Saturday, March 19, 2016

Section 2's secret weapon

It's easy to assume that after Elmont Memorial defeated Troy High six days ago to win the New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA) Class A title at Glens Falls, it was the end of high school basketball season in Section 2.

Wrong! We forgot someone.

Albany Academy For Boys plays more of an independent schedule, and has done so the last few years after dropping out of the Colonial Council. They still play old foes Lansingburgh, Cohoes, and, I think, Watervliet every year, but coach Brian Fruscio's team flies under the radar by playing schools from outside Section 2. So it was a bit of a wake-up call when the schedule for the Federation Tournament of Champions at Times Union Center was announced. The Cadets, and not Troy, were the last Section 2 team still playing. Today, Albany Academy will play for the Federation title against Elmont Memorial after disposing of Canisius. Yes, Albany Academy is a Class A school, which makes for a lot of "what if" scenarios. As in, what if they played in the Colonial Council this season? Would it have been Albany Academy and not Lansingburgh in the sectional finals three weeks ago at Glens Falls? Or, they could've taken Troy's place, depending on how the brackets would've shaken out. We'll never know the answer, but, sometime between 6:30 and 7 pm tonight, we'll see if the Cadets can bring home a Federation title. Canisius, by the way, halted Scotia's attempt at the Federation title last year, so now we're assured of a new champion.
Last year, the University at Albany's men's basketball team earned their 1st NCAA tournament win, albeit in the made-for-cable "First Four". This year, the Great Danes' run of America East titles came to an end with a 1st round upset loss to Hartford. As a consolation prize, UAlbany, along with Siena, landed a spot in the College Basketball Invitational, the same tournament that Siena won 2 years ago. Unfortunately, both teams were eliminated in their first round games earlier this week.

Meanwhile, UAlbany's women's team won their 5th straight America East title, and were seeded 12th in the East Region, earning a 1st round date with Florida, out of the SouthEastern Conference (SEC). No matter how many league titles the Lady Danes will win, the politics of the NCAA will ensure that a mid-major league champion will never be treated with the same respect as the "power" conferences (i.e. SEC).

On Friday, in Syracuse, UAlbany flipped the script, and, as the men did last year, the Lady Danes got the monkey off their backs by upsetting Florida, 61-59. You have to imagine that the Carrier Dome, usually swathed in Syracuse orange, was filled with fans in UAlbany purple making the trip to support the America East champions, and will be again tomorrow. Whatever happens now, the Lady Danes know they've taken one large step forward.
As basketball season winds down, high school baseball & softball will be getting underway. This year, Troy High's teams will be together, more often than not, as the Suburban Council schedules show that most of the games will be played concurrently, and usually at the same site. One big difference is on April 22, when Troy hosts Colonie. The baseball teams will meet at Joe Bruno Stadium, while the softball game will be played at Troy High, but both start at the same time (4:15 pm). What it means is that most schools in the league have two fields, one each for softball & baseball. Contrast this to basketball, where the women's team usually plays at the opposite site of where the boys' game is played. To be honest, I don't know if this has always been the case. It is Troy's 1st season in the Suburban, of course, and after copping a boys' basketball Grey division title, you wonder if the Flying Horses can pick up the momentum and add divisional titles in baseball & softball. We'll find out together starting on April 4, when the softball team opens its season.

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