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The Blackwell Blog

Holiday assessment

With a foot of snow on the ground and travel rather difficult, maybe it's a good chance to take stock of where we are as 2013 looms.

A couple of games played in Albany before the break were quite instructive. Bishop Ludden reinforced its status as the Class A pace-setter when it took apart Watervliet 64-41 in a lopsided rematch of last March's state Class B final in Glens Falls. Too much Dan Kaigler, too much Ben Hackett, and more of Jack Rauch, who capped a 23-5 third-quarter blitz by banking in a half-court shot at the horn.

Much as Henninger showed itself as the possible Class AA favorite through wins over the likes of CBA, Utica Proctor and Oswego, the 70-65 loss to Albany Academy will serve as a balm for the young Black Knights and a realization that reclaiming the crown won't be that easy.

Especially when there's F-M around. The Hornets' total destruction of J-D, 68-27, on Dec. 22 was instructive on many fronts, but the real sense that the Red Rams might not even be a playoff team this fall to the defense the Hornets played. Back that high-flying attack with some resistance, and look out, starting with a rematch with J-D at CBA's Holiday Classic.

Instead of J-D giving Ludden the main Class A challenge, it may be Cortland or New Hartford. Expected to struggle with a new starting five and new coach, the Purple Tigers are, instead, undefeated, having halted ESM's win streak the Friday before the break and awaiting a shot at the Gaelic Knights in January.

Whenever the snow does get cleared up, the C-NS Holiday Classic might prove the main attraction. There's a pair of unbeaten teams, West Genesee and New Hartford, joined by once-beaten Liverpool and the hosts from C-NS, who have won two straight. It's worth getting through all the snow to see, if you can dig out.

Really, there isn't a clear favorite in Class B. All of the OHSL Liberty sides have lost at least once, but count Skaneateles as the hot team after it won its fifth straight game over those other Lakers from Cazenovia. Within inches of each other are Bishop Grimes, Westhill and Syracuse Academy of Science, the Cobras set to take a shot at the Warriors on Jan. 4.

Even with losses to Class C sides, it's still New York Mills and Sackets Harbor favored in Class D. The difference is that the Marauders could shake off a one-point defeat to Tully, while Sackets got pummeled at home by Beaver River 70-39 a week before Christmas. All of this has to make Faith Heritage, who slides down from C for the playoffs, quite eager, as it has started fast with every player back from last winter's D-2 finalists.

The wins by Tully and Beaver RIver only proves Class C's depth, too. Tully, West Canada, Beaver River, Port Byron - all have shown a fair amount of strength, and that's just the top half. It might be a while (and a few losses by those at the top) before we really know the picture.

All eyes this week are pinned to a few locales for Class AA girls basketball wisdom. There's C-NS going up against national powers in the TItle IX Tournament in D.C. and Corcoran playing in Amsterdam's tournament, while at Rome Free Academy that first-round game between West Genesee and CBA will tell us plenty about two of the primary challengers to the Northstars' long-held throne.

Yet another big name, Utica-Notre Dame, is in warmer climes, Emily Durr and company down in Virginia Beach for some tournament action. Also look out for a possible Class D finals preview if Oriskany, in its tournament, wins in the first round and draws New York Mills in the finals. Also, can Cazenovia, who looked so impressive dismantling Skaneateles a week ago, hopes for wins at Unadilla Valley's tournament to set up that Jan. 3 showdown with Westhill.

There's also hockey, where now Rome Free Academy must hold that shaky favorite's mantle. The Black Knights, who are Section III's lone remaining unbeaten team, got a long-awaited win over West Genesee, something it couldn't pull off in back-to-back sectional finals, leaving the Wildcats with rare back-to-back defeats after a shocking 1-0 overtime loss at home to the Syracuse Cougars.

Where do the hockey Wildcats fit? Second in line, really, still ahead of F-M (whom it beat 3-1 at the Twin Rinks) and C-NS until the Northstars prove that it can beat someone big. In Division II, Oswego got its second big Friday win in as many weeks, blanking Auburn 1-0, as Skaneateles asserted itself again through an 8-0 rout over New Hartford.

Much congratulations must go to Phoenix wrestling coaching great Gene Mills, who earned dual meet win no. 200 in style, over Fulton on Dec. 19. Also, Baldwinsville paid proper homage to John Arcaro by winning the indoor track meet named in his honor, led by Shay Sargeant's pair of titles and Alec Peinkofer taking the 1,000-meter run.

All of that before the holidays, before the break, and before the snow that temporarily extended the break all over. Eventually, we'll get back to the games, but for now everyone stay safe...

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