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McKinley, OP win hoop openers at Pastor-Cooper (with video)

A tradition unlike any other continued tonight as I and plenty of other high school hoopheads checked out opening night of the week-long Pastor-Cooper Memorial Tournament at Daemen College.

I wasn't there for a quality start of the season for the St. Mary's girls team, which beat Williamsville North, 37-34.

Senior Sirreal Gamble models the new Grover fashion line just after pregame layups. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News) I caught the last four minutes of McKinley beating the St. Mary's boys, 66-51. The Macks looked good as they finished off the Lancers, very active on defense and some nice fast-break finishes, including one by a high-rising Antonio Avery, a returning senior starter. It appeared that the Macks are back to their throw-a-lot-of-bodies-at-you, up-tempo attack as they had 12 people scoring. I saw some nice decisions down the stretch as well.

The final game had Grover Cleveland taking on Orchard Park, with many (including me) expecting the Presidents to win since it has some key returning players (very key in Chris Holland). However, OP played smart and Kyle Witkowski kept hitting three-pointers (five for all 15 of his points) in a 57-52 victory. 

First eyebrow-raiser was that Grover is now wearing uniforms to reflect the school's name change to  International Prep at Grover. As the picture shows, it's now I-Prep at Grover on the uniforms, and the colors are a deep navy blue and white. Throw in how former assistant Shawn Ryan has taken over for longtime head coach/sideline comedian Earl Shunk (who retired and is now coaching Tapestry Charter), and it really was like watching a new entity. 

Chris Holland was back, along with fellow seniors guard Kenny Pringle and big man Kadeem Hillman. Holland showed why he is a returning All-Western New Yorker with his usual well-rounded game that showed off scoring, rebounding (especially rebounding), passing and defense (steals and blocks). Junior Maurice Cheatom showed some great energy for the Presidents but overall the team could have used some more; could be the football season hangover as many players were on the Class C North champions' roster.

Grover did trim the lead to 49-48 with 4:37 left, but OP responded with an up-and-under move off a baseline drive by senior Zach Schenk (watch below) and a jumper by senior Ryan Lindquist. Schenk and junior Matt McCormick delivered some clutch two-for-two trips to the foul line in the final 1:30 to push a 53-51 lead to 57-51 with 43.7 seconds left.

Let's go to the iPhone video: 

Great starts for McKinley and OP, great to have hoop season back. I'll be at Friday's championship triple-header, which I will start looking forward to as soon as I get through a ton of work this week.

In related stories, my weekly chat will be Wednesday at 9 p.m., the All-Western New York football team will be published Saturday, the Connolly Cup will be awarded Saturday, the boys basketball preview will be published next Tuesday, and we are working on a new feature for our Web site that we're hoping will be really, really cool (and it will include a master season schedule). Stay tuned.

---Keith McShea

Video: PrepTalkTV wraps up Week Three (all three days' worth)

Week Three of PrepTalkTV went from Thursday to Saturday night -- here's our wrapup, which includes action from all three days:

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Scroll down here on the blog or click here to watch a special edition of PrepTalkTV on Kenmore West's victory and the school's tribute to the late Brian Dugan.

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You can find all of our videos easily by going to the video player and clicking the "PrepTalkTV" tab.

---Keith McShea

Thursday walkthrough (and games tonight!)

Just when I thought last weekend was a long -- but fun -- one for football (just scroll down and see), Week Three gets kick-started a day early with some bonus football tonight.

The Williamsville schools are playing their traditional Thursday games due to Friday's Yom Kippur holiday, and this year we're treated to a top 10 large school matchup as No. 2 Williamsville South visits No. 9 Amherst at 6 p.m.

The second game of the night has an intriguing angle as Williamsville East first-year coach Chris McDuffie takes on his alma mater, Williamsville North, and the game is -- get your Northtowns compass ready -- at Williamsville South with a 7:30 p.m. kickoff.

Should be a fun night. It sure was last year, when South quarterback Joe Licata threw for a Section VI record 492 yards in a 62-32 home win over North (check out video highlights from that game). Note: that blog has the yardage total that was originally reported but was later changed.

Here's our poll asking your choice of the weekend's top game (it's also available, as always, at our high school home page.

