By BILL COLLMER, Sun Senior Sports Writer
(Editor’s Note: Collmer will have a full breakdown this week of each boys and girls team in the showcase)
WAYLAND — Ten area High-School Basketball teams will help kickoff the 2023-2024 Basketball season Saturday Dec. 2 at Wayland-Cohocton High school during the Fourth Annual Way-Co Hall of Fame Basketball showcase.
There will be four games, the last one Hornell and Corning at 6 p.m.. Some of the top small school teams in Section V and the New York state will take the floor with proceeds benefiting the Wayland-Cohocton Sports Hall of Fame.
The Fourth Annual Showcase will feature one team from the Genesee Region, Two from the Steuben County, one from the Finger Lakes East, one from Section IV and five from the Livingston County Athletic Association.
This year’s Showcase will be dedicated to longtime coach and Athletic Director in the Wayland and the Wayland-Cohocton School District Rich Martello.
Martello was a member of the Wayland-Cohocton faculty for 34 years, he was the Boys varsity basketball coach at Wayland from 1971-1975, then took over as Athletic Director at Wayland and then Wayland-Cohocton from 1976-1997.
Martello served as the boys’ track coach for 32 years and as the cross-country coach for 31 years. During his tenure, his track teams won 266 meets, four Livingston Conference titles and five Section V titles. His cross-country teams won 219 meets, five LCAA titles and three Section Five titles. He was named Section Five Cross Country Coach of the Year in 1982 and 1988. In 1994, he was named the Section Five Boys Track Coach of the Year and in 1999 he was named the LCAA Boys Track Coach of the Year. During his tenure, Rich also served as LCAA president. Coach Martello’s words of inspiration and encouragement led many student athletes to reach their full potential.
Martello was inducted into the Section Five Track and Field Hall of Fame and Wayland-Cohocton Hall of Fame in 2005. In 2011 he was inducted into the Mount Morris Hall of fame. While at Mount Morris Martello excelled in football, basketball, and baseball during his high school career. He was the co-captain, quarterback, and the leading scorer of the 1962 undefeated football team coached by Hall of Famer Anthony Merola.
This team won the LCAA Championship with a perfect 7-0 record and outscored opponents 122-60. With eight touchdowns and three extra points to his credit, he led the team with 51 points on the season. He was also the co-captain and starting guard of the 1962-63 varsity basketball team. This team finished 12-6 which earned them a second-place finish in the league. In baseball, he was an outfielder, second baseman, and outstanding hitter who helped lead the Blue Devils to three consecutive Livingston County titles from 1961-1963. As only a sophomore in 1961, he was the team’s leadoff hitter and starting left fielder that helped lead the team to both a Livingston County title and Section Five, Class C championship. He played a large role in this championship run. In the Sectional Final game at Red Wings stadium, he had two hits and scored a run which helped lead the team to victory against Naples. As a junior, he again played a major role in the team’s success. This team finished the regular season with a perfect 10-0 record in route to a county title. His winning ways in baseball continued in his senior year of 1963. That year the team finished 9-1 which earned them a county title, and they made the sectional finals only to fall 3-1 in a very tough game to Marion. During his junior and senior seasons, this man had serious hitting power and had several home runs. One of his most impressive homeruns was a walk off homerun that hit the tennis court fence at Bellamy Park in a 6-5 win over York on May 7, 1963. For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the term “Walk Off Home Run,” this is a home run that ends and wins the game in the bottom of the final inning. After high school, this man continued his involvement in athletics at Brockport College where he was a second baseman and outfielder on the baseball team for all four years.
THE STATE OF SMALL SCHOOL BASKETBALL
This year’s Hall of Fame Showcase will kick-off with a rematch from last year with the Host Golden Eagles of Wayland-Cohocton facing off with the Elba Lancers from the Genesee-Region. This season Elba will have a smaller roster than most years with only eight players.
“Small school basketball right now are dealing with number issues. This isn’t for a lack of kids wanting to play, it’s simply due to small class sizes. We have eight guys who have totally bought into what we want to do this season. We will play a variety of different defenses, especially depending on our opponent, and if we find ourselves in foul trouble,” Elba Coach Ciaci Zambito said.
Elba plays in one of the toughest small school leagues in Section Five in the GR with teams like Pembroke, Oakfield-Alabama, Batavia Notre-Dame, Wheatland-Chili & Byron-Bergen.
“Our league is so good. We are in a place where we benefit every single night, we take the court because we know that our opponent will be a good basketball team. This will help prepare us come sectional time. We will see size and athleticism throughout our league that we might not see too much in our Classification/bracket. We look at this as an opportunity for us to get better!” Zambito Added.
