Sports Editor’s Playbook, March 8, 2013

Patrick Newell

A lot, check that, just about all of our focus on local sports these days is Norwich basketball. The Purple Tornado are the only game in town as we rapidly approach spring sports: Baseball, softball, track and field, et al.
Norwich won its sixth Section IV boys’ basketball championship last weekend, and its fourth since back-to-back sectional championships led to state titles in 1993-1994. The last three visits to intersectional play have led to first-round losses. Could this year be different? Yeah, it’s a good possibility. In those three previous visits outside of Section IV play, two of the teams that beat Norwich went on to win state titles, and the third advanced to the state championship game. Clearly, that first-round draw has not worked out well for Norwich. Tomorrow night’s opponent, Westhill, has flown at or near the top of Section III basketball for several years, and won its third Class B title in four years last Sunday. If you have Time Warner Cable, perhaps you caught a glimpse of the Warriors, who beat Skaneateles 63-51. The Warriors play great defense, and have a sensational scorer in Jordan Roland. But…there are no intimidating shot blockers or future NBA prospects such as Hilton Armstrong, who helped Peekskill demolish Norwich over a decade ago. Roland is a heck of a prospect, so maybe he will, indeed make his mark on the next level.
What has impressed me the most about this Norwich team – as opposed to previous good NHS teams – is that the coaching staff utilizes the talents of every player on the roster. All 10 players have made their mark in games this season, and the talent gap between the best player and the tenth is not as wide as you might think. This is a team with no dead weight sitting on the bench; if you’re playing for Norwich, you’re a darn good player.

As mentioned above, Norwich recently won its sixth sectional basketball championship, and fourth in my 18 seasons covering local sports. I began to make a mental checklist of Chenango County schools tat have advanced to the state basketball tournament. Here is that list: Boys–Afton, Oxford, Norwich. Girls–Afton, Bainbridge-Guilford, Greene, and Oxford. Since 1995-1996, no boys team has made it past the first round of sectional play, while all four girls teams have advanced to the state final four at least once. B-G, in 1999, reached the Class C state championship game only to lose to Bloomfield. Leading that Bobcats club was Chenango County’s all-time leading scorer, Courtney Mattingly. The Bobcats lost four games that year – three to Class B state champion Oneonta, and one to the the Class C state titleist.

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