Our poll to kick off the week brought in about 800 votes as of Wednesday night -- excuse me while I pat myself on the back for that one for providing choices that apparently people dug. Clarence's first win over OP in a decade rightly won the poll, and a whole zero percent picked the none-of-the-above option. 

---Keith McShea

Live from the ESG opening ceremonies

We're here at the University at Buffalo for tonight's opening ceremonies of the 32nd Empire State Games.

If you haven't checked it out already, our preview was in today's paper.

5:41 p.m. After fighting some traffic, we have arrived at the press box at UB Stadium. On the way up, the grills were heating up in the concession stands. People are roaming around Empire Village, enjoying the live music before the ceremonies begin. 

Some dark clouds are coming in, and there were a couple rolls of thunder. We will keep you updated on the weather, as well as all the other happenings here at the opening ceremonies.

6:00 p.m. One hour until opening ceremonies, and activity is starting within the stadium. Event staff has met and given instructions to volunteers. On the field, there are two video screens on either side of the main stage showing ESG video. It features video clips of different sports and messages from many of the sponsors. Behind the stadium, we can see some of the athletes gathering.

6:22 p.m. Fans are filing into the stadium as we draw closer to the ceremonies. It's windy outside, and there is a huge dark cloud looming over one end of the stadium. The rest of the skies are clear with only a few clouds. The hometown fans are out in full force. A few are sitting in front of the pressbox wearing t-shirts that read "The West is Best" on the back. 

6:33 p.m. Keith McShea checked out some of the pre-ceremony activity and just sent this in from his phone.There was a huge line of spectators lined up at the gate, extending all the way along the concrete walk to the stadium and back near the parking lots. Once the gates opened at 6, the line moved quickly into the stadium.

Also moving along was the huge darkening cloud that hovered over the stadium and something to do with those thunder rumbles earlier. The skies seem to be clearing up and the breeze that was whipping around has subsided a bit.

I walked through the Empire Family Village -- set up in the parking lot closest to the stadium entrance -- with photographer Mark Mulville.The tented area was getting good foot traffic from fans and some athletes, including the Adirondack men's hockey team.

Victor E. Bull was hanging out and posing for photos while fans got their picture taken with the ESG torch that has made the round of the area -- and the state -- during the torch tour.

And check this out -- the paint-splattered Rusin is the brother of Mark Rusin, the former Amherst standout athlete who swam in the Empire State Games and played football at Penn State. Here's a plug for Blair's art:

And a late tip -- don't bring an umbrella. A couple of frustrated fans were walking them back to their cars -- umbrellas are prohibited. 

The good news at the gate is that there is free Intense chocolate milk. You'll have to excuse me now. I'm thirsty." 

