Recorder file photo Amsterdam's Kory Bergh goes up for a shot against Schenectady's Randall Symes during a Jan. 17 game in the town of Amsterdam.
Recorder file photo Canajoharie's Josh Gonzalez falls on the floor as Fort Plain's Eric Orologio goes for a loose ball during a Jan. 15 game in Canajoharie.
By ADAM SHINDER and MICHAEL KELLY
After a whirlwind regular season, the Section II playoffs have arrived for area boys and girls basketball teams. Play for local squads gets underway Saturday night as the Fonda-Fultonville boys host Tamarac in a Class B play-in game at 7 p.m.
In the spirit of looking ahead to sectionals, Recorder sports reporters Adam Shinder and Michael Kelly took some time to tackle the burning questions heading into this year's roads to the Glens Falls Civic Center(for the boys) and Hudson Valley Community College (for the girls).
The Section II seeding meeting always comes strong with the controversy. Which of our local boys or girls teams got the most surprising draw in 2014?
MK: It has got to be the Fort Plain boys. Head coach Casey Russom's squad won seven of its last 10 games, finished with a winning record -- and got the No. 13 seed in the Class C draw. The most flummoxing part of this is that the Hilltoppers tied with Canajoharie in league play, yet the Cougars were put at No. 8.
AS: Yeah, I'm not quite sure how the committee got to that one, either. Then again, on both the boys and girls sides, the Western Athletic Conference always seems to produce the strangest seedings on a yearly basis. They always seem to be stuck together in a big lump and parsed out as the committee pleases.
MK: I'll say, too, that I am surprised that the Broadalbin-Perth boys only got the No. 6 seed in Class B. Let me start with this disclaimer: I am not a defender of the Section II selection committees, but the Class B boys was going to be a mess to figure out; the classification is loaded. With that said, a 13-5 record out of a Class A league should have equaled a top-five seed. I'll do this one better, too; the team B-P should be higher than is No. 4 Mekeel Christian Academy, which went 17-1 in the WAC. I have a lot of respect for the Lions and their head coach Chad Bowman, but the Patriots had a more impressive regular season. I'm not necessarily saying the Patriots are better than the Lions, but B-P did have a better regular season.
AS: It's certainly a reasonable argument, considering that the best win on both team's resumes was against Gloversville. What probably ended up holding B-P down -- and I would've at least had them at No. 5 ahead of Mechanicville -- was their 38-point head-to-head loss to Cohoes. I know it was really early in the season and it was B-P's only Class B loss of the season, but I'm guessing it hurt. If seeds hold and the Patriots play Cohoes on a neutral floor, it's not like that'll end up mattering much.
MK: That's the beauty of sectionals. Everyone gets worked up about the seeds, but they really only matter for the first round. After that, most games move to neutral courts and the seeds are just numbers.
The Amsterdam boys were seeded fifth in Class A and the Amsterdam girls were slotted as the No. 7 seed. What intrigues you about the roads ahead for the boys and girls in purple?
AS: Starting with the boys, the quarterfinal matchup with Averill Park is intriguing enough. The Running Rams want to push the pace and shoot from long range, and by the numbers, Averill Park plays things much closer to the vest. The Warriors held seven opponents to less than 50 points during the regular season, while Amsterdam held just three opponents to less than 60 points. Whoever dictates the style of the game moves on to face top-seeded Scotia-Glenville in the semis.
MK: Averill Park's style also is better suited to playing after a long layoff, and these teams won't play a real game for more than 10 days before they meet. With that said, I think AHS gets past the Warriors and sets up a possible two-step of S-G and Troy. As someone who claims watching the Rams as his primary winter profession, I'm salivating over the chance to see them play both those powerhouses.
AS: Swinging around to the Amsterdam girls, I'm just looking forward to see how they respond in a sectional environment. Of the 11 girls on this team, only two of them -- Monica Rouse and Caitlin Gannon -- have played any kind of meaningful minutes in a sectional game. A potential quarterfinal meeting with Troy is tough, but if Nina Fedullo keeps up her recent hot scoring run, the Lady Rams will be a tough out.
MK: I don't think that Troy matchup even matters too much for the Lady Rams. If the AHS girls win their first-round game and get to say they won a sectional game, that will make this season a complete success for the young squad. A loss against Mohonansen in the 7-10 game is not a disaster for AHS, but a win is a season-maker for the Lady Rams.
AS: In talking to Amsterdam head coach Eric Duemler, one of the big goals for this season was a .500-or-better finish. A win against Mohonasen assures that, and with a team this young, it leaves a lot of room for improvement.
It's all about the matchups, so what games that our local teams will face -- either in the first round or down the road -- pique your interest the most?
MK: The Fonda-Fultonville Lady Braves have a great potential game in the quarterfinals. At No. 5 in the bracket, the Lady Braves are lined up to play No. 4 Schalmont after the first round, and the Lady Sabres twice beat F-F in the regular season. I think the Lady Braves would be pretty enthused to get a third crack at Schalmont after losing a couple of tight ones.
AS: The Lady Braves could face one of the most entertaining roads to Hudson Valley Community College, with an awesome potential matchup in the semis against top-seeded Tamarac where two of Section II's top scorers in F-F's Emily Parslow and Tamarac's Jenna Erickson could go head-to-head. I'll also swing around to the Class D boys, where Oppenheim-Ephratah-St. Johnsville could face an interesting quarterfinal against third-seeded Hartford and standout forward Tad Jones.
