Thursday, November 13, 2014  Sparks News

New coaching staffs in place for Gloversville basketball programs
November 11, 2014
By JAMES A. ELLIS , Leader Herald

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GLOVERSVILLE - There has been a changing of the guard in the Gloversville High School basketball programs. With the retirement of Mark LeFever from the Dragons' boys program and Robyn Guzielek stepping aside as head coach in the girls program, new coaches have been appointed for the upcoming season.

Former Gloversville player and junior varsity coach Aric Kucel steps up to guide the Dragons' boys varsity team this season, while Molly Swan has been named the head coach for the Lady Dragons.

Not only are the varsity coaches new, none of the coaches at the junior varsity or freshman levels were with the programs last season.

"We are not rebuilding our boys basketball program, which has been a mainstay here in Gloversville for a long time," Gloversville High School Athletic Director Mike DeMagistris said. "The fortunate thing about Gloversville basketball is that we have had a Gloversville alumni coach our team for 28 years, so they know the tradition here. Mark LeFever [2009-2014] took the torch from Don Landrio [1986-2009], and hopefully, Aric is going to take the torch from Mark and keep running with it."
Kucel was a three-year starting point guard for the Landrio-coached Dragons and was a second team All Foothills player in his junior and senior years. He moved on to play for two years at Hudson Valley Community College, where he was named team MVP in his final season. He ranks third all time in assists and steals and seventh in 3-point field goals made for the Vikings. He joined the Gloversville coaching staff as a modified coach before moving up to coach the junior varsity team under LeFever for the past six years.

"I have been a Dragon basketball player since I was in second grade," Kucel said. "I felt like I basically grew up in the old high school gym because of all the time I spent there. I never missed one of Coach Landrio's winter clinics or summer camps, and I was always in the gym after school or during the summer constantly working on my game. I spent countless hours in the high school gym because I wanted to help this program be successful. Now I get to do it as a coach. It is truly an honor and a privilege."

Swan played basketball for Shenendehowa High School under hall of fame coach Ken Strube. After graduating from St. Lawrence University, Swan spent the last two years coaching in both the basketball and softball programs at Colonie High School.

"Sports have always been a big part of who I am," Swan said. "At Shenendehowa High School, I played both basketball and softball, which allowed me to develop lifelong friendships and leadership skills that have carried over to my adult life. Growing up, I was also involved in the Saratoga Sparks AAU program and enjoyed the time that I got to spend alongside my teammates as we continued to work on our basketball skills. Coaching has given me an opportunity to pass on to my players the many positives that I have gained through being involved in athletics: discipline, respect, teamwork and a sense of pride."
DeMagistris said he is confident Swan can help turn around the Lady Dragons' program that won the Foothills Council in 2007, but last won a varsity game in December of 2010.

"My impression after the first five minutes of talking with her was that she was the right person for the job," DeMagistris said. "We were fortunate enough that Molly was hired as one of our school's counselors. Her pedigree shows she played for some great coaches like coach Kucel did. Her father, Patrick, is helping us out this year and he coached the Saratoga Sparks for a long time."

Swan is joined on her coaching staff by first-year junior varsity coach Mary Insognia, while LeFever's retirement was short-lived as he joins the Lady Dragons' program as the girls' modified coach along with Jason Hillabrandt.

"LeFever went from the boys' program to the girls' modified program so she can tap into his experience of 20-plus years, which I think will be a benefit for our girls' program," DeMagistris said. "We are very confident that our girls' program will be very competitive in the next couple of years. Molly is very excited and passionate about the game and we are excited about having her on the staff."

Taking over a program that dropped from the varsity level in 2011 and playing two seasons at the junior varsity level before returning to varsity competition in 2013 is a challenge Swan said she is looking forward to.

"I think that the program has been slowly rebuilding and we are eager to be part of a growing program," she said. "The coaching staff [including myself] is excited by the talent we have seen in the open gym so far this year. I think that the youth program is on the upswing and the more girls that we can get involved at a younger age, the brighter the future looks for Gloversville basketball. We have had open gyms and the girls are excited for the season to begin. Tryouts begin today and the teams will be finalized by the end of the week. By Friday the girls will have a good understanding of our expectations as a program and their role heading into the season."

The boys' program also has a new coaching staff at all levels.

"We have an entire new coaching staff this year," Kucel said. "I'm very excited about the guys we have in place. These guys can really teach the game and have a passion for Gloversville basketball."

John Lott will take over the junior varsity coaching duties, while Blaine Nellis is the freshmen coach. Ryan Mulligan and Dan Getman will coach the modified programs.

"We also have two varsity assistants, Kevin Jones and Ed Collar," Kucel said. "John Lott, Ryan Mulligan and Dan Getman are all former Gloversville athletes, who understand the pride and tradition of Gloversville basketball. Blaine Nellis was a longtime JV coach at Fort Plain, where he had a lot of success coaching under Craig Phillips. Kevin Jones and Ed Collar are current college coaches at Fulton-Montgomery Community College Those two, to me, are the best coaches in the area and are going to do great things for our kids and our program."

