The title of this piece is, of course, more associated with horse racing, but we are in the homestretch of the regular season in high school basketball in New York's Section II.
Consider the Suburban Council for a moment. The toughest league in the section also has the tightest races in both divisions, Grey & Blue, for both men & women.
In the Grey division, Albany has the title just about wrapped up, despite losing to Blue division leader Shenendehowa last night. Troy, in second place, didn't gain any ground, as they lost to Shaker, and remain three games back with three league games left over the next two weeks. Troy visits Shen next Friday, and need to win out to have a chance of catching Albany. Sorry, but it just ain't gonna happen. The Lady Falcons and Lady Plainsmen figure to meet again in a league title game in about three weeks after running the table. Troy closes the league schedule with games at Albany and the home finale vs. Schenectady before traveling to Long Island Lutheran on February 7 to finish the season.
You would think Shen was running away and hiding in the Blue division, but they're not, as Shaker, with one loss, is a game and a half out with three to play. You know they'll be rooting for Troy next week after beating the Lady Flying Horses by 12 last night. Shaker is actually the only team with a chance of catching Shen, but, again, I just don't see it happening.
Similarly, on the boys' side, Shen can't shake Guilderland, which is a game out with four to play in the league. The Plainsmen make their first regular season visit to Troy next week, and that could be the Flying Horses' first sell-out at Zotto Gym in years, aside from perhaps CBA, who will close the regular season at Troy on February 9. In between, Troy hosts Green Tech for a Sunday twilight game on January 31, and Albany on February 2 before paying Schenectady a visit on February 5. In contrast to Shen, Troy leads Schenectady by a game and a half, CBA by three, and have all but closed out Albany, which is four back with four to play. If Troy can do the impossible, and upset Shen, they'll be a step closer to a Grey division title. However, they close with the aforementioned division games between February 2-9, and they're all going to be even more critical if they lose to Shen.
Albany Times-Union high school sports reporter James Allen, writing at the start of the season, felt Shen would have problems at Zotto Gym. We'll know for sure next Friday, but something tells me this battle of division leaders, which one would think is a league championship preview, could still tip in Shen's favor. They have a second generation star, Kevin Huerter, whose father, Tom, Sr., played his college ball at Siena, and is now a broadcaster for the Saints (Tom, Jr., currently at a prep school, is already committed to following his father's footsteps at Siena next fall), but, as Albany found out Thursday night, stopping Huerter only means someone else steps up for Shen. Troy's offense is like that, too, and only now has the hometown paper caught on to the emergence of sophomore Daniel Buie, whose brother, Taran, and half-brother, Talor Battle, played for coach Rich Hurley at Bishop Maginn a few years ago, as the Flying Horses' leading scorer. Said paper is, as noted previously, hamstrung by financial constraints, leaving Troy boosters frustrated with the on-and-off coverage of the hoops teams.
My heart, of course, is with Troy. But, the reality is, they have a tall order in front of them as they start a three game homestand in six days. Murderer's Row, boys' version? Yep. Troy's already passed the first hurdle, knocking off Shaker last night by six. Getting through the rest of the gauntlet isn't as easy, though, and that's the scary part.