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March 8, 2014

Area's best to face tough tests Saturday

By Rob Centorani Staff Writer
The Daily Star

---- — One-third of the finalists for Miss Basketball in New York state will be at Binghamton University’s Events Center at noon Saturday.

And if it’s anything like last year’s meeting between Oneonta High’s Mariah Ruff and Utica Notre Dame’s Emily Durr, you won’t want to miss it.

This area’s all-time leading scorer, Franklin senior Jordan Beers, will play at noon Saturday at Onondaga Community College, looking to take her program to the state semifinals for the first time.

A combined 1,057 victories will accompany the coaches in a Class D state boys basketball quarterfinal at 1:45 p.m. Saturday at OCC. Davenport’s Lee Fisher has 536 victories — 15 more than New York Mills’ Mike Adey.

Those are just some of the storylines as the girls from Oneonta High and Franklin, and the boys from Davenport look to take the next step in the state playoffs.

The following is a look at the state quarterfinal matchups for the three area teams still in the hunt to win state basketball championships:

CLASS B GIRLSOneonta vs. UND

Not only are Oneonta High’s Mariah Ruff and UND’s Emily Durr among six finalists for Miss Basketball in New York, but they’re both headed to Division I colleges next season, they’re both returning First Team all-state selections, both played AAU ball together on the Albany City Rocks and both wear No. 22 on their jerseys.

Ruff and Durr put on a memorable display last March in a state quarterfinal at OCC. Ruff scored the game’s final seven points to rally the Yellowjackets to a 57-52 victory. Ruff finished with a game-high 28 points and Durr had 23.

The 5-foot-8 Ruff will play next season for St. Bonaventure. Durr, who is 5-11, will suit up for Iowa State.

Ruff has 1,910 points over six varsity seasons — spending the first two at Andes. Durr has 2,309 points and if she can extend her season, she’ll likely become Section Three’s all-time leading scorer. That honor belongs to Cicero-North Syracuse graduate Breanna Stewart, who finished with 2,367 points before leading the University of Connecticut to a national title last season as a freshman.

Ruff’s averaging 20 points for the 18-2 Yellowjackets, who won their seventh straight Section Four title last Saturday with a come-from-behind, 51-44 victory over Norwich.

Durr’s averaging 24.5 points, to go along team-bests of 6.3 rebounds and 5.0 assists. She scored 23 points in leading the Jugglers (19-3) to their second straight sectional title, a 46-39 victory over Westhill last Friday.

If the state rankings are accurate, the top two Class B teams in the state will be at BU on Saturday. OHS is ranked first and UND is No. 2.

Neither side has lost to a Class B school this season. Oneonta’s losses are to defending Class A state champion Troy and Section Four Class AA champion Horseheads. Utica ND lost to Class AA state-ranked teams Bethlehem and Gates Chili and a split a pair of games against Troy.

Perhaps the biggest difference between the teams are their supporting casts.

The Jugglers returned four starters off of last year’s team, but one of them — Maggie Sehring — suffered a season-ending hand injury during the season. The Yellowjackets graduated four starters after last season.

Anari Harris and Jackie Hajec are the other returning starters for UND. Harris, who scored 10 points against OHS last season, including a pair of three-pointers, is averaging 12.2 points. Hajec is averaging 7.9 points and 6.2 rebounds. Eighth-grader Claire Sehring averages 7.2 points.

Joining Ruff in Oneonta’s starting lineup are seniors Brittney Herrick, Maria DiMartin and Meg Burns, along with junior Brieanna Baker.

“We’ve improved immensely,” Ruff said after Saturday’s win against Norwich at the Broome County Arena. “I remember our first game against Norwich, I had to score 30-something points to keep us alive. The first game, everyone was kind of iffy, but I feel everybody believes in themselves now.”

The numbers support Ruff.

Ruff scored 30 points and everyone else had 23 when OHS opened the season with a 53-46 victory over Norwich. When the same teams met Saturday, Ruff scored 17 points and rest of the team had 34, including respective 16- and 14-point nights from Herrick and DiMartin.

“I think the kids are starting to realize that as we advance in the postseason it’s going to be harder to beat teams 1-on-5 offensively,” OHS coach Matt Miller said Saturday. “We need some of these other kids to step up and they’re capable of it.

“We knew we lost four exceptional starting seniors and Sierra Sangetti-Daniels, who played a huge role for us last year,” he continued. “I knew the kids coming in to replace them were phenomenal athletes and I think what we did a good job of doing was learning how each other plays. We were raw at the beginning of the year. From November to right now, we’re far better and I think we’re playing our best basketball right now.”

Herrick, a 6-footer, is averaging 10.2 points and DiMartin is at 7.8.

Saturday’s winner will play Section Two’s Tamarac or Section Seven’s Saranac in a state semifinal at 11:45 a.m. March 14 at Hudson Valley CC in Troy. The state final is scheduled for 4 p.m. March 15 back at HVCC.

