ITHACA, NY -- The basketball season is well underway for both of the Tompkins Cortland Community College Panther basketball teams, and several local players are putting the “community” in community college.
In a 45-41 come-from-behind victory over Finger Lakes Community College, the Panthers had been tied at the end of the first quarter, but went into hibernation for two periods, and entered the fourth quarter trailing 35-28. Ithaca High School grad Simone Smith came alive in the fourth quarter, sparking the Panthers' comeback. Newfield High grad Adrianna Royce and Moravia grad Madison Kelly — who led the team with 13 points — also stepped up in the win, which brought the Panthers to a .500 record.
Simone came up through the usual Ithaca youth basketball pathway — GIAC to modified, junior varsity, then varsity with coaches Tim Little and Jane Bryant. When asked to share the biggest difference between high school and college ball, she said, “For one thing, the refs call way more fouls in high school.” She added, “Also, I like playing with a different set of teammates, girls from all over New York state, and getting used to their vibe.”
Head Coach Dave Stevenson piped in and said, “She's about five feet tall, and she often leads us in rebounds!” Simone said, “I'm actually 4'11,” and I think I'm averaging six rebounds per game. Rebounding is fun!”
Stevenson knows the old saying that it's not the size of the dog in the fight, but the size of the fight in the dog, and he said, “I will tell you this... Simone is far and away our best defender. She sticks her nose on the ball, and she is a pleasure to coach.”
Asked how she plans to spend her three-and-a-half week hiatus until the Panthers take the court again, Simone offered, “I plan to get to the gym four times per week, and if my old teammates at Ithaca High have a home game, I'd like to see them.”
Meanwhile, that explosion heard on East Hill on Sunday was the Cornell men's basketball team's point explosion. While it is not possible to actually put points in some kind of “points bank” for later use, a scoring explosion like the one at Cornell can bode well in terms of confidence going forward. Confidence in a deep bench, confidence in a coaching staff's ability to involve many players and confidence that your team can put up 122 points in a single contest.
That's what the Cornell men's basketball team did on Sunday, rolling over Keuka 122- 64. In moving to 8-1, the Big Red dressed 13 players, and all but one of them put points on the board. The Big Red shattered long-standing records for points with 122 (the old record of 116 was set in 1965), field goals (49) and assists (41). The team shot 61% from the field, and the win was Brian Earl's 50th as Cornell's head coach.
Turning my attention down the road a few miles, I'd like to congratulate the Spencer-Van Etten/Candor Eagles 8-Man football team on a truly dominant season. The team went 9-0 and rolled over opponents by absurd scores, including a 68-20 shellacking of Spackenkill in the Section IV Regional championship game at Binghamton High School. That total surpassed the Eagles' eye-opening average of 56 points per game. Entering the final, and after the season wrapped up, S-VEC had outscored opponents 516-60.
Despite such dominance, it was nonetheless a season that ended shrouded in a big “What If?” What if the powers-that-be had arranged for 8-Man teams to play for an actual state championship? In a statement issued by the officials at New York State Public High School Athletic Association (NYSPHSAA), “The governing body NYSPHSAA only allows for (5) classifications for NYS Championship play. Classes AA, A, B, C, and D. They won’t sanction anymore.” That surely rings hollow to players and coaches who worked just as hard as any other high school football program, and deserve — in my opinion — a chance to play for a state title. Way to go, Eagles.