Friday, March 1, 2013

Let's Talk Championships, Shall We?


I mean that in a non-dance sense. More in a let's talk about all 10 of the impending Section II championship games in a statistical and analytical sense. I've seen almost all of these teams play at some point this season and with the exception of Class D, I think I've got a pretty good handle on the basketball scene this weekend.

In case anyone was wondering - I'm sure you were - I'll be at three of the four boys finals on Saturday afternoon at the Glens Falls Civic Center. I'll also gladly take updates on the girls finals from HVCC, so tweet away to @LauraAmato. Andddd I'll be at both games on Monday at night at the TU Center for the AA's.

Now, let's get to analyzing, why don't we?

Class D Final 
Argyle vs. Loudonville Christian, 2 p.m. 03/02
Let's all be honest here, Joey Lufkin is from another basketball planet, where they only allow you to advance in school if you score at least 30 points per game. Well, it's working. Lufkin broke the 2,000 career-point mark last week and he's leading Section II in just about every scoring stat imaginable. Not only is the Argyle senior averaging 33.9 points per game, but he has 77 three-pointers to his name this season. That's more than ten over his closest competitor and almost 20 more than the closest player still competing in the tournament. Insane? Yes. Talented? Definitely. Ridiculously fun to watch? Absolutely. Unless of course you've got to defend against that.
That's the task before Loudonville Christian this weekend and it's going to be a tough one. Of course, the Eagles are state ranked as well and their only loss this season comes to an out-of-section team more than a month ago. Mat Yamin, who's averaging 19 points per game, has been the heart and soul of this team all season, so expect the senior guard to be on his best playing-behavior on Saturday afternoon.
Buuuuut in a battle between Yamin and Lufkin on the court? Lufkin - and Argyle - walks off with the victory.
Laura's Pick: Argyle by double digit points.

Class C Final
Lake George vs. Hoosic Valley, 3:15 p.m. 03/02
The Indians have put together the kind of season that is news-worthy and for the first time in a really long time, basketball in Schagticoke isn't all about the girls. Between John Rooney, who apparently wrecked a Canajoharie kid with an NBA-style dunk on Wednesday (someone find video of that), and Ethan Ross-Hixson, Hoosic Valley has one of the most dynamic inside-outside games in the area. Teams really have to decide who they're going to focus on when they defend; whether to shut down Ross-Hixson in the key or attempt to slow down Rooney's very good looking jump shot on the outside.
Of course, that doesn't stop the Indians completely. Mike Pierre, who transferred back to his hometown school after six years at Albany Academy, has found his footing in the second half of the season and is taking complete direction of the offense at point guard. Add in other factors like Frank Acker, JT Sawyer and Mac Anderson and you've got a complete team here.
On the Lake George side of the ball, the offense rests mainly on the shoulders of Joel Wincowski, who has over 500 points to his name this season. That's just this year. He's averaging 26.7 points per game, but he's really the only player for Lake George who is dominating on offense. Keep in mind also, that the Warriors come out of a slightly less competitive league up north and their only loss this season was to Class D Argyle.
Laura's Pick: Hoosic Valley and Rooney better dunk again so I can see it.

Class B Final
Schuylerville vs. Watervliet, 5:30 p.m. 03/02
Jordan Gleason and Tyler McLeod. I have said it before and I will say it again; find me a better backcourt duo and I will pay you money. But only like $5 because I have an iced caramel latte addiction to fund. The two know where they're going to be on the court before it happens and if you saw the alley-op from McLeod to Gleason during the game against Broadalbin, you'd agree with me. Neither of them are exceptionally tall, but they both make up for that with athleticism and speed and a sheer determination to make it back to the state tournament.
Lest, we not forget that both of these guys played in last year's Class B NYS Championship game. They lost that game by one point. Those kinds of memories stick with an athlete. It's what fuels them. These two are on a mission from the basketball gods and I don't know if anything can really stop them.
Shane Lyon might try though. After a run in the football playoffs during the fall, the senior guard has propelled the Black Horses into the basketball state rankings and a championship game on Saturday. The kid can shoot, (15.6 points per game) there's no doubt about it, but I don't think the team as a whole is quite ready for 'Vliet.
Laura's Pick: Watervliet. Jordan Gleason and Tyler McLeod combine for 36+ points. You heard it here first.

Class A Final
Glens Falls vs. Scotia, 7:15 p.m. 03/02
This is one where I will be the first to admit that I don't know much about. Both of these teams are a little out of my zone, so bear with me on this one. Scotia has been a buzz-team all season, cruising through the competition in the Foothills and heading into this championship game with a 20-0 record. Between Joe Cremo and Andrew Tabbert, the Tartans have two solid options on the offensive-front.
Now, this is an interesting one because the teams both play in the same league and, as evident by Scotia's undefeated record, the Tartans have cruised to victories in both of the meetings.
Earlier in February, Scotia topped Glens Falls 74-49 on the shoulders of Cremo's 20 points and 10 rebounds. The Tartans led 26-7 after the first quarter.
Laura's Pick: Remember this Scotia team. They're fairly young. They're talented and they're going to be around for awhile. After they win the Class A title.