Kucel is set to put his own stamp on the Dragons' basketball tradition.

"Our goals heading into this season and every season will be to play up to our standards," he said. "We have developed something called the Maroon and White Standards. These standards are how we practice, how we play and how we act. As a coach, I want my players to focus more on playing up to our standards, rather than worrying about results. If we play to our standards, we know the results will most likely be in our favor. The Maroon and White Standards are: Pride-Passion-Caring-Demanding-Confidence-Selfless-Relentless-Courage-Toughness-Willingness to Earn It."

Although tryouts officially started Monday, preparation for the upcoming season has been in the process with open gyms and clinics.

"We have been getting together since July and the turnouts were excellent," Kucel said. "We were getting 30-40 guys everyday from seventh grade to varsity who were coming in and working on developing their skills. We took a break as players were playing their fall sports. But this past week, we've been getting together after school for our Gloversville Basketball Orientation. It's been a great turnout and you can see our players get better as the week is progressing. It's been a nice way for all of our players to meet all of their coaches, work on their skills and for them to get a better understanding of what we are trying to accomplish on the offensive and defensive end."

The Dragons are scheduled to open their season at home on Dec. 4 with a non-league contest against Nortre Dame-Bishop Gibbons, and will open their Foothills Council campaign Dec. 12 at Johnstown.

"I'm just so excited to get going; I've been waiting a long time for this season," Kucel said. "I'm just very fortunate to have the opportunity to be a teacher and to be a coach in this program. Everyday I'm going to try to help our kids and program become successful."

The Lady Dragons open their season Dec. 5 with a non-league game at Mechanicville High School and will host the Johnstown Lady Bills in their Foothills Council opener Dec. 12.


Saint Francis Wins Overtime Thriller at Central Connecticut State

Wednesday, February 12, 2014  Player InformationSparks News

NEW BRITAIN, Conn. (Jan. 6, 2014) – The Saint Francis University women's basketball team earned an overtime victory over Central Connecticut State, 106-97, on Monday evening to earn its first Northeast Conference win of the season.

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The Red Flash (3-10, 1-1) outscored the Blue Devils (6-6, 0-2) 21-12 in the overtime period and put up their second-highest offensive output in school history with the 106 total points. It was the most points SFU has scored since January 10, 2004.

Alli Williams (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle) flirted with a triple-double as the senior poured in 27 points and added eight rebounds and six assists. Bridget Murphy (Bethlehem, N.Y./Bethlehem Central) set another career-high with a 24 point effort; the freshman shot 7-of-10 from the field and 9-of-12 from the free throw line.

"We missed some free throws late in regulation that we should have had, I was proud of how we battled in overtime," said SFU head coach Joe Haigh.

Alexa Hayward (Beaver Falls, Pa./Blackhawk) posted another 20 point game, her fourth of the season. Aisha Brock (Jacksonville, Fla./Potter's House Christian Academy) and Erin Blaine (Washington, D.C./H.D. Woodson) also posted 10 points to round out the SFU players in double-figures.

"In order for us to really make some noise in Northeast Conference play we must have the younger kids continue to step up," Haigh continued.

Alexa Hayward (Beaver Falls, Pa./Blackhawk) keyed the scoring to start the game, the junior knocked down three triples in the first four minutes of the contest to spark a lead for SFU. The Flash would go on to lead by as much as eight halfway through the period.

Central Connecticut then went on 23-9 run to take an eight point lead of its own. SFU battled back and after a Bridget Murphy (Bethlehem, N.Y./Bethlehem Central) short jumper with 20 seconds to go, SFU trailed by just three at the break (44-41).

CCSU extended its lead in the second half to 11 at the 7:09 mark and Saint Francis would again have to mount a comeback. SFU did just that and embarked on a 21-6 run over just three minutes of play to regain the lead. The run was sparked by Murphy who notched five straight points.

Lauren Arbogast nailed a three with 20 seconds left in regulation for the Blue Devils to take an 85-84 lead. Alli Williams (Altoona, Pa./Bishop Guilfoyle) got to the free throw line and knocked down 1-2 to tie the game at 85.

Saint Francis capitalized on its free throws in the overtime period and pulled away for good.

74 total fouls were called in the contest, SFU converted on 40-62 free throws, while CCSU notched 27-40.

Saint Francis will return Loretto for the first time in over a month as it takes on Fairleigh Dickinson at 1 p.m. inside DeGol Arena.


Small Keys Road Victory for Women's Basketball Over Cortland, 58-48

Wednesday, February 05, 2014  Player InformationSparks News

 

CORTLAND, N.Y. – In her last eight games, freshman forward Kit Small (Slingerlands, N.Y./Academy of the Holy Names) has established herself as one of the top rookies in the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC), and her performance Tuesday night against SUNY Cortland sent a message to the entire conference that she'll be a force to be reckoned with for years to come.
 
