In a perfect world, I'd have played football, basketball and baseball in high school.

Two things prevented this:

1, I wasn't all that talented;

2, I went to school at Binghamton High in the mid-1980s, when guys such as King Rice, Rick Coleman, Rob Middlebrooks, Chris Tollerson, Tony Marshall and Wendell Mack _ names that are no doubt familiar to Oneonta High girls coach Bob Zeh, who headed the Yellowjackets boys program during that time.

They were a big reason BHS was ranked nationally by the USA Today in football and basketball during the 1985-86 school year, my senior year. The baseball team advanced to the Class A state semifinals that year, as well.

I played against those guys in pee-wee football and Little League baseball. After discovering I didn't measure up (sometimes in a painful manner), I switched to cross country, CYO basketball and track.

So much for a perfect world.

Up until this past Friday, the Binghamton basketball teams that won back-to-back Class A (then New York's high classification) public high school championships, and one Federation title, were the best I'd seen on the high school level.

After watching Peekskill's boys dismantle Oneonta High, 89-32, in a Class A (now the state's second-highest class) state quarterfinal at Pace University, I have a new No. 1.

The Section One champion Red Devils (25-0) were that good.

Passes that led to layups for the Yellowjackets (20-5) during their first 24 games didn't come close to reaching their intended targets, with the Red Devils' size, speed and length outclassing an OHS squad that finished with 28 turnovers.

And once Peekskill got into the open floor, the Red Devils were fast and smooth, finishing with flair around the basket.

"(Oneonta was) a good team, but we just executed and we ran them," said 6-foot-6 senior Mookie Jones, who's headed to Syracuse next season. "We just kept attacking them and pounding them."

Along with Jones, Peekskill had 6-6 Elliot Watson, 6-5 Ralph Watts, 6-3 Darien Thomas and speedy 5-10 sophomore guard Daquan Brickhouse, each with athletic ability to spare. I'm not sure OHS' best player, 6-4 senior Dan O'Brien, could crack Peekskill's starting five, and he's sure to receive all-state recognition when those teams are released.

"Their abilities just overwhelmed us," OHS coach Jerry Mackey said.

Those Binghamton teams _ recognized by many as the best in Section Four history _ were every bit as fast as Peekskill, but the Red Devils' size and rebounding would be the difference.

Way too early

Peekskill is searching for its fourth straight Federation champion and the Red Devils' most difficult step could be their next one.

The Red Devils face Section Three champion Jamesville-DeWitt (22-2) in a state semifinal Saturday at the Glens Falls Civic Center. The teams met Dec. 28, with Peekskill winning, 63-60.

J-D also eased into the semifinals, defeating Bishop Gibbons of Section Two, 74-34, on Saturday. In that victory, the Red Rams received 21 points from Brandon Triche, the nephew of former Syracuse starter Howard Triche. When Indiana's Keith Smart hit his winning baseline jumper in the Hoosiers' 74-73 victory over the Orangemen in the 1987 National Championship, Howard Triche was SU's closest defender.

For casual high school basketball fans around the state, this game will draw as much interest as any of the 10 semifinals to be played this weekend in Glens Falls.

Which begs the question, why is it starting at 10:45 a.m.?

I thought about going, but I'm not getting up that early.

The state basketball committee should have given this one the attention it deserved and moved it to later in the day.

OHS losing a lot

In addition to losing all-time leading scorer O'Brien, the Yellowjackets will graduate center Brendan Harder, guard Alex VanDeusen, swingman Zach Harlem _ all starters _ and reserve Dustin Haney in June.

Junior Alex Mirabito is the lone returning starter due back for OHS. He averaged better than 10 points this season and will be counted on to shoulder the offensive load for next season The Jackets will also have key reserves Monte Richardson and Nate Eastman _ both sophomores _ back.

"We'll start again in the offseason and set a target or a goal," Mackey said.

They're supposed to be free

Five area basketball teams won sectional titles this winter _ the boys and girls from OHS, Davenport's girls, Cooperstown's girls and Roxbury's boys.

They're teams with a combined 104-16 record.

But from the free throw line since sectionals started, our area's best shot a combined 61 percent from the free throw line.

No effort caused more harm than Roxbury's 4-for-14 showing in a 51-39 Class D state quarterfinal loss to Sackets Harbor on Saturday at Cortland State.

"We usually take some time to shoot some free throws (in practice)," said Roxbury guard Ryan Skipper, who went 3-for-4 from the line Saturday. "I guess we weren't in the right mind-set."

For anyone who reads the high school box scores closely throughout the season, it shouldn't come as any surprise that many of our area teams struggled from the free throw line.

I wonder how much practice time is devoted to free throw shooting.

My 10-year-old played travel league ball this winter. Not once did I see him or any of his teammates attempt a free throw in pre-game warmups.

Shooting free throws is like practicing putting. It's no fun but it has to be done.

It's a time when one can hone the stroke he or she will use on or off the foul line. Most good free throw shooters are simply good shooters.

Cooperstown's girls, the lone area team still playing, had the worst free throw percentage of our five sectional champions. The Redskins (25-0) have gone 30-for-61 since the start of sectionals.

They'll play Haldane in a Class C state semifinal on Saturday at Hudson Valley Community College.

Suffice to say, a 50 percent effort from the line will not get it done.

False advertising

Roxbury's roster lists forward Tim Douglas as 6-2.

That's probably cheating the junior a good four inches. He provided the Rockets with some decent minutes off the bench in their loss Saturday and could be a key for next season.

With Skipper and DaVaun Morgan back, arguably the Delaware League's top returning players next season, the development of Douglas would give the Rockets a legitimate low-post threat.

He's a wide body who can clog the lane and if he adds a post move or two, Roxbury should be favored to win another sectional title next season.

"I think we have a good shot," Skipper said. "We have me, DaVaun and a couple of big guys coming back. We'll just have to work extra hard."

Rob Centorani covers high school basketball for The Daily Star. E-mail him at rcentorani@thedailystar.com.

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