LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — March is that bizarre mixture of lashing winds, snow and ice of a winter that doggedly tries to maintain an authoritative presence, interspersed with wafting glimpses of the spring to come. In sports it’s the same mélange: banner headlines of high school and college basketball postseason title quests coexist with more muted stories about imminent baseball, softball, track and golf that augur warmer days to come. While the NCAA men’s and women’s March Madness Basketball Tournaments are about to captivate the national audience right through Major League Baseball’s opening day, locally the hardwood story came to an end with the Sullivan County Generals taking sixth place in the NJCAA Division III tourney behind a 79-72 opening night loss to Herkimer CC, an 85-68 win over the Rochester Yellow Jackets and an 83-74 loss to the Caldwell Cobras.
In high school hoops the Livingston Manor Lady Wildcats made it back to the semifinals for the second straight year but fell to Section III’s undefeated Oriskany 49-31. Mea culpa, somehow in my zeal to project toward spring last week, I neglected to include Manor or the Pine Plains boys as part of the remaining Section IX contingent along with Burke. Pine Plains, the number-one ranked Class C team in the state, fell to Section II’s Lake George 65-45 in the finals at Glens Falls. Burke defeated Section VIII Amityville 68-50 in the semifinal and faced Buffalo’s McKinley for the state’s Class A Holy Grail.
Meanwhile Sullivan West held its winter sports awards night on March 13 to laud its exceptional athletes from the now concluded season. The boys indoor track team was accorded NYSPHSAA Scholar Athlete status with their cumulative GPA of 90% or better. Drew Billard and Mitch Paciga received kudos for their fine finishes at states in alpine skiing and indoor track respectively.
Here are the Sullivan West winter award winners: Hannah Feinman was named as the Most Valuable Female Indoor Field Athlete. Kelsey Dutton was named the Girls Winter Track Most Valuable Indoor Track Athlete. Mitch Paciga was named the Boys Winter Track Top Field Athlete. He finished 10th at states in the high jump with a leap of 6’3”. Reed Scott was named the Boys Winter Track Top Track Athlete. The Alpine Ski team recorded one of its best records since its inception with wins against daunting foes including Monticello, Warwick, Kingston, Monroe-Woodbury and O’Neill. Derrick Keller was named as the Most Improved Skier. He averaged a placing of 21.75 just shy of 20, the cutoff for Sectionals. Drew Billard was the Division and Section IX champion, who went on to finish 14th in the state in the slalom and 18th in the giant slalom. Billard was the lone Bulldog skier to compete at sectionals, states and Easterns. Hayley Puerschner was named as Girls Varsity Basketball’s Most Valuable Defensive Player while Marianne Durkin was named as the team’s Most Valuable Player.
In boys basketball, the 12-6 Bulldogs qualified for sectionals for the second consecutive year. Big Bulldog wins came in the Walton Tourney opener against Unatego and the championship win over Tri-Valley staged months later at Monticello. Two home wins over Class A Monticello and Port Jervis were also impressive. Ronj Padu was named as the recipient of the Boys Basketball Coach’s Award. Padu started in 14 games and averaged 11 points per game before having his season cut short by a broken ankle suffered against Tri-Valley in the opening minutes of the Sullivan County BCANY Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Matt Cardona was named at the Boys Basketball Most Valuable Player. Cardona averaged 17 points per game and was one of the top scorers in Section IX. He finished his career with 541 points. For an album of photos from the Sullivan West awards night visit: www.sportsinsights.smugmug.com .