Friday, December 26, 2008

Top 10 stories of 2008

Troy High players hoist The Record's Uncle Sam Cup after defeating Lansingburgh in the regular season finale.

10. Troy High football moves to Class A, plays Uncle Sam Cup game against Lansingburgh

High school football in the Collar City got a little bit of a shakeup in 2008 when Troy High dropped down to compete in Class A, setting up a game against crosstown rival Lansingburgh. The two teams, however, had not played since Sept. 24 1955.

Lansingburgh had advanced to the state championship game in 2007 and the Flying Horses, with head coach Jack Burger back at the helm, were poised to be one of the teams to beat in a jam-packed Class A. But by the time the game rolled around on Oct. 17, it was clear who the favorite was in 2008.

Troy’s defense held the Knights to a late field goal and Fred Fitch rushed for 168 yards and three touchdowns in a 28-3 victory for the Flying Horses. The defeat sent Lansingburgh on the road for the first round of the Class A playoffs and the Knights ended their season the next week in Amsterdam. Troy advanced to the Class A semifinals before losing to eventual New York State runners-up Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake.

We might have to come up with a new trophy for the 2009 season. Troy and La Salle long played for The Record’s Collar City Cup, while this year marked The Record’s initial Uncle Sam Cup game. It looks like Troy will be playing in Class A for some time – but Lansingburgh may be making a retreat to Class B pending the official number of students they’ll have enrolled in the high school next season.

La Salle's Vinny Planz (15) takes a spill during the 2008 Section II Division I hockey championship game at Union College.

9. La Salle-Shenendehowa Section II Division I hockey title game

La Salle and Shenendehowa met in the Division I hockey final at Union College on Feb. 21 and it was one of the most memorable games of the year.

Goaltenders Brendan Wagner (La Salle) and Nathan Mellow (Shenendehowa) traded one amazing save after another until late in the third period. With 2:46 remaining in the third period, the game still a scoreless tie, Shenendehowa's Andy Cantiello was called for boarding, setting up a crucial power play opportunity for the Cadets. But it was the Plainsmen penalty kill that would end up with the game-winner.

Adam Hitchko pried the puck loose from La Salle's Niall Cahill and flung it out to Jesse Elliott on the right boards. Elliott and Hitchko flew down in a 2-on-1, drawing Wagner to the ice as Elliott ripped a nasty wrister over Wagner's right shoulder to give the Plainsmen a late advantage on the shorthanded goal.

Shen added two empty-netters, making the 3-0 final look lopsided. The Plainsmen won their sixth consecutive Section II championship in an epic performance.


Troy High sophomores Bridget Haggerty, Rachel Martin and Sylvia Soriento (l to r) played a big role on the front line for the Flying Horses' volleyball team.

8. Troy High volleyball claims Big 10 title, wins a game against Burnt Hills

The Flying Horses hadn’t made an appearance in the Section II Class A title game since 1992, but thanks to a little pluck and a lot of noise, the volleyball from Troy High made it back in 2008.

Shannon Jones, Emily Jones and Kristin Tully were the team’s senior leaders, but sophomores Bridget Haggerty, Rachel Martin and Sylvia Soriento stepped up in a big way and improved as the season went along. Part of Troy's success was their loud and boisterous behavior on the court - an attitude that picked them up after a missed point or two and bouyed their spirits during tough matches.

Troy took a 16-0 record into the Class A final against Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake, the greatest volleyball power in Section II history. The Spartans had advanced to the Section II championship match for 12 consecutive years and had not dropped a game in Section II play - not a single game – since 2002. They've won every Suburban Council match they've played since 1990.

Well, Troy took the first set but the Spartans rallied to take the match. Still, even taking a 1-0 lead on Burnt Hills was something to be proud of for the Troy girls.

"We were obviously excited to be competing with one of the best teams in the state," said Shannon Jones, who was named the Big 10 Conference MVP after the match. "They've had so many wins and to just win a game was an honor. I don't think they were expecting us to be as good as we were that first game and all of a sudden they just turned it up, they just picked it up."

Tamarac head coach Erick Roadcap guided the Bengals to their first winning season since 1992 and made his mark as one of Section II's best young coaches.

7. Cohoes and Tamarac football programs emerge

The high schools at Tamarac and in Cohoes both have long and successful athletic programs, but football was not a sport one would mention in either of those places. Thanks to a pair of young and energetic head coaches, however, football was put on the map.