6:38 p.m. This just in from Keith McShea. Olympian Steve Mesler will be carrying the torch for Western. He grew up in Buffalo and won a gold medal in bobsledding at the 2010 Games. 
6:50 p.m. Only a few minutes away now. On stage, the Buffalo Chips, an all-male acapella group from UB, is performing "Fireflies" by Owl City. Behind the stage you can see all the athletes lined up and ready to march in at 7.
6:55 p.m. Fans are now in the upperdecks on both sides of the stadium.
7:02 p.m. The Buffalo Chips have left the stage, and a group of dignitaries have now been seated. Steve Tasker is serving as master of ceremonies and welcomed everyone to the ESG. He mentioned the games being canceled last year, but said, "We are back and stronger than ever." He also took time to thank all of the sponsors.
7:09 p.m. Going over a few housekeeping items, asking people to turn off cell phones and to remain seated during the fireworks.
The Masters division athletes processed in first. Adirondack region is coming in next. The athletes are slowly filling in the football field.   
7:14 p.m. Central region is next (looks like we are going alphabetical).  All of the athletes are wearing matching warm-up suits, and each region carries in a sign with their colors on it.
7:18 p.m. Hudson Valley is coming out now. Uniform colors for this weekend are : Adirondack- gold, Long Island-Gray, Central- light blue, Hudson Valley- green, New York City-orange, and Western will be wearing navy blue.
7:22 p.m. Long Island is next,followed by New York City. A few of the athletes did flips and tumbles as they led their team out on the track. City is a very animated group, jumping up and down and waving as they walk.
7:28 p.m. Western is now entering the stadium to a huge round of cheers. Steve Mesler is wearing his Olympic medal and walking at the head of the group.
7:34 p.m. Western is right in front of the stage. All the athletes are moving up to get close to the main stage, some are even running. The Buffalo Chips are back to sing the national anthem.
7:40 p.m. Former Congressman Jack Quinn took the stage to speak. He wished the athletes luck and told them to have fun.
7:43 p.m.  Marquel was with some of the Western athletes before the ceremonies. He spoke with Haley Welch, a women's hockey player from East Amherst. She will be playing through an injured foot. The doctor told her she couldn't run, but she could skate.
That's all Western needs from her.
7:53 p.m. There's been a series of speakers all saying the same thing. They thank the sponsors and wish the athletes luck. One nice feature is a sign language translator on stage, who they are showing in the corner of the large video screens so the whole audience can see her.  Carol Ash, Commissioner of the NYS Office of Parks and Recreation and Historic Preservation, made a shout out to the athletes from Boston. Wrong state.
7:57 p.m. All the athletes pledged to follow the rules and maintain sportsmanship during the games, reciting the pledge along with a speaker on stage.
7:58 p.m.  Here comes the torch. It is being run around the track by a male and female athlete, Clare Crowley a Western Women's open basketball player and New York City boxer Daniel Gonzalez of Ozone Park, Queens. Crowley is the girls basketball coach at Williamsville North. It was brought to the the side of the stage for the final lighting. Many of the fans are on their feet cheering.
8:02 p.m. The stage is being cleared and prepped for Third Eye Blind. While they are working, they are showing a video of past ESG athletes and game footage.
8:10 p.m. Steve Tasker came back to get all the athletes cheering, calling them out by region. New York City was as loud or louder than Western. After he spoke, they began showing yet another video. Many of the athletes are beginning to sit down on the field.
8:18 p.m. Running a little ahead of schedule. Now everyone is left waiting for the music to start. Good thing they have those videos to keep playing.
8:28 p.m. The show is underway. Third Eye Blind is on stage, and fireworks will go off during the last two songs.
8:33 p.m. A good number of athletes left the field instead of staying for the entertainment. Some are walking out as they have begun to play.
8:45 p.m.  Here's a quote from Fred Smith, Empire State Games director, courtesy of Keith McShea. Smith said, "It was a wonderful evening. The weather held off for us, the crowd was enthusiastic - we had a great crowd. I couldn't be any happier about the kickoff Buffalo has given to the return of the Empire State Games."
Third Eye Blind is currently rocking their best known song, "Semi-Charmed Life".
8:58 p.m. The athletes seem to be enjoying themselves. A few kids even went crowd surfing. Third Eye Blind is currently playing "Never Let You Go", another one of their most poplar songs from the late 90's.
Attendance estimate from Fred Smith is 15,000.
9:12 p.m. They keep bringing me back to my childhood. Just played "Jumper", another big radio hit from 1997. Getting dark outside. Fireworks should be coming soon.
9:22 p.m. The fireworks are starting as Third Eye Blind is finishing up their set list. Great way to end the ceremonies and our coverage. Check back all weekend for more coverage of the 2010 ESG.

---Amanda Bremer and Marquel Slaughter


Opening day for Empires, our preview, and a new Web site

Personally, I could have used a less-busy week to have us go to a new Web site. Like maybe a week when our area isn't hosting the Empire State Games in its return after a one-year layoff :-).

By now you've seen the new look -- generally I like it. Gotta love the bigger photos. I'm sure we'll be working out the kinks in several areas, so please be patient, but definitely let us know what you think.

All of the links that were based on our high school homepage are unfortunately gone with the change in our system. I'll try to put up a post with all of those links so all that information can be accessible.

Also, there are some problems with links on blogs from the last few days not working. Our apologies. That's a result of the switchover in sites and it is something we're working on.

As for the Empire State Games, our preview is online (that's the main story with other features linked there). See what I mean about the great big pictures? Definitely check out the sport-by-sport preview

ESG fans and organizers have to hope that the today's 30 percent chance of rain has already been taken care of with a few sparse storms this morning. Opening ceremonies are at 7 tonight at the University at Buffalo. The forecast, however, says there will be a 30 percent of rain and thunderstorms through the evening hours. 

