a running clock once the margin reaches a certain level or stopping the game all together.

   "A mercy rule is detrimental to development of players," said Bert Borgmann, an assistant commissioner of the state association in Colorado. "With that being said, it is incumbent upon the team that is putting the pasting on to address that situation from an educational standpoint."

   Four states that border Colorado have versions of a running clock in the second half of blowouts.

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