DAVIS ON WAY-CO
Wayland-Cohocton had tough year last season playing in an equally difficult LCAA Division 1 League with the likes of Dansville, Bath, Livonia and Hornell. The Golden Eagles will have a new Coach this season in former J.V Coach Brandon Davis.
“Coming off of last year, our returners are ready to get back on the court and start competing again in a very tough LCAA Division 1. Even though we got a bulk of our starters back, we only have 5 returners in total and are still a fairly young team. Our goal for this season is to continue to work hard throughout the year and grow together as a team and grow the program for the future as well,” Brandon Davis said.
With a good youth program and several players on the AAU Circuit, Davis sees a bright future ahead.
“Prior to COVID, we had a really solid foundation of a youth program. During those two-three years, it started to go away a bit. Over the past summer, with the help of some amazing parents, our youth program is back up and running. We have a ton of players who are excited about the game of basketball and compete outside of just the winter season. We have students who play for various AAU teams to work on their game and help them compete at the next level,” Davis added.
DON’T COUNT OUT DANSVILLE
The second game of the day will be another rematch from last season with Danville from the LCAA squaring off with Marcus Whitman from the Finger Lakes East. Dansville took last year’s game in a defensive Struggle 40-37.
Dansville once again reached the Sectional Semifinals last season and is using their non-League Schedule and tough league schedule to prepare for another sectional run.
“Livingston County is always full of good teams. Playing D1 rivals, Hornell, who has many players back from their run last year, will be a challenge for us, but one that we are up for. The same can be said for Leroy and Avon. Those two teams had a lot of success last year and will be tough again this year. We don’t overlook anyone on our schedule. We approach each team with the same preparation, practice hard, watch game film, prepare and execute the game plan,” Dansville Coach Dave Moodie said.
Sectionals will look a little bit different for the Mustangs this season as they got moved to Class B1 this season.
“I’ve been coaching long enough to know that what Bracket you end up in is not in your control. It’s all about playing your best for 32 minutes in each Sectional game that you play in. You have to be at your best to win, or your season will come to an end. It comes down to making shots. The last two years we played outstanding defense, limited our turnovers and executed our game plan; but in the end we were not able to make enough shots which ultimately ended our seasons,” Moodie added.
O’CONNOR TALKS FINGER LAKES, MARCUS WHITMAN
Marcus Whitman has been playing in the rugged Finger Lakes East as a C school the past two seasons but are up to Class B this season with four starters back they’re looking to make some noise this season. They also picked up non-league games with Dansville, Batavia and Lyons.
“I have always wanted to challenge my basketball teams throughout the season. Having been moved up to class B, I am glad we are in the Finger Lakes East to play other B and A schools. We have ten guys on the roster, and I am not sure how deep in the bench I will go yet, but a tough schedule will make it so starters are playing a large percentage of the game and I think this is helpful to condition us for late runs,” Marcus Whitman Coach Greg O’Connor said.
Whitman was dealt an unexpected blow prior to the season when a plugged drain under their gym floor caused it warp and needed it to be replaced immediately. Luckily, they found a company to replace it right away but will be without their home gym until the middle of December if things go smoothly. In the meantime, they’ve been practicing at Canandaigua high School, Finger Lakes Community College and any other available gym they can find.
“It’s been a little exhausting trying to keep track of where and when we are practicing. To no fault of the places helping us out, they have schedule changes, and they are the priority so that has made for a very flexible schedule. We just have to appreciate those helping us out and be thankful we are playing basketball somewhere,” O’Connor added.
O’Connor was dealt another blow when Sophomore Tariku Blueye who played considerable minutes as a freshman last season and averaged 9.0 points per game needed to have hip surgery. Blueye had two tears in his labrum in his hip and had to have them surgically repaired. There was also bone growth in the wrong spot causing pain in the ball and join part of his hip.
“Unfortunately, he will be out for a couple months, we’re hoping he is back mid-to-late season,” O’Connor said.
ORMAN, YORK KNOCKED OFF STATE CHAMPS
Game Number three will feature the rematch of last year’s main event that saw York end Avoca-Prattsburgh’s 39 game winning streak in a game where York built a 20-point lead before A-P stormed back to get it to Five with the ball with under a minute remaining before York pulled away for a 77-69 victory in front of a packed Wayland-Cohocton Field House.