Cohoes' James Ducharme, The Record’s 2008 Coach of the Year, and Tamarac’s Erick Roadcap turned around what had been dismal football histories at their respective schools.

The Tigers won a school-record eight games in Cohoes, advancing to the Section II Class B semifinals.

In Brunswick, things were so bad that the football season was canceled in 2002 and the school’s last winning season came in 1992. But the Bengals clinched a Class C playoff berth this year and won more games than they lost for the first time in 16 seasons.

It remains to be seen how long Ducharme and Roadcap can keep the success going, but the young Erick Bernard at Watervliet has done much the same thing over the past two years. He took a team that finished 3-6 in 2006 to a winning record in his first season in 2007 and he led the Cannoneers to a Section II Class C championship in 2008.

Tamarac and Cohoes also met in the Section II Class B boys soccer final – the first time a Cohoes team had ever advanced that far. A banner fall season in Cohoes all-around.

La Salle head baseball coach Jesse Braverman has turned the Cadets into a perennial Section II power on the diamond

6. La Salle baseball team advances to New York State semifinals

The Cadets won the first 27 games they played this season, earning Big 10 and Section II titles en route to a No. 1 New York State Class AA ranking heading into the state semifinals.

Dave Roseboom was wonderful on the mound for La Salle and Kyle Charron and Amar Lewis swung the big bats. La Salle lost to Mamaroneck in the semis, but the 27-0 record was a testament to La Salle manager Jesse Braverman.

Read Ryan Kircher’s inspiring account of Braverman’s journey from a frustrated little leaguer to the top baseball coach in the area by clicking here.

Braverman is sitting on 199 career victories and I’m sure he and the Cadets can’t wait until spring.

Hoosic Valley's Jen Mineau was named The Record's Softball Player of the Year for the second consecutive season in 2008.

5. Hoosic Valley-Cohoes Class B softball showdown

It seemed inevitable at the beginning of the season. Cohoes and Hoosic Valley were destined to meet in the Class B softball championship game.

Hoosic Valley’s Jen Mineau was nearly unhittable her entire varsity career. In 2008, Mineau pitched the Indians to a second straight undefeated run through the Wasaren League and a 20-1 record. Of 453 batters faced, Mineau struck out 340. She allowed only two earned runs all year – an 0.10 ERA.

Cohoes
’ Courtney Galuski made news on Jan. 8 2008 when she hit 15 three-point shots in a single basketball game, tying a national record. (Let’s make that story 5-a of 2008). She was listed in Sports Illustrated’s Faces in the Crowd section for the performance. But her favorite place to play was in the pitcher’s circle.

On June 6, the two dueled the entire game but it was a hit batsman and a fielding error which did in the Indians by a predictable 1-0 final score. The Tigers went on to the state final four before losing a heartbreaker after an hour-long rain delay in the semifinals.

It was one of the most nerve-wracking games I’ve ever watched and I can only imagined what the players felt, knowing the game would likely come down to one play.

4. Albany Academy basketball moved to Class AA; Sean Brown resigns at La Salle

It was a banner year for high school basketball in the Capital Region (more on that later) but it was also one packed with controversy.

The Albany Academy boys went on a 16-0 run through the Colonial Council during the 2007-08 season and advanced to the Section II Class A championship game. For one reason or another, the Cadets were asked to leave the Colonial Council and play the 2008-09 season as an independent Class AA team.

So far, so good for Albany Academy. The Cadets are off to a 6-0 start with a handful of victories over Class AA opposition but the move was still a shocking development in the politics of basketball. Sure, Academy has an advantage that the private schools don’t: it’s a private school that can accept athletes from communities across the area. They aren’t limited to a small geographical pool of talent from which to draw.

On the other hand, the school hasn’t proved itself on the Class A level, never mind the Class AA level. We will see just how good the Cadets are once they enter the Section II Class AA tournament as a wildcard in February.

In other Cadets basketball news, Sean Brown resigned amid scandal and outrage at La Salle prior to the end of the 2007-08 regular season. Rumors circulated that parents were unhappy with their child’s playing time and certain alumni and those in the school’s administration were unhappy with the direction the team had taken. Large leads evaporated, the team played progressively sloppy basketball under his tutelage and Brown made the decision to leave.

The Brown saga was another baffling story that took place far from the hardcourt and far from the minds of the youngsters that simply want to play the game.

Hoosic Valley seniors Kayla Ryan (left) and Pat Lanoue (right) led the Indians to dual Wasaren League and Section II Class B titles during the 2007-08 season.