As I waited out one of the storms in the parking lot at One News Plaza, I heard Janet Snyder and KISS 98.5 give the Games some big-time love. Snyder, who will be broadcasting at the Empire Family Village that begins at 3:30 at UB, gave away opening ceremony tickets to any ESG family members calling in.

She gave away three sets on the air, including to Williamsville South field hockey coach Mary Ferenczy, whose daughter, Alison, is on the Western field hockey team.

Mary mentioned other top players Allie Ahern (Williamsville North) and Allison Brace (South), prompting Snyder to ask, "and do you have to be named Allison to be a good field hockey player?" Nice.

---Keith McShea

Friday Afternoon Live from Section VI boys lacrosse (with updates from other finals ... and video)

I'll be live at the Section VI boys lacrosse championships this afternoon and evening at Orchard Park. I'll be getting updates from the baseball and softball action as well. 

The Class A game starts the tripleheader at 3:30 p.m. as defending champion Orchard Park meets Clarence. Up in Niagara Falls, Clarence is also in action in the highly anticipated AA softball final against Williamsville North.

The scene at OP. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News) The rest of the boys lax action includes defending champion Hamburg meeting Amherst at 5:30 in the B final and top-seeded Eden facing defending champion Silver Creek in Class C at 8.

The Class A softball final has Williamsville South playing Amherst at 6 p.m. at Niagara Falls while the Class D baseball final at Jamestown has Pine Valley meeting North Collins at 4:30 p.m. The Georgetown Cup championship series will be set today when St. Francis faces St. Mary's in a game at St. Joe's that was postponed from Thursday.

We'll update as soon as it is possible -- just hit refresh once every couple of minutes.

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3:52 p.m. After the FIRST QUARTER of the AA game, Orchard Park has a 4-1 lead. A few technical difficulties at the start here; my apologies. The OP field is new, but not the press box, but we have a seat and somewhere to type, and I can see all the action -- if I move my head back and forth around the .

A report from correspondent Nate Beutel at softball in Niagara Falls - Clarence took a 2-0 lead over Will North after two innings.

4:06 p.m. OP is having a nice run to take a 7-1 lead with 4:14 left in the second quarter, prompting a timeout by Clarence. 

A good timeout after a very pretty goal by OP, which came just 13 seconds after senior Kevin Kelly scored off an assist by senior Sean Purtill. On the ensuing faceoff, junior Trevor Vargo won it, fed sophomore longstick middie Kole Robinson, who handed ahead to Purtill, who fed Vargo in front of the cage for the goal with 4:14 left.

4:09 p.m. OP now up, 8-1, after a great solo underhanded effort by Matt Wilson -- his third of the game -- after he charged from behind the cage.

4:13 p.m. We are at HALFTIME of the Class A game and OP leads Clarence, 8-1.

4:17 p.m. Update from Niagara Falls: CLARENCE BEATS WILL NORTH IN THE CLASS A SOFTBALL FINAL, 2-0, on a one-hitter by senior standout pitcher Jen Sansano. I set up a separate post for the game for comments.

4:29 p.m. OP's lead is now 9-1 after another pretty passing play that started with a ground ball by junior defenseman Cullen Mangino -- who scooped it up and cleared it across midfield himself. He moved deep into the offensive end and then started a tic-tac-toe play with a pass to the right side of the cage to Purtill, who fed cross-cage to wide-open sophomore Ben Johnson for an easy score with 8:54 left in the third quarter. 

4:35 p.m. OP now up, 10-2, answering a Clarence goal by junior David DeCirce with yet another pretty passing play in transition. A great stick-check by Mangino on the defensive end became a clear that went from Mangino to Gary Davies to senior middie Dan Nesci, who fed Purtill on the right side, who fed back into the high slot (hockey term) to Sean Rimmer for a liner he put past Clarence junior goalie Zach Johnson.

4:40 p.m. Timeout with 2:06 left and OP owning its 10-2 lead.

5:01 p.m. After some frustrating browser/connection problems, we're back. Our apologies. OP's lead is 14-4 after a goal by junior middie Peter Biondi with 3:01 left in the game.