York accomplished something last season that no other team in New York State can say, Avoca-Prattsburgh went on to win their second consecutive New York State Class D Championship and Randolph from Section VI Won the Class C State Championship. York defeated Randolph by double figures on their home floor during the regular season. York Defeated two eventual State Champions last season which was quite the feat.
“I think we are all aware that we had some great regular season wins last year but that’s all they are. I’m sure both A-P and Randolph were happy to exchange those losses for the growth they fostered which most likely helped lead them to state titles. We are focusing on growth and getting better each game throughout the season. We want to play better and better each week and game to game,” York Coach Ed Orman Jr. said.
Orman has once again put together a tough schedule to help prepare his boys for Sectionals, playing both A-P and Randolph again while also adding non-League games with Bishop-Kearney and Lyons, along with LCAA Crossover games with Hornell & Avon.
“We are trying to challenge ourselves at every turn. Our schedule should help to keep us focused throughout the season and hopefully sharpen us for a deep post season run,” Orman added.
PUTNAM PLAYING GOOD COMPETITION AGAIN WITH A-P
Avoca-Prattsburgh is coming off Back-to-Back State Championships and a record of 63-2 the past three seasons. While they’ve had a ton of talent a lot of credit should go to Head Coach Brian Putnam who has handled the sports merger between two former rivals masterfully.
In 10 seasons as varsity Coach at Prattsburgh and now Avoca-Prattsburgh Putnam is 185-41 with six Sectional Championships and two State Championships. He’s only had one losing season, his first. In eight of his ten years, they’ve made it to the Sectional Finals. In 2016 at Prattsburgh they lost in the Sectional Semifinals to Avoca.
Graduation hit A-P hard losing four senior starters that were a huge part of both State Championship teams. But Macoy Putnam returns for his senior season. Since being called up to varsity as an eighth grader Putnam has captured four straight Sectional Championships. He was State Tournament MVP his sophomore year and earned New York State Class D Co-Player of the year honors last season with teammate Sawyer Devoe.
“Macoy has been a rock for the program. He’s been our floor general for the past four years. As shown by his stats he plays on both ends of the floor, and he will be badly missed when this season comes to a close. Macoy has set the bar high for the next point guards that play at A-P. He is one of the most composed players I have ever coached,” A-P Coach Brian Putnam said.
“As a father and a coach, I am very proud of the player as well as the person he has become. His hard work and dedication have propelled him to the level he is at now,” Putnam added.
As usual A-P has a loaded non-league schedule that will see them open up with York, they’ll also play Defending Class B2 Champion Wellsville and will potentially play Section IV Class C Powerhouse Moravia who lost in the Class C State Semifinals to Randolph in Glens Falls last March. They’re participating in the Avoca-Prattsburgh Christmas tournament.
“I have always felt that playing good competition prepares you for post season play. We always try and schedule good non-league teams,” Putnam said.
For the first time since merging teams A-P will put a younger team out on the floor and might have to adjust the style of play they’ve become accustomed to playing.
“I would still like to play fast; we just need to figure out what the kids are capable of doing. We will make adjustments based on how all that goes. Sure, the lack of experience will make a difference. The experience for this group will come as we start playing games. With the exception of Macoy none of these kids have seen many varsity minutes,” Putnam said.
HORNELL, CANISTEO-GREENWOOD GIRLS WILL PUT POINTS UP
This year’s Girls contest will feature the Hornell Lady Red Raiders playing the Canisteo-Greenwood Chargers. Hornell captured their first ever sectional Championship last season in Cinderella fashion. While C-G took an undefeated record into Sectionals and made it all the way to Championship game before being upset by Oakfield-Alabama.
What makes Hornell’s Championship run even more incredible they had an unexpected Coaching Change mid-season and only had one senior on the roster last season.
“I give the credit to the girls, especially last year’s senior captain Maddie Moore. The team had every reason to pack it in, but instead they persevered and rallied behind her leadership. Also having Assistant Coach Chris Clark on the coaching staff allowed us to have some continuity and consistency for the girls throughout the season. He does a great job of injecting a balance of humor and accountability that allowed the girls to thrive. As a group they bought into working hard for one another and doing the simple things perfect. Our mantra was “win the day”, whether it was a practice, a scrimmage, or a game, the girls understood that the present was the only time that they could control, and so each day they chose to buy in, work hard, and earn the success,” Hornell Coach Jim Dagon said.