Behind Small's 22-point performance, highlighted by her aggressive pursuit of the basket, the State University of New York at New Paltz women's basketball team avenged an earlier season 13-point loss against the Red Dragons, with a 58-48 gutsy road victory. As has become the norm, Small made her living at the free-throw line, converting on 12-of-15 attempts. Junior guards Ashley Riefenhauser (Dobbs Ferry, N.Y./Dobbs Ferry) and Shannan Walker (Vestal, N.Y./Vestal), came through with clutch three-pointers to augment Small. Walker's was particularly poignant, as she drained a 28-footer from the top of the key with 2:12 to play to help seal the victory.
 
The Hawks improve to 5-15, 3-10 in the SUNYAC, and have now won two of their last three games. Cortland drops to 11-9, 7-6. New Paltz returns to the Hawk Center for its final home games of the season, starting with a 6 p.m. contest against Buffalo State on Friday, Feb. 7. Cortland travels to SUNY Oswego on Saturday, Feb. 8, for a 6 p.m. game.
 
Small, who has averaged 17.1 points per game in her last eight outings, was difficult to contain, equally effective in both halves. With a total team effort, New Paltz reversed a 32-27 halftime deficit into a 41-37 lead that was highlighted by a Rienfenhauser three-pointer and a Hawk defense that held Cortland scoreless for nearly eight minutes early in the session. 
 
The Hawks were down 37-28 after Cortland senior guard Megan Touhey nailed a three-pointer at the 18:08 mark, but went on a nifty 13-0 run for the 41-37 lead and never looked back. Four consecutive points by Small gave New Paltz a 45-40 advantage, and while Cortland got within 45-44 on a layup from senior forward Grace Williamson, New Paltz freshman forward Courtney Irby (Farmingdale, N.Y./Farmingdale) answered with a power layup from the right side for a 47-44 lead. Two subsequent free throws from sophomore guard Christine Rivera (Long Beach, N.Y./Valley Stream) and Walker's deep three-pointer pushed New Paltz ahead 52-46 with 2:14 remaining.
 
In the first half, Williamson was a handful down low, scoring 10 points in the first 5:08 of the game and 14 of Cortland's first 19 points. Sophomore guard Goldie Harrison (Elmont, N.Y./Elmont Memorial) pushed the pace, however, and kept New Paltz within striking distance with her aggressive style of play that earned her a 6-for-8 night from the free-throw line. When Cortland surged ahead 26-20 with 2:22 until intermission, back-to-back baskets by Rienfenhauser and Walker kept the Red Dragons from pulling away.
 
Small finished with 22 points and eight rebounds. Harrison finished with 10 points. Irby had eight rebounds. Cortland's offensive scoring came from Williamson's 19 points.  Junior forward Erin Wolstenholme had 16 rebounds.


Madison Rowland Named ECC Player of the Week

Tuesday, February 04, 2014  Player InformationSparks News

 

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Central Islip, N.Y. - Queens College freshman Madison Rowland was named East Coast Conference Player of the Week, it was announced by the league office on Monday.  This marks the second time this season that Rowland has earned the title.
In a pair of victories on the week, the Cohoes, New York native averaged 30 points per game.  Against Molloy on Wednesday, Rowland scored a game-high 20 points on 6-of-12 shooting.  She also pulled down five rebounds.
In a career high game on Saturday at Bridgeport, the guard posted her first career triple-double with 40 points, 13 rebounds and 11 steals.  All were team-highs.  She continues to lead the nation in steals per game and leads all freshman in scoring.
The Knights return to action on Friday, February 7, when they face Roberts Wesleyan on the road.

Fisher Pushes Winning Streak To Four Games With Win Over Naz

Tuesday, February 04, 2014  Player InformationSparks News

 

The St. John Fisher College women's basketball program pushed its winning streak to four games, as the Cardinals rallied for an 86-68 win at East-Avenue rival Nazareth College on Tuesday night.

With the win, Fisher improves to 12-6 overall and 5-3 in the Empire 8 Conference.

The Cardinals shot 53.8% from the floor and only committed five turnovers in the opening half, but trailed 37-34 at the break, as the Golden Flyers enjoyed a 20-13 advantage on the glass, while grabbing eight offensive boards.

Nazareth led 46-43 with 16:54 left, but the Cardinals went on an 8-0 run and took the lead for good on a jumper from Lauren Allen from the top of the key with 14:33 remaining.

The Golden Flyers trimmed Fisher's lead down to seven at 73-66 with just over three minutes left, but the Cardinals used another 8-0 run to pull away, capped by back-to-back 3-pointers from Claire Walsh in a 22-second span.

Mary Kate Cusack led Fisher with 21 points.  The sophomore shot 7-for-11 from the floor and added five steals.  Portia Velasco tallied 18 points and five assists, while Sydney Bloomstein totaled 16 points and six assists.  Camaryn Buckner posted 13 points, while McKenzie Bezon shot 2-for-3 from 3-point range and finished with eight points.

As a team, Fisher shot 56.8% from the floor, including 8-of-16 from 3-point range.  The Cardinals were also 16-of-18 at the foul line.

Fisher will return to action at 8 p.m. on Friday at Stevens Institute of Technology.