5:05 p.m. OP now up 15-4 with 2:03 left after a goal by junior Brian Kaspzyk.

5:09 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE and we have a CLASS A CHAMPION. Orchard Park beats Clarence, 15-5, for its 16th straight sectional title and 19th in the last 20 years.

Orchard Park wins the A championship. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News)
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5:46 p.m. We're about to start the Class B game. At the start of warmups, while I was doing interviews at the sideline, the Hamburg and Amherst teams did some serious woofing across the midfield line -- very reminiscient of college football pregame woof-fests. Everyone stayed on their side of the line, so just some good, clean (loud) fun. 

5:48 p.m. First possession for Hamburg but two shots go wide and Amherst hears the ball back on the backup.

5:52 p.m. Adam Dings makes it a 1-0 Hamburg lead on a nice leaping bounce shot with 6:48 left in the first quarter.

5:55 p.m. Hamburg goes up, 2-0, on a similar move as Andy Velazquez comes from the right side across the middle and fights off a defender as he gets his scoring shot off. 

6:01 p.m. Timeout Hamburg with the ball with 19 seconds left in the first quarter.

6:03 p.m. We are at the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER and Hamburg leads Amherst, 2-0.

6:21 p.m. We're still at 2-0 Hamburg; the teams have exchanged extra-man opportunities, turnovers and hits but no goals.

6:22 p.m. As soon as I type that, Hamburg's Josh Kerr scores off a feed from Ryan Feuerstein -- which came off what the press box says was the 13th turnover by Amherst. The goal was at 4:14 left in the quarter.

6:23 p.m. Thirty seconds later, at 3:47, Max Maxwell comes from behind the goal, beats a defender and scores on a low shot for a 4-0 Hamburg lead and prompts a timeout by Amherst coach Stefan Henn.

6:26 p.m. Timeout Hamburg with 2:37 left in the second quarter.

6:29 p.m. Hamburg adds another. After a save by Amherst goalie Scott Theilman, Josh Kerr picks up a ground ball on the left side and fires it in the top right corner for a 5-0 lead with 1:48 left in the second.

6:32 p.m. Hamburg's late surge in the second was pretty good, but Ryan Feuerstein made it outstanding. With the clock ticking down, he came from behind the right side of the goal and whipped around a shot that went in the goal with just one second left in the half. Hamburg leads, 6-0, with :01 left, which means ...

We are at HALFTIME and Hamburg leads Amherst, 6-0.

6:37 p.m. Update from Niagara Falls in SOFTBALL: Amherst leads Williamsville South, 2-0, after three innings of the Class A final. 

6:44 p.m. We have an update from BASEBALL: Pine Valley beats North Collins, 6-0, to win the SECTION VI CLASS D CHAMPIONSHIP.

6:46 p.m. We have started the third quarter. Hamburg senior goalie James Maxwell just made a nice one-on-one stop at the left doorstep on Amherst senior Bryan Lawson.

6:53 p.m. Hamburg scores on a pretty goal by Josh Kerry from Ryan Feuerstein with six minutes left; Amherst scores on its next possession thanks to senior Jack Huck; Hamburg, 7-1, with 5:35 left in the third. 

6:55 p.m. Hamburg goes up, 8-1, with four minutes left on a nice rush from behind the right side of the goal by freshman Max Maxwell.

7:01 p.m. At the END OF THE THIRD QUARTER, Hamburg leads Amherst, 8-1.

7:08 p.m. Hamburg goes up, 9-1, with 7:00 left on a goal by Chris Feuerstein, who dodged past a double-team and scored from the right side.

The Hamburg fans were cheering on their defense, which has been outstanding all game. Amherst has had long possessions, but excellent checks have limited the Tigers to a few fairly easy shots saved by James Maxwell.

7:14 p.m. Timeout with 4:50 left and Hamburg up, 9-1. 

7:20 p.m. Timeout Hamburg with 1:13 left; still a 9-1 game.

7:23 p.m. We have a FINAL SCORE and we have a CLASS B CHAMPION. Hamburg beats Amherst, 9-1, for its fourth straight sectional title. 

Hamburg wins the B title. (Keith McShea/Buffalo News)
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7:54 p.m. We have a SOFTBALL update. AMHERST WINS THE CLASS A CHAMPIONSHIP. Tigers beat Will South, 3-1.

