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Thursday, March 5, 2015: Sister Maria Pares won't be rehired

   Leading off today: Sister Maria Pares, 74, a pioneering figure in Western New York women's sports, has been told her contract to coach the Buffalo Sacred Heart girls basketball team will not be renewed for next season.

   Sacred Heart administrators informed Pares on Tuesday, The Buffalo News reported. Pares said the school declined a request that she and assistant Debbie Laux coach one more season and leave on their terms.

   "Sacred Heart wanted me to say I was retiring, but that wasn't the right thing to do," Pares told the paper. "They fired me for reasons I don't know."

   School administrator Jennifer Demert declined to say why Pares was let go after a 49-28 loss to Mount Mercy in the Monsignor Martin Association semifinals.

   "Sister Maria has contributed greatly to Buffalo Academy of the Sacred Heart," Demert said. "She's been with us for five decades, and her dedication and leadership certainly have helped build the basketball program over the years."

   Pares is a member of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame and New York State Basketball Hall of Fame among others. The former Canisius College and Marquette coach is known for a fiery demeanor, earning the nickname "Attila the Nun" from coaches and officials, the newspaper reported.

   "She's the No. 1 all-time high school coach in Buffalo," said Cardinal O'Hara coach Nick O'Neil, whose daughter played for Pares. "She's one of the greatest coaches -- men or women -- in the history of Buffalo sports. She's larger than life."

   Pares was diagnosed with cancer in 2001. She had a mastectomy, but breast cancer recurred four years later and has spread to her liver. Surgery is scheduled Friday to treat cancerous lesions in her ears, the paper reported.

   "I remember seeing her at meetings and thinking she didn't have much time left," said Tapestry Charter School's Fran Snyder, who previously coached at Holy Angels. "Then she's out there the next game, roaring. It's unbelievable."

   Opinion: Burke Catholic (accused of recruiting in basketball), Aquinas (botched the process for restoring eligibility for its injured QB) and Elmira Notre Dame (stripped of a Section 4 soccer title over an eligibility issue) are officially off the hook.

   Sacred Heart has clinched the "honor" of worst blunder of the year in New York private-school sports. Firing Sister Maria Pares? Seriously? What's next, the Vatican retroactively demoting three of the 12 Disciples to understudy status and two others to interns?

   Glens Falls situation: State boys basketball coordinator Bill Higgins said the Glens Falls Civic Center is bringing in a structural engineer to assess the damage to the arena and should have an answer by Monday.

   A portion of a rear outside wall collapsed Tuesday night, causing the arena to be closed indefinitely. Snow and ice on the roof pushed out the lower protective wall on the edge of the roof and caused the bricks to collapse, said Glens Falls City Engineer Steve Gurzler.

   Section 2 scrambled to move its remaining semifinals to new venues this week, with finals now set for Hudson Valley Community College. New York State Public High


  • 2015 NYSPHSAA boys basketball brackets
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  • School Athletic Association is scheduled to hold its semifinals and finals there March 20-22.

       "We'll see what (the engineers) say, and it's going to be strictly up to them," Higgins told The Post-Star. "If they say, 'Go someplace else, you can't use the Civic Center,' we go with that and we start making adjustments. If they say it's OK, then we're in business and that's what we're hoping for."

       If the Civic Center isn't available, the tournament committee doesn't have much in the way of local options aside from two high schools. With Hudson Valley CC in Troy already slated to host the state girls tourney, moving to Siena College or SUNY Albany might have to be considered.

       "To keep (the tournament) in Glens Falls, you could probably put some games in Glens Falls High School and some games at Queensbury," Higgins said. "That makes more sense because all the (hotel) rooms are booked already. You can't ship the kids to Albany from Glens Falls for a game and back. To keep it in Glens Falls that would probably be the best option, but again (we're) still just the talking stage."

       The NYSPHSAA issued a statement Wednesday saying they are monitoring developments.

       The city owns the 36-year-old arena and leases it to Adirondack Civic Center Coalition. It was not immediately clear who will be responsible for paying for repairs.

       Award-winning coach arrested: A Greece cheerleading coach accused of having sexual encounters with a 16-year-old student has been charged with rape, the Democrat and Chronicle reported.

       Teachers aide Christina M. Jewell-Bellucio, 32, was charged with third-degree rape and third-degree criminal sex act, both felonies, for allegedly having sexual contact with the student last June, the paper reported.

       Jewell-Bellucio was hired to coach at Greece Olympia in August 2013. She was named Class A Coach of the Year at the 2014 Section 5 winter cheerleading sectionals.

       Jewell-Bellucio was arraigned in Greece Town Court and released on bail. She is due back in court March 11.

       More later: I'm still catching up on stuff after having the bad judgment to be away from my computer for almost all of Wednesday. I'll be back later today with more news and a few highlights from Wednesday's postseason action.

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