“With the girls being so young, there was almost a blissful ignorance while we were making our run that made it very fun. They didn’t feel the pressure of it being their last opportunity as seniors would, and so we rolled with it. We played funk music at practice most days to keep them loose and we really squeezed the enjoyment out of every day. They definitely understood when to lock in and flip that switch though, so there was a good balance of fun and focus throughout. The whole ride was just awesome. Winning the championship was pretty surreal to be honest. I just felt so great for that group of kids because I witnessed how much they worked for it every day. The whole coaching staff believed in them and knew that they deserved it. Being the Junior Varsity coach for the past handful of seasons, I’ve experienced groups that got close to winning it, but just ended up falling short at the hands of some really tough teams- so this has seemed like it has been in the making for a fairly long time. All that, compiled with the ups and downs of a long season made it a cathartic experience that we’ll always remember,” Dagon added.
This season will be similar with once again only two seniors on the roster, one being a foreign Exchange student. However, with Lillian Hoyt and Jordyn Dyring entering their fourth and third year on varsity, Dagon has strong leadership despite their ages.
“It’s great having a group of veteran players on the team. We are able to build off of last years’ experience and it gives us the ability to really hone in on some fine details that can elevate their game. Also having a group that understands what it takes to win a title is a big advantage. They are confident in themselves and in one another during the big moments because they’ve been there before. One concern that I had over the off-season was that, because this group is still so young, that they might not have the urgency that a group of seniors may have. But, after witnessing the work that they’ve put in over the summer, and the intensity and energy that they’ve brought to this preseason, I’m confident that they fully understand the opportunity that is in front of them,” Dagon added.
Dagon has been utilizing the same style of play implemented by former coach Brian Dyring that utilized pesky full court defense and shooting lots of 3-pointers.
“Defensively the girls love to get after it. That’s definitely going to be the cornerstone of our game plan every night. Our philosophy is that rather than outscoring an opponent to win, we need to keep the opponent from outscoring us. Offensively the girls have been working very hard to become more well-rounded players. Our forwards can play on the perimeter, and our guards can take advantages of mismatches in the post. In years past I think the high volume of 3’s was out of necessity because of the lack of size and strength that resulted from having such a young group. I think our versatility this year is going to be our biggest strength. We’ve been preaching that even a great defense can’t take all of the options away, so the girls just need to take advantage of whatever the opponent is willing to give them. Don’t worry though, the girls know that they’ve got the green light all the time, and we can still fill it up from deep when we need to,” Dagon said.
Hornell will meet up with the Canisteo-Greenwood Chargers a team that defeated them during the regular season and went into the Sectional Championship game 22-0 before dropping a heart breaker to Oakfield-Alabama.
“We were 22-0 going into the sectional finals and were ahead in that match until late in the fourth Quarter when Oakfield-Alabama hit two 3’s in a row and a fast break layup to take the lead and we ended up 22-1. I was up by 12 and thought we had a good chance, and it was very hard to swallow right then to come up short. We ran out of gas, and we also got into early foul trouble and that made a difference. The last three minutes our kids did not quit and gave it their best and came up a little short. I felt down a little for a couple of days then Gina Boyd from Alfred State said Les do not let one game dictate how your season went you had 22 wins and one loss. focus on the 22 wins that made it a successful year and the games that got you there. That made me feel better to hear that from a great peer and longtime coach. We had a very good Season winning against larger schools Dansville, Hornell, and beating Wellsville both home and away. We won the Steuben County Title along with the County tournament and the Barkley Showcase at Bath last year beating Section Five Class D2 Champion Andover-Whitesville . Last year was the first time that I was undefeated in a whole regular season except for the short Season during Covid with a 10-0 record and I believe that was the first time for C-G also,” C-G Coach Lester York said.
Canisteo-Greenwood Senior guard Lillian Mullen is entering her sixth varsity season and has scored over 1,700 points.
“Lillian is a special player and athlete that does not come around very often. I am not talking about her athletic ability I am talking about her attitude both on the court and off the court. Lillian has never in six years ever given me more than a smile even when I am really giving her the business about her game. She has given me nothing but hard work and determination to be a better basketball player and also person. If she does life like basketball, she will do great things in Life. That is what we as coaches are supposed to do make better basketball players but also better people for the next generation! It will be very hard to win a championship this year with 17 schools and moving up to the B’s. I do not like what Section Five has done with not splitting the B’s there is such a difference in the number of kids from the top like Waterloo compared with us and Addison on the bottom. They should of split. They did not, so goes life and we will do the best in which we can, and we will have a successful year no matter the outcome. Focus on the Positives like Gina said. Enjoy every game like it’s her last game and everything will be just fine!!!,” York added.
York has decided this will be his last season after 22 years of coaching girls’ basketball in the area.
