Born Again

Feb. 2-8, 2006
Born Again
By Luke Eggleston/ SUN staff writer
SCC Hoops Teams Return to Prominence in 2005-06 Campaign

For the past three seasons, the Seton Catholic Central varsity boys and girls basketball programs have worn success like its mascot’s signature halo. While the boys team claimed its second consecutive Section 4 Class C title as well as its second consecutive Southern Tier Athletic Conference (STAC) crown, the girls team catapulted itself free of a 9-8 regular-season record and on to a New York State Public High Schools Athletic Association Championship.

After winning its sectional championship, the boys program was awarded with a more competitive postseason bracket. Undaunted coach Chris Sinicki noted, however, that the STAC includes most of the section’s upper-tier competition and that his team should be well prepared for the postseason tournament’s elevated competition and stakes.

After losing most of its experience on the post from last year’s team, Sinicki wasn’t sure what to expect this season. But freshmen Chris Ferner (6-foot-4) and Max Jones (6-foot-3) have been up to the challenge of providing enough of a presence down low to open up options for the Saints’ array of talented and experienced guards.

“He [Ferner] has done more than hold his own,” Sinicki said, elaborating that the center has shown flashes of excellence at certain points of the season. The veteran coach cautioned, however, that the big man is still learning the game at the varsity level. “There are peaks and valleys,” Sinicki said. Moreover, Sinicki was leery about chemistry issues with a starting freshman among so many seasoned veterans.

“During the first part of the season I was surprised at how well the kids mixed together,” the coach said. “Sometimes when you put in a freshman you’re not sure how it will work. But it’s gone well and I think it’s shown in the results on the court.” Off guard Matt Cline currently leads Seton Catholic with 16 points per game, and senior Jim Torto has done what the Saints have grown accustomed to for the past three years, pacing the team from the point.

“As he goes, we go,” Sinicki said of his sure-handed point guard. Along with Cline and Torto, Seton Catholic has received solid play from veterans Jason Gosney and D.J. Lane. According to Sinicki, his players are simply used to winning. “They’ve been in a lot of big games and they’ve seen just about everything you can see,” the coach said.

As of last week, the Saints were ranked No. 7 in the state by the New York State High School Sportswriters Association after falling to a rugged Norwich squad 58-55. The Saints were the Purple Tornadoes’ eighth consecutive victim. Previously, Seton Catholic’s only other loss came to state-ranked Class AA school Vestal and the Saints had climbed as high as No. 2 in the state rankings.

Back on track With state championship experience guiding it, the Seton Catholic girls team has been hungry to win all season long but that state championship has also served as a target on the Saints’ back, and each and every team in STAC has been gunning for them. So far, Windsor and Chenango Valley alone have been able to shoot down the high-flying Saints.

Coach Colleen Jayne said that both setbacks were disheartening, estimating that Chenango Valley shot around 80 percent and the loss to Windsor came down to mistakes made at the end. “The losses kind of take the wind out of your sails,” Jayne said. Before falling to Windsor, the Saints were ranked as high as No. 20 in the state by the New York State High School Sportswriters Association. Such losses have been learning experiences for the Saints, Jayne noted.

“Even after the loss to Chenango Valley we came a long ways as far as improving technique goes,” Jayne said. Overcoming lapses in morale is something that last season’s postseason success has inspired. Transforming a mediocre record into a state title is no easy feat. Now overcoming a lone regular season loss seems even less daunting. In contrast to the 2004-05 campaign this year, Jayne said, the team has been motivated to work hard for success at every practice. “They have that work ethic and that rubs off on everybody,” she said.

The Saints can also rely on multiple sources for offense this season. The team doesn’t need to rely on the perimeter skills of off guard Deirdre Torto or strong performances in the paint from Ellie Garbade every night. If an opponent eliminates Torto, Claudia Mazza can emerge. In a one-point win over Oneonta, Meghan Bellingham scored the game winner in the contest’s dying moments. Even last season, when the disappointing losses had mounted up, Jayne said she knew her team had potential for excellence.

“I always knew they were capable of it,” she said. The difference is that now the team itself is aware of its own capabilities. “I think they expect it from themselves,” she said.

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