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Tuesday, March 21, 2017: St. Ray's guard Washington named Mr. N.Y. Basketball

   Leading off today: St. Raymond's guard Isaiah Washington has been selected Mr. New York Basketball for 2017 after averaging 26 points and six assists in his senior season.

   The Basketball Coaches Association of New York made the announcement Tuesday.

   Washington is St. Raymond's all-time leading scorer at 1,410 points, including 48- and 54-point performances this season.

   Washington has verbally committed to the University of Minnesota, making him the second consecutive Mr. New York Basketball to head to the Big Ten. Maryland freshman Kevin Huerter earned the top honor in 2016 following his senior season at Shenendehowa.

   Binghamton, version 1.0: I caught 14 of the 15 NYSPHSAA boys basketball tournament games this weekend in Binghamton, missing only the opener -- which was a slight improvement from my typical journeys to Glens Falls, where I usually made it to the arena midway through the second game.

   And that, my friends, is the only comparison I'll make between the two cities following the first year of a three-year contract to play semifinals and finals in Binghamton. I never had more than minor quibbles with Glens Falls, and that's more or less my feeling after my first taste of basketball at Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena.

   And if you throw out that fact that I paid $8 for easily the worst concession-stand "pizza" (?) I've ever tasted, I'd actually characterize my take on Binghamton as positive and admit to being bullish on returning in 2018.

   That's not to say there weren't glitches, as noted yesterday in the Press & Sun-Bulletin's post mortem, but the tournament committee and the broader community can be proud with regard to executing the plan as the first host other than Glens Falls since 1981.

   Indisputably, parking was a problem -- especially on Friday. Parking is always going to be at a premium at a downtown venue during working hours, and getting 2½ feet of snow dumped across Broome County beginning Tuesday robbed the area of even more precious parking spots. Parking was available Friday at NYSEG Stadium, with shuttle service to the Arena.

   "Parking was an issue, even worse with the snow -- not much we could do about that," Ben Nelson, Section 4's Interscholastic Sports Coordinator, told the paper. "Those who took the shuttle seemed to like that. I'm not sure word got out far enough for that. When you send (notification) to the coordinator and the school, it doesn't always get out to everybody."

   Beyond that, hiccups were minor. How harshly can you grade a venue because the PA system cuts out before the last three words of the national anthem before one of the games?

   Presentation was a plus. Fans coming through the main gates were greeted in the lobby by beautiful banners customized for each of the 20 participating schools. Tournament logos adorned the playing floor. Pregames for the finals were snazzy, with players highlighted in spotlights and high-energy PA work.

School banners at Binghamton arena

Floor decals

   "I don't know what we'd change drastically," Nelson said. "The teams seemed to like it, players liked it. We can't control weather and we can't control parking. ... I guess our criteria was, did they have a good time? Everything we're hearing was, they did."

   It's worth noting that attendance was relatively low, even with two Section 4 teams (Class C Moravia and Class D Newfield) reaching the semifinals for the first time since 2009, coming in at 10,531 according to NYSPHSAA Executive Director Robert Zayas. Not since 2012 had fewer than 12,500 attended a tournament in Glens Falls, and last year's figure was 15,488.

   However, the attendance figure comes with an asterisk since Friday was conducted as a single six-game event rather than the traditional a pair of sessions, probably accounting for a difference of 2,000 or more fans. Too, this wasn't the year for high-profile players or intriguing team matchups.

   "I've been doing this for 15 years, 10 in New Mexico and the last five in New York, and there's no better predictor for tournament attendance than matchups," Zayas said. "If you get teams that traditionally travel well, attendance spikes, or if you get local teams. If you get a Double-A team that makes it into the championship and they don't travel well, then attendance is going to reflect that."

   In addition, fans from two schools that do travel well -- Jamesville-DeWitt and Moriah -- were split because their girls teams were competing in Troy. The commute wasn't nearly as difficult when the boys tournament was in Glens Falls.

   On that same topic, splitting the basketball championships weekend between Binghamton and Troy certainly does no favors for print and electronic media trying to cover schools

from their reporting area. Having said that, at least accommodations for media in Binghamton were rock solid -- adequate work space and robust wi-fi service that I believe did not crash for the duration of the tournament.

Arena interior view

    • Final thought: Binghamton is operating on a three-year contract, after which you can bet that Glens Falls and probably at least one other bidder will bring their "A" game to the table. But the bidding/selection process actually takes place in advance of the 2019 tournament, so next March is Binghamton's last chance to make its best impression.

   The consensus among everyone I talked to this weekend is that there may be room to improve but that the new kid on the block did a solid job its first time around. Admittedly, though, a bunch of us are looking forward to the annual trek to Glens Falls, this time for the Federation tournament beginning Friday.

   A dilemma, for sure: The Greenfield (Ind.) Central School District is reviewing a seemingly generous offer -- a $50,000 donation to help replace the turf on the high school football field -- that comes with a string attached.

   Danny Curry, a minister at Park Chapel Christian Church and the spokesperson for five anonymous donors, said the $50K offer is contingent upon the district agreeing to place the phrase "#BLESSTHEWORLD" on the field where there would normally be a corporate sponsor's logo.

   Curry characterizes the request as a "call to action" as opposed to imposition of religious beliefs. Still, the school board is worried about the community response and the potential for lawsuits.

   The school board will discuss the donation at its April meeting. The district has committed $200,000 of taxpayer money to the project and is hoping to raise the remaining $600,000 through donations.

   Spring has sprung: As hard as it may be to imagine in some precincts still feeling the pain of last week's dose of winter, lacrosse season actually begins this week.

   In fact, New York State Sportswriters Association editor and football/basketball/lacrosse guru Neil Kerr points out that Farmingdale is scheduled to open its season today vs. Lynbrook. It will be the debut for new Dalers coach Mike Hungerford, who has graciously agreed to lend us a hand with sorting out weekly Long Island rankings this spring.

   As Kerr notes, Hungerford trails retired Farmingdale coach Bob Hartranft in career victories 708-0. If he averages 20 wins a year, he'll catch one of the all-time greats roughly halfway through the century. Sheeeeesh.

   Calling all helpers: The NYSSWA's Steve Grandin is assembling the 2017 boys all-state basketball team and has put out a final call to media members and league chairmen to participate.

   If you have not already done so, please forward your all-area team, as well as any all-section, all-class or all-league teams to Steve, who is also seeking specific information (height, grade in school, statistics, honors) for leading players in each of the five state classes.

   Reporters are asked to nominate players by class, also ranking players within the class.

   Forward info to Steve via email no later than Tuesday, March 28; if your all-area team has not been published yet, the NYSSWA will keep the picks confidential prior to publication.

   The girls all-state team will be edited by me (John Moriello) this spring. Media members and league chairmen should forward girls info to me via email by April 7.

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