Leading off today: Sister Maria Pares
, small in stature but a giant in leading the growth of female athletics in Western New York and beyond, died Friday from cancer complications. She was 75.
"She was a pioneer, a visionary," Atlanta Dream President Theresa Wenzel, who played for Pares three decades ago, told The Buffalo News. "Countless women around Buffalo and across the country have benefited from her vision."
Pares' career path was as unconventional as it was successful and influential. She built a girls basketball dynasty at Sacred Heart Academy in Buffalo in the 1980s while simultaneously coaching at Canisius College.
Pares, who grew up in Buffalo, joined the Order of St. Francis of Penance and Christian Charity in 1962, earned a master's degree in sports science in 1973 and was later assigned to Sacred Heart to build its athletics department.
She went 229-10 with 13 straight Monsignor Martin Association championships. She also went 108-39 with Canisius College, taking the program to the 1983 NCAA Division II Tournament. Pares never lost two games in a row until 1986, when she left Western New York to coach Division I Marquette University.
She left Marquette in 1990 and found her way back to Sacred Heart in 1999, winning five more Monsignor Martin titles. The school's decision to not renew her contract after the 2014-15 season sparked outrage.
Pares is in the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame, the Canisius College Sports Hall of Fame, the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Hall of Fame, the New York State Basketball Hall of Fame and the Sacred Heart Hall of Fame.
More Sister Maria: The logical perception of a diminutive nun might be that of a gentle, soft-spoken figure on the sideline. It often didn't take the uninitiated more than one visit to the gym to be dissuaded of that notion.
She pushed her players hard ... and officials even harder. In a never-ending quest to win two-thirds of the 50-50 calls, she worked over referees in ways NBA coaches could only imagine.
It's in large part why she acquired possibly the greatest nickname in the history of New York coaches at any level: Attila the Nun.
Section 2 showdown: Shenendehowa, ranked 10th in the state in Class AA, earned a 58-52 girls basketball victory over No. 7 Columbia at Hudson Valley Community College.
Junior Cameron Tooley led Shenendehowa with 16 points, including a pair of 3-pointers that built the lead to 45-32. Tooley missed the game's final minutes after taking an elbow while reaching for a pass.
Marquette-bound Selena Lott scored 25 points in a losing cause.
Boys basketball: Cardinal O'Hara threw a triangle-and-two defense at Tavien Kemp of Archbishop Walsh only to see the scoring machine still drop 32 points on the Hawks. Jermaine Hayes scored 21 points with four 3-pointers.
Working overtime: New Dorp picked up its third overtime win in four boys basketball games by beating McKee/Staten Island Tech 58-54 in PSAL action. Gavin Marrow led the way with 20 points.
The Cougars previously edged Port Richmond 56-55 on Jan. 11 and CSI/McCown 52-51 on Wednesday in OT wrapped around a blowout loss to Curtis.