7:55 p.m. A couple minutes away from the start of the C game between defending champion Silver Creek and top-seeded Eden. Skies are greying but hopefully we don't get in any rain trouble.

8:07 p.m. Silver Creek takes a 2-1 lead on a Levi Jones goal off a nice John Jimerson pass with 8:59 left in the second quarter -- the Black Knights also scored on the opening faceoff as Zack Williams won it and charged right in for the goal. 

The teams split their two meetings this season, with Eden winning on the road,16-12, on April 7 and the Black Knights winning in Eden, 20-9, on May 3.

8:15 p.m. Some big-time back-and-forth going on. Silver Creek is up, 4-3, with 4:21 left on a sweet, low swooping shot by Zed Williams.

8:17 p.m. Like I said, back and forth. Derek Wilder scores off a nice through-the-defense pass by Mike Janker and we're tied at 4-4 with 2:39 left in the first. Looks like we have our best game of the day.

8:23 p.m. At the END OF THE FIRST QUARTER, Eden has a 6-5 lead over Silver Creek. Neither team has had more than a one-goal lead.

8:30 p.m. The wild back-and-forth swings continue with a Silver Creek spurt -- it leads 7-6 with 10:15 left in the second after a hard shot by Ryan Mitchell.

8:33 p.m. Timeout Eden after Zack Williams sheds two shoves in the defensive end, clears it himself and goes in alone to score on a low overhand shot for an 8-6 Silver Creek lead with 8:37 left in the second.

8:35 p.m. The highlight show continues in a major way. Sophmore John Jimerson took a pass on his own side of midfield, sped towards the Eden goal, and as one defender chased him and anothe rdefender approached, he put on the brakes and did a super spin-o-rama move before charging in a few steps and burying a shot in the top left corner. Awesome. Check it out on Time Warner Cable SportsNet this week. SC leads, 9-6, with 8:09 left in the second.

8:50 p.m. We are at HALFTIME and Silver Creek has an 11-7 lead over Eden. What a fun half -- crazy scoring.

Time for me to get some writing done for Saturday's paper.

9:10 p.m. We're back to action, and the teams have kept up their pace with four goals in the opening five minutes. Silver Creek leads, 13-8, with 7:03 left in the third.

9:16 p.m. A slight drizzle started a few minutes ago, and then the officials called for the game to be suspended because lightning was seen in the distance. That's an automatic 30-minute delay. Ordinarily, I'd be a furious reporter right now, but the delay gives me a chance to write my story. I'll let you know of any more details, but we'll be back at 9:46 p.m. at the latest.

It's 13-9 Silver Creek with 3:40 left in the third quarter.

9:44 p.m. A steady downpour has subsided but apparently there has been more lightning during the delay, which has extended the delay. I'm typing a press box atop an empty bleacher.

10:05 p.m. Story is done for the paper and we just saw lightning again -- we've got to be looking at a suspended game that gets finished tomorrow.

10:19 p.m. A blast of thunder and another flash of lightning and ...

Section VI chairman John Faller has notified us that the game will be picked up Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. here at Orchard Park. That's Silver Creek leading, 13-9, with 3:40 left in the third quarter.

10:48 p.m. We've updated our story for tomorrow's paper and we're outta here. After the game was called, there was some serious lightning and thunder accompanied by a serious downpour. All is much calmer now. 

Next lacrosse stop is Tuesday night at the regionals.

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Some postgame interview videos:

If you were at any of the games, let us know how it went and what you thought of the action.

---Keith McShea

Clarence beats Will North, 2-0, for Class AA softball championship

The highly anticipated Class AA championship between Clarence and Williamsville North has been won by Clarence, 2-0, thanks to a report from correspondent Nate Beutel in Niagara Falls.

The Red Devils, who beat North for the title in 2008 and lost to North in last year's final, advanced thanks to a one-hitter by senior standout pitcher Jen Sansano and two runs it had by the second inning. 

It is a happy start of a fun day for Clarence seniors as their prom is tonight -- the game was moved up from 4 p.m. to 3 p.m. because of it.

If you were at the game, let us know what you thought of the action.

