One more quick post before I try to nod off for a couple hours! Morning comes early for the Section 2 finals, which will get a couple mentions below. Sectional season brings all kinds of matchups to the table, from very familiar opponents (Round 3s and even a Round 4 between Northeastern Clinton & Saranac up in Section 7) to new faces without experience against each other. This post focuses on the latter.
In the sections I’ve found myself covering most heavily this winter (there are 7 of them), over half of the sectional final matchups are between opponents that haven’t played each other this season, so there’s plenty of intriguing matchups & tough to narrow down. However, as mentioned, I want some sleep, so cutting it down to a top six. A half-dozen games that my brain is locked in for (and yours should be too):
- Duanesburg vs. Greenwich (Section 2, Class C) – This was the potential S2 C final I had circled since… oh idk, last summer maybe? Duanesburg has lived up to the lofty expectations given to this experienced, but still pretty young team. Greenwich has been nothing short of dominant in their own field. The Witches are one of NY’s last unbeaten teams (and the last one standing in Section 2), but their schedule was far from challenging when stacked up against Duanesburg’s, who lost games to Section 9 Class A champion Wallkill & Section 2 Class AA finalist Albany. Styles make this matchup interesting. They’re both backcourt oriented teams that like to push tempo, shoot the 3, and have legitimate basketball skill at most positions. They do it in different ways, but both look to speed opponents up & create some chaos on the defensive end. Not mirror images of each other by any stretch, but they have about the same desired effect at both ends and personnel with similar strengths in their skill sets. The pandemic robbed both teams of meaningful neutral site experience last year, as I think they would’ve been #2 & #3 behind the Cambridge juggernaut, so the HVCC experience will be a first for both teams. The Section 2 finals get started with a good one at 11 AM.
- Schalmont vs. Fonda-Fultonville (Section 2, Class B) – Let’s stick in the 518 for one more, and this game directly follows the Duanesburg/Greenwich opener. The Schalmont train has rolled through pretty much everyone this season, with their only blemish being a narrow loss at Colonie. They beat Bethlehem late in the year and demolished Section V Class AA finalist Fairport over the holiday break, just to show what kind of team we’re talking about. Fonda’s doing this year what they did three years, just in a less Cinderella style – playing their best basketball at the right time. They took their midseason lumps due to an injury to an impact player (Kieonna Christmas) and another starter quitting, but they started putting it together with Kieonna’s return in February, and the 6 seeded Lady Braves rolled past (3) Catskill and knocked off (2) Mechanicville to get here. Contrasting styles make this interesting – Schalmont has been the Class B favorite all year and they still are, but the frontcourt of Christmas, a 6 footer, along with 6’1″ Marilyn Whitcavitch poses a unique test that Schalmont hasn’t seen this year. The Sabres’ frontcourt presence, Karissa Antoine, has been an absolute load all year, but can Kieonna & Marilyn put enough pressure on her to keep her occupied? Maybe even get her in some foul trouble? Time will tell. In the backcourt, Payton Graber has been spectacular this season (and she dropped 30 in a 50-33 semifinal win). I think Kyla Smith is one of the scrappier, quicker, more annoying backcourt defenders to deal with in the area. Can she be pesky enough to stick 1v1 on her? Lots of questions roaming my head leading up to this game, which means it’s an interesting one.
- General Brown vs. Bishop Grimes (Section 3, Class B) – Make no mistake, this is the game I’m most interested in out of Section 3’s finals. When the bracket came out – I love Jackie like a sister, Dadey is family to me, hated seeing both of them lose – but regardless of seeds (GB is #2, BG is #12), this is what I wanted to see. It’s such an interesting matchup for a basketball nerd. They can exploit each other in different ways, but they kinda have each other’s kryptonite. The way Bishop Grimes plays on the defensive end – match up 100% of the time, disciplined & scrappy, jump to the ball, bump cutters, great team speed & try to make teams play faster & make decisions quicker than what they’re comfortable with – is a thorn in the side to a pass & cut offense like General Brown. Someone that can break a defender down and get paint touches to make the defense react to them could be a thorn in the side of BG, but General Brown doesn’t have that. What they do have, though, are versatile back-to-basket/face-up frontcourt pieces that can take advantage of Grimes’ limited size while not getting overwhelmed by their mobility. Ainsley Fuller is a leader in that regard. Both teams prefer to play a 94×50 game but like to get different things out of it; this might not be a high scoring affair, but it should be 32 active minutes & a fun game to watch.