CLASS D GIRLSFranklin vs. Hamilton

What these teams share in common is that their last losses came against Oriskany.

For Franklin (20-0), it came in a state quarterfinal at Oneonta State last season, a 51-46 setback in which Beers’ 30 points weren’t enough.

Hamilton (18-2) suffered back-to-back losses to Oriskany three days apart in January, falling by scores of 55-42 at home Jan. 11 and on the road by a 42-30 count Jan. 14.

But the Emerald Knights avenged those losses Feb. 27, with a 53-49 overtime victory at the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, rallying from nine points down in the second half.

Beers will bring 2,423 points into Saturday’s game. That is second all-time in Section Four history regardless of gender. She trails 2011 Harpursville graduate Hannah Kimmel, who finished with 2,692.

Beers had 28 points in Franklin’s 62-42 victory over Southern Cayuga in the Section Four championship game last Saturday at Oneonta State. It marked the Purple Devils’ second straight sectional title.

Beers’ high-scoring running mate, fellow senior Marisa Cawley, finished with 15 points against SC. But perhaps equally big for the Purple Devils was the 19 points they received from players not named Beers or Cawley.

Mariah McNeilly scored six points, Jessie Downin had five and Mara Stalter contributed four.

“When we’re working together, we’re tough to beat,” said Beers, averaging an area-best 25.6 points. “I’d take (balanced scoring) any day.”

Cawley is averaging 17.1 points for a Franklin team that has beaten every opponent this season by at least nine points. Its closest game was a 39-30 victory over then top-ranked South Kortright in a sectional semifinal.

Hamilton, which has won 11 straight, is led by guards Lauren Weeks and Jessica Welch. They’re averaging 14.3 and 11.0 points, respectively. Weeks has hit a school-record 65 three-pointers this season and Welch has contributed 24 threes. As a team, the Emerald Knights have made 117 shots from behind the arc.

Olivia Dow, a 6-foot-1 freshman, is averaging 8.1 points.

“We’ll have it all broken down,” Franklin coach Mike Dutcher said last Saturday in reference to Hamilton. “We’ll have a game plan together and head up and give it our best shot. We’ll get ready and we’ll do it.”

The Franklin-Hamilton winner will play Section Two’s Fort Edward or Section 10’s Heuvelton at 10:45 a.m. March 15 at HVCC in a state semifinal. The state final will be held at noon March 16 at HVCC.

CLASS D BOYSDavenport vs. NYM

Davenport senior Kyle Wamsley was asked for his thoughts on playing New York Mills, following the Wildcats’ 39-32 victory over Southern Cayuga in last Saturday’s Section Four final at Oneonta State.

“All I know is they’ve been good and they’re still good,” he said. “We’re going to go in there and play our game, win or lose.”

All one has to do is look at the team that New York Mills lost to this season to understand the challenges it might present for 20-1 Davenport on Saturday.

Section Four Class B champion Norwich needed a 15-2 run in the fourth quarter to beat the Marauders, 48-45, in the STOP-DWI Holiday Classic on Dec. 30 at the Broome County Arena.

That’s the same unbeaten Norwich squad that won the Southern Tier Athletic Conference championship by 20-plus points over Section Four Class AA champion Union-Endicott and the same Purple Tornado squad that handed Oneonta High its only three losses of the season, including a 40-28 win in the sectional final last Saturday.

But Fisher has 536 victories for a reason.

“It’s been a fabulous season,” he said last Saturday. “People talk about one at a time, but we really do. I honestly don’t look at records. People look at ratings in the newspaper and stuff like that. All it is is a team with a number. If you think you’re No. 2 in the state, you’d better play like No. 2 in the state because when you go up the ladder, you’re looking at some really good teams.”

Mills (20-1), which has won six straight sectional titles, is ranked first in the state. It won a state title in 2011 and is riding a 15-game winning streak.

The Marauders’ top player is Nick Comenale, a returning First Team all-state selection. Comenale, a senior, is averaging 24.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 3.5 steals.

Zach Vennaro contributes 13.1 points and 8.2 rebounds, and Terrance Nichols averages 8.7 points and 4.5 assists.

The Wildcats, in the state playoffs for the first time since advancing to the state semifinals in 2007, have two players averaging in double figures — Kyle Moorby at 11.3 points per game and Matt Finne at 11.0. Josh Davi averages 9.6 and Corey Hartman is at 6.7.

Hartman scored a team-high 14 points in Davenport’s sectional victory.

“We just go out and play,” said Fisher, who has guided Davenport to nine sectional titles during a coaching career that started in 1964. “Do the best you can and have fun because now it’s whatever.”

Saturday’s winner will meet Section 10’s Madrid-Waddington or Section Seven’s Moriah in a state semifinal at 11:45 a.m. March 14 at the Glens Falls Civic Center. The championship game is 5:30 p.m. March 15 at the GFCC.

Rob Centorani can be reached at rcentorani@thedailystar.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.