Leading off today:
Dust off the "what a difference a year makes" cliché.
The 2015 Federation basketball tournament was a complete washout for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association participants -- an 0-6 record over three days of contests vs. the state's three other major sanctioning bodies.
Fast forward to last night at the Times Union Center in Albany, where the NYSPHSAA's reps swept four semifinal games -- three in comfortable fashion (Aquinas and Elmont boys, Ossining girls) and the shorthanded Livonia girls in a gritty overtime battle.
Playing minus two starters, Livonia edged Monsignor McClancy 61-60 on a Molly Stewart (20 points) free throw with 1.8 seconds left in OT to set up a Sunday championship game against East Harlem Pride. Junior guard Madeline Herzog, forced into a starting role, made four 3-pointers and scored 16 points.
"This is so awesome," Stewart told the Democrat and Chronicle. "I can't believe we just won."
A fifth win of sorts came from Albany Academy, which plays in the NYSPHSAA in most sports but has opted to go the AIS route in recent years and accept a bye directly into the Federation's quirky format.
The Cadets saw their 14-point lead over Canisius cut to four in final two minutes of the Class A semifinals before Sal Arena charged through the defense for a momentum-sapping layup. Albany Academy went 10-for-10 from the line the rest of the way at won 63-51 to set up a final vs. Elmont.
Elmont continued to display shut-down zone defense in the postseason and eliminated High School of Telecommunication Arts & Technology 66-41. The Spartans finished the first quarter on an eight-point run and didn't allow Telecommunications to score for nearly six minutes, a stretch that extended into the second quarter.
Sophomore K.C. Ndefo finished with 12 points, five blocks and nine rebounds.
"We play a zone and it's not my first love," Elmont coach George Holub told MSG Varsity. "I've been a man-to-man guy my entire life, but these guys are long. So I figured we might as well make use of it. That's what the game is about. If you finally find something that works, then great."
Class AA Aquinas also exhibited its usual stingy defense and got 20 points from Jalen Pickett on 8-for-11 shooting plus eight rebounds while beating Xaverian 54-43. The Little Irish outrebounded Xaverian 33-17 and held the CHSAA representative to 19 first-half points. The Clippers shot just 39.1 percent from the field.
"They were more physical than us," Xaverian senior forward Nyontay Wisseh said. "We usually use our athleticism to get rebounds. Today, it wasn't working."
In the other semifinal to cap Day 1's seven contests, PSAL champ Thomas Jefferson beat Long Island Lutheran 69-62. St. John's recruit Shamorie Ponds scored 21 of his 27 points after halftime.
LuHi broke to a 13-4 lead before Jefferson rallied to a 35-33 halftime lead. Ponds then scored seven points during a 9-0 run that gave the Orange Wave a 46-37 lead midway through the third quarter.
In the girls Class AA bracket, Ossining downed South Shore 67-51 and Long Island Lutheran edged St. Anthony's 41-40 to set up a rematch of a 2015 semifinal won by LuHi.
Shadeen Samuels and Aubrey Griffin combined for 48 points in Ossining's victory.