- Marathon vs. Franklin (Section 4, Class D) – Two of Section 4’s top 2022s with two of the more illustrious careers out of their areas in recent memory square off for what might be the first time in their high school careers, as Marathon standout & SUNY Cortland bound Brooke Tillotson goes up against AAU teammate Kayla Campbell, Franklin’s longtime standout & Daemen commit. Each team has potent secondary weapons in Abby Ensign (Marathon) and Mount St. Mary commit Marissa Campbell (Franklin). Marathon, coming from the Class B/C heavy IAC, is used to playing a higher level & more athletic opponent than Franklin. Does that come into play? I don’t think so for the top players, but for the role players behind the Campbells, Tillotson & Ensign, that don’t do things like play competitive AAU to get acclimated to a higher level & faster pace on their own… it potentially could. Either way, this is probably Section 4’s most interesting championship game.
- Bishop Kearney vs. Fairport (Section 5, Class AA) – It’s rare that a Class AA sectional final in upstate NY is between two teams that haven’t played each other. AA schools are mainly centered around the major metropolitan area of a particular section (in this case, Rochester), and they tend to spend most of the season bumping with each other. That’s not so much the case for Bishop Kearney, who often struggles to get local games & spends much of their season traveling. This is a star-studded affair that will likely be worth the price of admission. Fairport features two Division I committed 2023s in Bella Pucci (Binghamton) and Ella Meabon (Colgate) along with an emerging talent in Ne’vaeh Buntley (2024). Bishop Kearney features Le Moyne commit Kaia Goode and a host of young talent, with at least three of them staring down legitimate scholarship futures. Great guard play in this game. Can Fairport handle Kearney’s pressure with discipline? Ella Meabon is kind of a weird matchup for BK – how does that shake out? Will this be a Caydence Hadley game or can Riley DeRue stand up to the test? Don’t let Kearney play with a lead, Kaia Goode is upstate NY’s CP3 with her ability to control pace & close games. This has the potential to be a fun, high-octane closer at Rush-Henrietta.
- Lewiston-Porter vs. Depew (Section 6, Class B1) – They’ve flexed as WNY’s top Bs all year – now we finally get to see who reigns supreme. In my eyes, it’s the age-old battle between dynamite individual(s) and potent, more balanced team. That doesn’t take anything away from Lew-Port 2023 Sophie Auer, who’s been a clear standout this year & just scored her 1,000th point, but I look at Lew-Port as a team that can get big contributions from Tessa Schuey or Aliza Whitehead and also can nickel & dime you with a handful of other players. Depew runs straight through WNY standout and recent Binghamton commit Kaylee Krysztof (2023) and frontcourt running mate Mia Vannelli (2024). Both are 1,000+ point scorers and I think both are on track to potentially surpass 2,000 in their careers. I like the way Lew-Port matches up with Depew, especially on the 94×50 court at Buff State, but if this is one of those games where KK goes nuclear, Depew could ruin their season.
- BONUS!!! Pittsford Mendon vs. Webster Schroeder (Section 5, Class A) – This is one of those “buy 6 loose beers, take a 7th free” deal. I couldn’t choose. Honestly, I had to check my notes a handful of times to make sure this was a Round 1 – it doesn’t seem like it should be, but it is. Mendon has flexed on basically everyone in the 585 this year – I was actually there for their only L, which was to Penfield in December, and they haven’t had a Class A school play them closer than 20. Schroeder kinda played spoiler by knocking off Canandaigua in the semis, though I only half say that because to do more would insinuate that they aren’t the real deal, which they are. Section V was just that deep in the As this season. And speaking of the real deal, Mariah Watkins. Mendon has a problem on their hands with her. I do like the way Mendon matches up for the most part – don’t think Schroeder has frontcourt size to mess with Bridget Miller, Anaya Coleman is Anaya Coleman, it’ll be tough for Schroeder to account for both Dani Strauf and Lily Kennedy… but at the same time, Schroeder’s ceiling is really high. If it’s a good day for them – Mariah’s going off, little sis Bria Watkins is producing, others like Julia Perales and/or Andraia DiPisa are knocking down threes – Schroeder is the most momentum driven team I’ve watched in years, and things could get interesting in a hurry.
I’ll be at Section 2’s finals Saturday & Section 6’s Sunday… see you in Troy and/or Buffalo!