---Keith McShea

AA softball final moved to 3 p.m. Friday

This just in from Section VI: The Class AA final for softball between Williamsville North and Clarence will be held at 3 p.m. Friday at Niagara Falls. That game was moved up an hour (original starting time was 4) to accommodate Clarence's prom Friday night. 

That's a bummer for fans who won't be able to see what is clearly the Game of the Year in softball, but it's an understandable move.

---Keith McShea

Wednesday Evening Live: Will North softball beats Clarence in 11 (with lotsa video)

A update from my travels before tonight's chat ...

I started with a traffic-stalled trip down clogged Route 5 to Hamburg, where Clarence had a 5-0 lead on the Bulldogs after two innings. Zach Lauricella looked quite sharp on the mound (see videos below). The Red Devils ended up with a 16-0 victory.

Then I headed up to Williamsville North for a top five softball matchup that lived up to it's billing. No. 3 North beat No. 1 Clarence, 1-0, in 11 innings.

Junior Robin Kennery clobbered a pitch well over the left fielder to score junior Ashley Fillmore from third. Fillmore started the inning at second on the international tiebreaker, which is used starting with the 10th inning.

Here's our first softball video of the year -- the 11th inning was three pitches: a ball, a stolen base and Kennery's blast.

Clarence's Jen Sansano had 12 strikeouts and allowed five hits and one walk. North's Nikki Attea struck out five, allowed three hits, had one walk and one hit batter. Kennery had three hits for North while Val Nappo had two for Clarence.

The victory splits the season series between the ECIC I rivals -- Clarence had won, 2-1, on April 27.

North had some nice defensive plays in the top of the 11th, including throwing out a runner at home after an overthrow to first. Here's the highlight in which right fielder senior Sarah Rodems backed up an overthrow to first and threw to junior catcher Ashley Fillmore for the out. Nice play on both ends.

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We're going to rewind it a little bit now. Here's action from previous innings. 

Kennery had a sharp single in the bottom of the ninth -- she got hung up at first when she missed the bag. After the game she mentioned that she was glad to get the winning hit because she had felt bad about missing first.

Sansano ended the ninth by getting a flyout from Rodems after a long at-bat.

The rest is pretty self-explanatory -- after each standout pitcher ended their 10th inning with a strikeout we have video of the entire top of the 11th. It includes Rodems' play, a nice catch of a deep ball in left and very solid shortstop play from Corrin Genovese.

Here's the postgame wrap-up with Kennery and North coach Rick Bubar (if you tilt your head slightly, it's as if I held the phone straight!):

* * *

Back to the start of the trip down in Hamburg -- here are two of Lauricella's nine K's.

---Keith McShea

2010-11 boys hoops, here we come: Niagara Falls' Cataract Classic field is set

Yes, the All-Western New York basketball issue just came out.

And yes, this is a post about the 2010-11 schedule.

One of the top early-season showcases is already set: the Cataract Classic at Niagara Falls. Event organizer Sal Constantino emailed the schedule to us today.

As always, a great mix of teams and some great matchups. Here it is:

Friday, Dec. 10
North Tonawanda vs. Lancaster, 5 p.m.
St. Joe's vs. Depew, 6:30 p.m.
Niagara Falls vs. Jamestown, 8 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 11
Wilson vs. St. Mary's/Lanc., noon
V-Charles Finney vs. Amherst, 1:30 p.m.
V-Batavia vs. Williamsville North, 3 p.m.

Williamsville South vs. Canisius, 5 p.m.
Niagara Catholic vs. East Aurora, 6:30 p.m.
V-Aquinas vs. Niagara Falls, 8 p.m.

I sure hope the Pastor-Cooper Tournament is the week before (Nov. 29-Dec. 3) -- that's the way things have gone down the last two years. I've covered a state championship football game on the last Sunday in November and then seen some hoops at Daemen the next day.

We won't have a building-the-schedule post up for a little while yet, but if anyone out there has some confirmed dates, please feel free to add them here or to email me at

---Keith McShea
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About Prep Talk

Keith McShea

Keith McShea

Keith McShea has covered high school sports at The News since his hiring in 1999. The 1995 University at Buffalo graduate and Long Island native (North Babylon Bulldogs) covers — and live blogs — everything from scrimmages to state championships & helps head The News' All-Western New York selections.

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