Class AA Final
Green Tech vs. Troy, 8:15 p.m. 03/04
Let's all take a moment to talk about how exciting this game is going to be. I'm going to say it; this game will be better than any potential Troy & CBA rematch. There. I said it. And it's true.
These two teams play an incredibly similar brand of basketball. They're tough, they're physical and they love to get out quick in transition to score before a defense can even set up.
So who has the edge?
On paper; I think it's Green Tech. Jamil Hood, Jr. was on another level on Thursday night. He is ridiculously accurate (he scored 31 points vs. CBA) from any range and he's quick.
Now, can Troy pull this off? Sure. But they're going to have to put in a total effort. Javion Ogunyemi and Jerrell Reid will have to play the collective games of their lives down low, while Dyaire Holt is going to have to continue to step up at point.
Laura's Pick: A semi-controversial Troy pick. Tight game throughout with the Flying Horses pulling away at the end thanks to THE BEST GAME OF HIS LIFE from Javion Ogunyemi. I'm calling you out, my friend. 

Class D Final
Fort Ann vs. Fort Edward, 5:15 p.m. 03/02
I know very little about this game. My apologies Class D. So, let's wing it? Yeah, ok.
This is a one vs. a two, with Fort Edward in the top spot. The Flying Forts have topped Fort Ann twice this season, but the most recent game was only determined by five points. Since that loss, the Cardinals have gone four-of-four in games and they've been pretty legitimate victories.
Laura's Pick: UPSET. Fort Ann over Fort Edward by three points. Yup. That just happened.

Class C Final
Berne-Knox vs. Hoosic Valley, 12 p.m. 03/02
There's either going to be 100 points scored in this game or there's going to be 40 points scored in this game. I realize this sounds like a cop-out statement, but it is 100% accurate.
Berne's Liz Harvey is the top girls scorer in Section II with 23.2 points per game while the Valley's Cassidy Chapko is fourth with 20.3 points per game. Expect both teams to formulate their defense around those facts.
Although Berne topped Maple Hill last week, Harvey was double and triple teamed all night and could never really get a look at the hoop. She scored two points off free throws in the final seconds of the game. Chapko was also covered in the semi against Hoosick Falls. She scored a game-high 12 points including two ridiculous three-pointers from basically the parking lot.
Whichever scorer can break through the coverage, find the ball and sink her shots is going to lead their team to a victory.
Laura's Pick: Hoosic Valley; on the jump shot of Cassidy Chapko who, at least I think, can break through double coverage.

Class B Final
Ravena vs. Watervliet, 1:45 p.m. 03/02
If we're all being honest with our basketball-selves this is not the Class B Final we were anticipating. We were expecting a Watervliet and Tamarac final. Go ahead, you can admit it.
This might be a better game though.
Not only are the two teams league rivals but when they faced off January 26th, 'Vliet won by only six points. That's a pretty close margin for the Cannoneers.
The Indians aren't an easy win here. Kayla Hotaling is averaging just over 14 points per game and the Ravena defense was smothering against Tamarac on Wednesday night.
'Vliet is without Lashana Tolliver who seven points in the first matchup, but if Ailayia Demand and Mikayla Deguire are on a roll, that might not really matter.
Laura's Pick: 'Vliet thanks to a solid game from Demand. The senior guard set the all-time school scoring record the last time she faced Ravena and this game is probably even more important to her.

Class A Final
Holy Names vs. Troy, 3:30 p.m.
It's the top-seeded team vs. the top Class A team in the state. This is going to be good. How could it not?
Holy Names is fresh off a dramatic buzzer-beater shot from Mary Kate Murray to top Averill Park last week, while Troy basically cruised to a victory over Mohonasen. If you're looking for an emotional pull going into the championship, give the slight edge to Holy Names.
Now, on paper Holy Names is technically the better team. They're undefeated. They're top-ranked and they have developed one of the most well-executed and methodical game plans in the entire area. They are so fundamentally sound, it's almost absurd.
So, how do you beat that? Speed. The. Game. Up. Fast basketball breaks method, it forces Holy Names to move quickly and won't allow them to set up; which is where they're most comfortable. Troy's backcourt duo of Mary Pattison and Kiana Patterson are quick to begin with, so this plan is pretty feasible. But, I've said this before, Troy's strength relies in its presence under the basket and that is entirely up to Cheyenne Williams. She's stronger than probably anyone on Holy Names and if she can get position, this might get interesting.
Laura's Pick: Not to put too much pressure on Williams, but if she has a great game: Troy. Hands down.

Class AA Final
Albany vs. Bethlehem, 6 p.m. 
Suburban vs. Big 10 in the final matchup that we all kind of knew would happen. I have to be honest, I saw Bethlehem for the first time in the semi against Colonie earlier this week and I was only semi-impressed. That sounds harsh.
It's not that I wasn't convinced they're talented. They are. But if they're going to take a Class AA championship away from Albany, the Eagles need to hit layups, short bank shots and free throws. They have to. You can't win games if you don't do that and Albany can do that.
I think the key for Bethlehem is to push the Falcons into bad decisions. Shaker was able to do that to some extent in the semi, keeping it close.
Albany's strength lies in senior Emia Willingham-Hurst, who is averaging 20.3 points per game. She drives, she shots, she fights and she is determined to win this game, let me tell you.
Laura's Pick: Ok. This is close. Very close. Buuuut I think if Bethlehem can play the fundamentals, they win this game with a few more offensive options.
*** On a side note, let's pack the TU Center for this game, huh? That place can be cavernous when it's empty and I want as many fans on Monday night as there were at HVCC on Wednesday. Do it, Section II. Do it.


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