“I have been coaching Girls Highschool Basketball since 1997 starting with JV’s and then moving on to Coach Varsity Girls at Canaseraga for the 2001-2002 until 2017 and winning the first Section Five Class D title in 2002 and assisting the year before with three of my own daughters starting on the team and winning the back-to-back titles in 2001-2002. Then I also won another Sectional Title in 2010 and in 2011 and 2015 we lost in Championship game. During those years I thought if we were not in at least the quarter finals I had let the girls down. When I first started Coaching, Canaseraga was in Steuben County League, and I loved the county tournament and looked at it as a warmup for sectionals. I won that Steuben County League in 2002 and then the school decided to join the Allegany County League where we won several league titles over in Allegany until the combination of Arkport-Canaseraga in which I thought I was done coaching after 20 plus years. The team went back to the Steuben County League. I then received a call from Ann Hosmer Canisteo-Greenwood Athletic Director and asked if I would coach the Varsity Girls at C-G. At first, I said no then she talked me into it for One year and now this is my seventh and final year Coaching there. I have been treated very well by both Schools Canaseraga and also Canisteo-Greenwood and will probably miss it dearly. I have had a lot of great Kids and whole lot of Memorable games. I have always played a tough schedule and even played state champion Nazareth twice, one year and was a head of them at halftime both times. My favorite achievement is the number of kids that I coached make the Ronald McDonald All-star games over the years in which your coaching peers choose the players for that contest. I have been the Section Five Coach of the year three times in Canaseraga and now one time at Canisteo- Greenwood. I have also been Great Eight Coach of the year. The awards are nice but my awards are the kids turning out to be better basketball players after they have started playing for me but more important better adults in Life. I have coached some of the parents and their children that’s crazy. I do not think I have quite won 300 games, but again it is never about me it is about the kids,” York said.
THE MAIN EVENT
This year’s fifth game and “Main Event” will feature a loaded Hornell team facing off with Section IV Class AA Powerhouse Corning featuring an eighth grader Nolyn Proudfoot who is already drawing national attention and could end up being recruited by high major Division one colleges.
“Nolyn is a prodigy. He lives, breathes, eats, and sleeps basketball. He is up at the crack of dawn getting 1,000 shots up every morning before he goes to school. Kids like Nolyn come around once in a lifetime. His parents offer him a lot of opportunities to play all over the country throughout the year. He is starting to grow and is now 6’2″. He will garner a lot of attention around the country and on the College Basketball scene as he continues to flourish,” Corning Coach Mike Johnston said.
Hornell is coming off a successful season that saw them grab the number one seed in the Class B2 Sectional bracket but got upset by rival Wellsville in the Semifinals. With a lot of Fire Power coming back and a lineup that will feature Leading Returning Scorer Gennaro Picco, His younger brother and second returning leading scorer Junior Pasquale Picco they will be joined this season by their younger brother Sophomore Marco Picco.
“All three of the Picco brothers are on varsity this season. I think it will be a neat experience for them. I think they do have some nice chemistry together. It’s one of those things that I think is really cool for the family and something they will look back on years and years from now,” Hornell Coach Kirk Scholes said.
Hornell has really beefed up their Schedule this season in hopes it will help prepare them for a deep run in Sectionals and the opportunity to raise another sectional banner.
“We think our non-conference schedule is as good as anybody’s in this area. Our eight non-conference opponents are Aquinas, Corning, Wellsville twice, York, Avon, Canisteo-Greenwood, and Newark. We feel this will help us prepare for sectional play and get us ready to compete in big games,” Scholes added.
With much of their team back and a strong off-season that saw them play in the Aquinas summer League is this one of the best teams Hornell has had in Kirk Scholes tenure as coach?
“I don’t like to compare teams that I’ve coached in the past. Each team is a little bit different. They all have different strengths and some years the pieces fit better than others. I think we have a chance to be pretty good, but a lot will depend on how we work throughout the year and if everyone buys into roles,” Scholes said.
The organizers of the Hall of Fame Showcase continue to try and feature the best local teams and players in the area to showcase their incredible basketball talent while also raising money for the Wayland-Cohocton Hall of Fame and providing high School Basketball fans from all over Section Five and now fans from Section Four as well the opportunity to watch a full day of high School Basketball. So far, after three Showcases, Mission Accomplished.
Date – Saturday, Dec 2nd, 2023
Noon– Wayland-Cohocton vs. Elba
2:00 – Dansville vs. Marcus Whitman
4:00 – Avoca-Prattsburgh vs. York
6:00 –Hornell vs. Corning