MK: Yeah, well I'm bringing us back to Fonda! The matchup I think could be a lot of fun is a potential meeting between the F-F boys and Mekeel Christian Academy in Class B. The Braves need to win a play-in game to get to MCA, but I think F-F could really give the Lions fits. MCA's weakness is interior defense and F-F has the ability to exploit that with senior Will Turner.
AS: That game could be a contrast of offensive strength on defensive weakness, as the Braves haven't been great at defending the 3-point line and the Lions can let it fly from anywhere on the court. Moving away from Fonda, but staying in Class B, just about any matchup for Broadalbin-Perth is interesting, but a potential semifinal against Hoosick Falls could be a lot of fun. The Panthers are 17-1 and went undefeated in the Wasaren League, but their best wins in the section were against Class C top seeds Hoosic Valley and Lake George.
MK: Agree on B-P. I'll end this bit with one last (long shot) game: Amsterdam-Troy, boys. Such a contest would have to come in the Section II Class A finals, and the build-up for that game would be nuts since AHS beat Troy the last time the two clubs faced off. The football rivalry has always been there for the two schools, and it would be entertaining to see the basketball squads developing a similar animosity.
Thirteen of our 18 area boys and girls basketball teams are making the trip to sectionals. Which of them have the best chance to still be playing come the semifinals and finals in two weeks?
AS: They're in the most terrifying bracket, but the Broadalbin-Perth boys are in a great position to contend in Class B. The Patriots closed the season with 10 wins in 11 games, with the one loss coming to Scotia-Glenville -- and they had the Tartans to their lowest point total of the season while playing them closer than anyone else in the Foothills Council. Cohoes is a tough potential matchup in the quarterfinals, but B-P is hot at the right time.
MK: I think the B-P boys and F-F girls are the most practical bets, but I'll make the case for the Fort Plain girls. The No. 7 Lady Hilltoppers face a rough potential matchup in the Class C quarterfinals against No. 2 Maple Hill, but a win there is not out of the question for head coach Phil Karker's squad. In any game Fort Plain plays, the presence of seniors Abby Boyer and Haley Kilmartin gives the Lady Hilltoppers a shot to come out on top.
AS: Fort Plain probably could've gotten an easy draw if they'd won the WAC Cup Tuesday night against Middleburgh -- they might've swapped places with the Lady Knights in that case -- but if Boyer and Kilmartin can combine for close to 50 points and a third player steps in with a timely contribution, the semis and beyond aren't out of the question. I'll also throw the Amsterdam boys into the mix, considering they need only one win to reach the semis and the long layoff could throw a monkey wrench into things for the top teams.
MK: Agree on both points. I glossed over them earlier, but the Lady Braves are my top pick from the local teams. If F-F gets past Schalmont in the second round, I think it could be very difficult for teams that have not seen the Lady Braves to get used to their frenetic style of ball.
AS: When you've got a scorer like Emily Parslow and a strong cast surrounding her, pretty much anything is possible. It's the same for the B-P boys, who in the past six years have won the tournament as a No. 5 seed and reached the final as a No. 6 seed. Spoiler warning: I'm leaning that way again this year.
OK, Way-Too-Early-Prediction Time. Who takes home the boys and girls championships in each of the five classifications?
MK: Way too early is right. I'll start with the girls, and I'll give my matchups and put my winner first. Class AA: B1 Albany-S1 Shaker; Class A: No. 2 Troy-No. 1 Averill Park; Class B: No. 2 Watervliet-No. 5 Fonda-Fultonville; Class C: No. 1 Hoosic Valley-No. 3 Greenwich; Class D: No. 1 Fort Edward-No. 3 Warrensburg.
AS: I'm with you on most of the champions, as I tend to think the boys are a little more wide open this year. In Class AA, I'm with you on Albany over Shaker, though I think Averill Park gets back to the top in Class A with a win over Troy. Even though Watervliet is the No. 2 seed in Class B, I think they've got the slightly more favorable half of the bracket and I'll take them over top seed Tamarac. In the small schools, I've also got Hoosic Valley over Greenwich in Class C and I'll go with Fort Edward in Class D -- though I see them beating No. 2 Fort Ann in the final.
MK: OK, time for the boys. Same format to my picks. Class AA: B1 Catholic Central-B2 Green Tech; Class A: No. 2 Troy-No. 1 Scotia-Glenville; Class B: No. 2 Hoosick Falls-No. 1. Voorheesville; Class C: No. 2 Lake George-No. 4 Greenwich; Class D; No. 1 Argyle-No. 3 Hartford.
AS: This definitely looks like Catholic Central's year in Class AA, so I'm right with you on the Crusaders topping Green Tech at the Times Union Center. In Class A, Troy vs. Scotia-Glenville is the most-anticipated Section II game of the year -- I'll take Scotia in what might be a de facto state title game. In Class B, I'm going for the bold move. B-P runs the gauntlet as the No. 6 seed and knocks off Voorheesville in the final. In Class C, Hoosic Valley's one-two punch of John Rooney and Mike Pierre trumps Lake George's one star -- however great he is -- Joel Wincowski, and in Class D I've got Argyle over Hartford.
MK: You listed a couple of them for the Class C game, but the thing about this year that sticks out is the number of stars on Section II teams. Overall, I don't know if we have that many great teams this year, but there are plenty of big-time players. It should be a fun few weeks watching them all go at it.