Sports fans — and even non-sports fans — across America are catching a case of March Madness this week, otherwise known as the NCAA Division I basketball tournament and manifested in office pools and brackets from coast to coast.
The Finger Lakes region, however — thanks to some exciting young hoopsters from four different area high schools — has experienced an early dose of that Madness.
Varsity basketball teams from South Seneca and Midlakes (girls) and Lyons and Clyde-Savannah (boys) celebrated Section V championships on the first weekend in March. It wasn’t an unprecedented haul of sectional hardware, but it was a solid showing that deserves our cheers.
And while each of the teams had a different narrative, they all had a few things in common that made them champions — a strong work ethic, terrific coaching, great teamwork and tremendous community support.
For the South Seneca girls, a Class C2 title win over Finger Lakes West rival Red Jacket marked their third straight championship, though it was the most unexpected. Primarily a young squad with a few key veterans sprinkled in, the Falcons started the season just 3-3 but ended it by winning 18 of 20 along with that sectional title and a state qualifying game before losing in the state Far West regionals to Allegany-Limestone.
The Clyde-Savannah boys of Wayne County were one of the most electrifying teams in Section V with three players averaging over 19 points a game. The Golden Eagles ran away with an easy 69-47 win over Honeoye in the Class D1 title game and followed that with a 76-69 win over Prattsburg to advance to the state tournament. Their 21-5 season came to a close with a loss to Buffalo East in the state tourney.
Lyons, another long-time Wayne County power, also was a team that matured throughout the season with a mix of youth and seasoned players. The Lions rallied after a season-opening loss to Geneva, split two league games with arch-rival Clyde-Savannah and upset No. 1-seeded Perry in the Class C2 title game. Their 21-4 campaign ended with a loss to Northstar Christian Academy in a state qualifier.
And then there are the Midlakes girls, whose season has been nothing short of magical, no matter how it ends — because it hasn’t ended yet. The Screaming Eagles have just three seniors on the roster but are a powerhouse. They won the first Finger Lakes East title in school history and followed that with a resounding 70-40 win over Bath Haverling for the Class B title, the school’s first sectional crown in 43 years. That was followed by a 70-60 win over Fredonia in the state Far West Regional, landing the 25-0 Eagles a berth in this weekend’s final four in Troy for the first time in school history.
However the trip to Troy plays out, it has been a spectacular season for Midlakes and the pinnacle to an outstanding area high school hoops postseason.