3. Hoosic Valley basketball dominance

The Indians absolutely could not be beat during the 2007-08 season and that goes for both the boys and girls teams.

Competing in Class B after traditionally playing in Class C, the Hoosic Valley hoopers didn’t miss a beat. The girls allowed a ridiculously low 22 points per game and their crushing defense led them on an undefeated run through the Wasaren League and all the way to the Class B New York State championship game behind Kayla Ryan, who eclipsed the 1,000-point career scoring mark during the season.

The boys team won its first Wasaren League title since 1974 and played a series of entertaining games at the Glens Falls Civic Center en route to a Section II title. Pat Lanoue was one of the most dangerous scorers in the Wasaren League, averaging 24 points per game. He finished in double figures in every single game, topping 20 points 19 times.

Lanoue and Ryan were both named All-Area Players of the Year by The Record.

Pat is now playing at Hudson Valley Community College while Kayla is playing at SUNY-Oswego and they are both big contributors as freshmen.


La Salle head coach Al Rapp and players hoist the Section II Class AA championship plaque after defeating Schenectady in the 2008 Super Bowl.

2. Watervliet & Rensselaer win Super Bowls; La Salle gridders repeat as Section II champions

Three Collar City-area teams won Section II Super Bowls in 2008, capping what was a wonderful high school football season in and around Troy.

The Rensselaer Rams won their first Super Bowl since 1995, bringing the city back to its glory days of five consecutive appearances in the state playoffs from 1991-95. Head coach Joel Preston won his first Super Bowl, following in the footsteps of his father, Norm, who was a long-time coach at Rensselaer.

The Rams had a dominant linebacking crew led by Jashem Hamilton and Nate Butler and an savvy, veteran quarterback in Shane Brozowski. Josh Rider was a beast on the offensive and defensive lines and the Rams crushed their way through Section II opposition, losing only to Lake George, technically a Class C school.

In Watervliet, the Cannoneers won their first Super Bowl since 1997 with a tremendous playoff run. A No. 3 seed, Watervliet won three games on the road, knocking off Hoosick Falls, Chatham and Schuylerville in consecutive weeks. Defensive lineman Joe Hughes was the heart and soul of Watervliet’s tough-nosed defense and was named The Record’s Defensive Player of the Year. You can read that story by clicking here.

On the south side, La Salle surprised many folks around Class AA by repeating as Section II champions, winning their third Super Bowl in four years.

80% of the offensive line was brand new, the Cadets had a new quarterback and some question marks on defense. But they still had the slippery senior tailback Marquis Terrell, who ran for 1,803 yards and 16 touchdowns and was named The Record’s Offensive Player of the Year. Read all about Terrell here.

While all three teams fell in their regional round games, getting out of Section II alive is something to be proud of.

Bishop Maginn's Terron Victoria, nicknamed Pops, was a valuable senior leader and a critical reason why the Griffins won the 2007-08 New York State title.

1. Bishop Maginn boys win New York State basketball championship

The Griffins’ run to the New York State Class AA championship was a bit like the American hockey team defeating the Russians in the 1980 Winter Olympics. That game – the 'do you believe in miracles ?' game – was actually a semifinal. The Americans had to come back and beat Finland in the gold medal game a few days later.

Maginn faced Mount Vernon in the state playoffs for the second consecutive year, after losing to them in the 2007 title game. The Knights featured players such as big-time college-bound Sherrod Wright and Jordan Lessane. But the Griffs got their revenge in the 2008 semis, staging a second-half comeback that resulted in a thrilling 54-52 victory and a berth in the state final the next day.

Well, Maginn came out and trounced Niagara Falls, sealing the school’s first-ever boys basketball state title. (The Maginn girls won the 1995-96 Class A state title).

Taran Buie led the charge in the second half of the Mount Vernon game, making a series of key steals that relit the team’s intensity and opened up the floor. He scored a game-high 20 points as a sophomore and scored 15 more in the championship victory over Niagara Falls.

Maginn advanced to the New York State Federation Tournament of Champions and played Abraham Lincoln High of Brooklyn, the PSAL champions. Buie scored 20 more points in that game, but Lance Stephenson and the Railsplitters prevailed.

Still, the Griffins were the top story of 2008 because they truly were the little team that could. Bishop Maginn only has 237 students in grades 9-11 (according to the 2008 football numbers) meaning they should be competing against schools the size of Canajoharie, Warrensburg and Rensselaer High. But the Griffs proved themselves to be worthy, handled themselves with class and put the school on the basketball map for all the right reasons.

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