It's time to clean out the high school basketball playoff notebook:
I say it every year, but the decision by Section 6 to play the Class C and D boys semifinals and finals at Jamestown Community College is a figurative home run. For the most part, the bleachers at the Physical Education Complex were filled, especially for the games involving Chautauqua and Cattaraugus county schools, and fans lined the railings from the track high above. Heck, the concession stand, manned by members of the JCC baseball team, were doing a brisk business.
As I took my seat along the baseline each night, I couldn't help but think of former Buffalo Bills' coach Marv Levy's pregame mantra. Before the Bills took the field for the opening kickoff each Sunday, Levy would gather his players around him and ask one question:
Above, fans of the Randolph Lady Cardinals and the Frewsburg Bears packed Jamestown High School’s McElrath Gymnasium for the Section 6 Class C crossover basketball game earlier this month. Standing-room-only crowds appear to be the norm in the Southern Tier as they follow the fortunes of their beloved teams. See additional photos at cu.post-journal.com.
P-J photo by Scott Kindberg
"Where would you rather be than right here, right now?"
Whether you were a high school basketball player, coach, manager, fan or media member, the response two weeks ago should have been the same:
Speaking of crowds, the one that filled Jamestown High School's McElrath Gymnasium for the Section 6 Class C girls crossover game between Randolph and Frewsburg was a sight to behold.
It reminded me how far girls basketball has come in the last three decades.
Exceptional coaches, year-round commitment by the players and rabid fan bases have turned postseason girls games a desired destination in early March as well.
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Post-Journal sports editor Jim Riggs will be addressing the issue in-depth in an upcoming column, but last I checked the "P" in the acronym NYSPHSAA stands for "public.'' So why are private schools allowed to continue to play in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association basketball playoffs?
It's an annual head scratcher for me. I can't imagine how the Jamestown boys team feels, not to mention the Randolph and Sherman girls squads. All lost in the Far West Regional last weekend to private schools.
In other words, the public schools can only field teams from students within their districts. The private schools can draw from anywhere.
It's not right.
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The Randolph boys suffered an agonizing loss in the Section 6 Class C-1 semifinal over Middle College. The foul call with no time remaining on the clock in regulation was certainly debatable - the Cardinals' Mitchell Maycock appeared to have made a clean block - but what was not debatable was the way Randolph coach Kevin Hind handled himself after it was over.
Although clearly disheartened - a Middle College player made one of two free throws to win the game - Hind kept his composure on the court, rounded up his distraught players and, later, patiently answered questions from the media.
Hind did his school proud.
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The Jamestown Red Raiders turned in another remarkable season, posting a 19-3 record and winning their third Section 6 Class AA title in four years.
What's even more amazing, from this view, is that Coach Ben Drake has done it with only one senior - Tommy Campion.
Campion, the fifth option in the Red Raiders' run to the New York State Public High School Athletic Association Class AA championship game two years ago, is one of the premier players in Western New York, thanks to an insatiable desire to get better. With his 20 points against Bishop Kearney in the Far West Regional, Campion finished his career with 1,145 points, which is fifth on the school's all-time list.
Even though Campion - a measuring stick for future Red Raiders - will graduate, the cupboard will hardly be bare. In fact, it appears Jamestown is the section's team to beat in Class AA for the next several years.
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Although no area girls team advanced to the state final four this weekend at Hudson Valley Community College, this season will be memorable for the individual talent that was on display the last four months.
McKenna Maycock (Randolph), Elle Reed (Clymer), Shawna Raymond (Frewsburg), Dani Reinwald (Clymer), Jenna Einink (Chautauqua Lake) and Janae Hamilton (Ellicottville) took turns leading a seemingly nightly game of "can you top this."
Thanks, girls, for giving us a front-row seat to some all-time memorable efforts.
Props, too, go to the Jamestown Lady Red Raiders, who captured their first Section 6 Class AA title since 2008. While they didn't produce the kind of gaudy individual numbers that the girls mentioned above did, their balance and relentless pressure made them one of Western New York's best teams.
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Silver Creek senior Zed Williams put the Black Knights on his shoulders after intermission to lead them to victory over Mynderse in the Class C Far West Regional and a berth in the NYSPHSAA final four in Glens Falls.
What's remarkable about Williams, who is bound for the University of Virginia on a lacrosse scholarship, is that he does everything so effortlessly and was clearly the best athlete on the floor at the Blue Cross Arena.
Just as remarkable was the fact that when the final horn sounded, he walked off the court without even so much as pumping his fist in celebration. I'm guessing he's saving it for this weekend at the Glens Falls Civic Center.
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The 3-pointer at the final horn by Batavia's Jeff Redband gave his team a monumental 63-62 upset over top-ranked Olean in the Class B Far West Regional. The video of the shot made ESPN's SportsCenter and was also posted on the cable network's website.
By the way, Redband is a sophomore junior varsity callup, who didn't even have his name printed in royal blue on the back of his white jersey, and his name was only hand-written onto rosters distributed for the game.
No one will forget who he is now.