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Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016: Eldred goes from 1-7 to Sec. 9 champion

   Leading off today: I'm just going to touch very briefly on a pile of results from the past two days because I mostly want to delve into a combination skiing/football story. (Seriously. You'll understand once I get there.)

   Nice recovery: Eldred's boys basketball team won its opener in November and then lost seven straight. Slowly, the Yellow Jackets turned it around. And though they're still sub-.500, they're now Section 9 Class D champions.

   Erek Binkowski and Andrew Halloran scored 11 points apiece to help Eldred (10-11) past Livingston Manor (5-13) 50-32 on Wednesday for the championship. Eldred used an 18-0 run between the first and second quarters to pull away.

   Eldred won its first boys basketball title since 1991-92. Eldred had played in each of the three previous sectional Class C championship games, losing them all by 30 or more points.

   Eldred will play defending state Class D champ Bridgehampton of Section 11 in the opening round of the state tournament Tuesday.

   Section 4 shocker: Kaitlynn Finch hit three 3-pointers in the second half, Logan Bruce made the back end of a two-shot free-throw opportunity with 1.1 seconds left in regulation, and Delhi forced a pair of turnovers in the final minute of overtime for a 56-54 girls basketball victory over South Kortright in a Section 4 Class D semifinal at SUNY Oneonta.

   South Kortright was the defending champ and returned much of its roster from the squad that fell to Heuvelton 61-54 in the NYSPHSAA state Class D title game last season.

   "I don't know anybody besides our team who thought we would even get within single digits with South Kortright," Bruce told The Daily Star.

   Monster effort: Williamsville East sophomore guard Erica Martinsen scored a school-record 50 points ... and her team needed every single one to defeat Hamburg 63-54 and advance to the Section 6 girls Class A-1 final.

   Martinsen, who added nine rebounds, shot 8-for-13 from beyond the arc. She scored 17 of her team's 19 first-quarter points and scored nine straight Flames points to start the third quarter.

   Stellar run by Neal: Fayetteville-Manlius senior Kaitlyn Neal lowered her Section 3 record in the indoor 3,000 meters by more than 11 seconds, recording a time of 9:28.59 in the state qualifier at SRC Arena.

   Teammates Samantha Levy, Jenna Farrell and Claire Walters were second, fourth and fifth, respectively.

   Tuesday leftovers: I didn't get a chance to note these yesterday, but they deserve a quick mention:

    • Baldwinsville went two overtimes to upset Syracuse 4-3 in the Section 3 Division I hockey semifinals. Garrett Gray scored twice, including the game-winner on a breakaway with 5:42 remaining in the second overtime.

    • Greece Athena, top-ranked in Class A, escaped Irondequoit 71-65 in the Section 5 boys basketball semifinals as Anthony Lamb scored 45 points. Lamb's two free throws with :05.9 to go forced overtimes.

    Lamb, the lone starter back from last year's state tournament team, averages 30.7 points a game.

    • Monday's individual champs in the slalom at the NYSPHSAA skiing championships came back Tuesday to complete alpine sweeps.

   Aidan Cohane (Windham-Ashland-Jewett) won the boys giant slalom with a time of 1:31.17. Freshman Sarah Coombs (Saratoga) took the girls crown in 1:38.83.

   In the nordic relays, Lake Plaid's boys and Honeoye Falls-Lima's girls earned championships.

   What's in a name? As I caught up on results from the state ski meet early this week, the acronym for one of the participating schools slowed me down and sent me investigating because "RKFC" simply didn't mean anything to me other than maybe Rochester Kentucky Fried Chicken -- where we go every couple of weeks or so for the $5 Fill-Up Meal.

   But I digress.

   It turns out RKFC is a combined team. A very combined team, actually. Rondout Valley, Kingston, Hyde Park Roosevelt and Coleman Catholic from Section 9 are all rolled up into one.

   And as recently as a couple of days ago that didn't seem to be of any great consequence. There are numerous such collaborations across the state in the various sports. Some of these combined teams even win state championships -- the 2013 boys hockey title by Syracuse CBA/Jamesville-DeWitt comes to mind.

   Two-school combined programs in team sports presumably are a matter of necessity. One or both of the schools would not be able to field teams with any consistency without joining forces. I get that. What I don't get is why four schools need to be rolled up into one program for what is only marginally a team sport. Sure, there are team championships at stake at the sectional and state level, but those championships are awarded based upon points earned by individual performers -- similar to track and field or swimming, for example. And if one- or two-man teams can't add up to team crowns, those individuals can still compete for individual honors.


  • 2016 NYSPHSAA boys basketball brackets
  • 2016 NYSPHSAA girls basketball brackets
  • 2016 NYSPHSAA boys hockey brackets
  • 2016 N.Y. wrestling tournament brackets (PDF)

  •    Couldn't and shouldn't Rondout Valley, Kingston, Hyde Park Roosevelt and Coleman Catholic be individual entities for competitive purposes? They could certainly travel and train together under a single coaching staff with the same contracts that currently exist between school administrations, but why aren't they scored as individual teams?

       The reason I ask is because RKFC captured girls alpine team honors this week, holding off No. 2 Honeoye Falls-Lima and No. 3 Saranac Lake. And the numbers that have my eyeballs doing the around-the-world-360 have nothing to do with the scoring and everything to do with the enrollments.

       BEDS data shows Rondout Valley (467), Kingston (1,432), Hyde Park Roosevelt (947) and Coleman Catholic (133) add up to an enrollment of 2,979. The next five (yes, five!) teams in the alpine standings -- HF-L, Saranac Lake, W-A-J, Ellicottville and Old Forge -- have a combined BEDS number of 1,224.

       The combined-team winner is nearly 2.5 times the size of the next five finishers combined. And it was completely unnecessary. And if it happened in a sport less obscure than skiing, people might take notice.

       And that's why what's now taking place in Section 6 football is more than mildly interesting. The section's Combining of Schools Committee took a look at three situations from last year and sent a simple message: Move up in class or break up with your merger partner.

       Meeting last month, the committee recommended declining future potential request to combine in football for:

    • Maple Grove and Chautauqua Lake, based on dominance.
    • Buffalo Olmsted, Alternative High and Bennett, again based on dominance.
    • Buffalo I-Prep, DaVinci, Lafayette, East, Performing Arts and Riverside, based on the sheer number of school involved.
       The committee said combining will be considered in the first two cases if the teams moved up in class and spelled out an appeals process. Step 1 was an appeal to the section's Executive Committee, which soundly rejected the Chautauqua Lake/Maple Grove request Feb. 10. The schools' next option would be an appeal to the Section 6 Athletic Council in late March. After that it would me a matter for the NYSPHSAA.

       CL/MG is being told in needs to move up to Class B. Since combining in 2013, CL/MG has gone 7-2, 11-1 and then 9-2 last fall in Class C. By pure BEDS numbers, CL/MG would already be playing in Class B. But with the sliding scale that the NYSPHSAA uses to accommodate combined teams, CL/MG fell comfortably within Class C.

       As separate entities, Chautauqua Lake would be a Class C team in 2016 and Maple Grove would return to Class D, where it was a perennial state power.

       Of the two, Maple Grove has the more viable future based on participation numbers and history suggests Chautauqua Lake might not even be able to field a team through the course of a full season.

       So what does this all mean? At least two things:

       (1) The NYSPHSAA should be taking a broad look at its policies on combined programs. The formula that counts just 20-50% of the smaller school(s) enrollment in combined programs seems fair in situations where a district has a short-term numbers problem but has a chance of competing independently again a couple of years down the road.

       But student populations as a whole are slipping for much of New York. Jobs are leaving the state, college graduates aren't staying and families are on the move, too. At some point don't these collaborations have to be considered permanent? If so, the 20-50% adjustment needs to be adjusted upward to perhaps 50-80% -- or perhaps thrown out entirely.

       (2) Near the end of my tirade aimed at Monroe County superintendents three months ago, I made the point that any solution of the ongoing dispute over public vs. private schools shouldn't be addressed in a vacuum. I listed several other issues that should be hashed out as part of a comprehensive solution. Well, the skiing and football problems above can be added to the pile.

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