Leading off today:
A couple of high-powered business entities are lending a hand as Buffalo Public Schools administrators work on improving their athletic programs
as part of a plan to boost academic performance.
The Buffalo News reported Tuesday that Pegula Sports and Entertainment, the parent company of Buffalo Bills and Sabres owners Terry and Kim Pegula, and ADPRO Sports, which produces custom uniforms, have stepped up to help in a variety of ways, including mentoring students and assisting the district to better train coaches.
"It isn't just helping the student athletes, but it's helping the coaches coach," said Ron Raccuia, president of ADPRO Sports, "teaching them how to be better coaches, better mentors, better leaders."
The Pegulas and ADPRO reached out to school administrators when they learned of the district's plan to upgrade its athletics, said David Mauricio, chief of strategic alignment and innovation for Buffalo Public Schools.
"They are all in," said Superintendent Kriner Cash.
The district is preparing a grant application to the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation that would pay for a facilities study, with an eye toward asking the foundation for an even larger sum to improve a dozen athletic fields as well as a fieldhouse.
The district is looking to add sports such as lacrosse and crew and also boost the number of assistant coaches. Officials also propose providing small shuttle buses at each high school to transport athletes to and from practices for sports in which schools field combined teams.
Shaking up the rankings: There are four new No. 1 teams in our statewide boys basketball rankings following a handful of upsets as well as the usual tough scheduling that many top programs endure.
On Saturday alone there were two No. 1's knocked off by schools from a higher classification in the Brooklyn Bridge Holiday Classic.
Boys & Girls senior David Petit Homme hit the game-winning 15-foot jumper as time expired as the Kangaroos earned a 51-50 victory over Brooklyn Law and Tech, top-rated in Class A. Homme had missed a front end of a one-on-one with 20 seconds left, leading to Law and Tech senior Larry Moreno (33 points) hitting two free throws with :06.7 remaining to give the Jets a one-point lead.
LaSalle Academy, No. 1 in Class B, fell to Bedford Academy 61-58 as the winners' Wahaad Johnson scored all 21 of his points after halftime. Korey Williams scored 26 for LaSalle, which had its 23-game winning streak ended.
The four new No. 1 teams this week are Mount Vernon (Class AA), Canisius (A), Westhill (B) and Lake George (C). The full set of ratings is posted on our rankings site along with the regional ratings for New York City and Long Island.
Catching up on reading: There were a couple of good features written recently that I've been meaning to mention here:
• Tucker Gifford is coaching both boys and girls basketball this season at Broadalbin-Perth, where he is also a physical education teacher.
Gifford had been coaching the boys for more than a decade. Knowing over the summer that Mike Magliocca wasn't returning over the summer, he pitched the double-duties idea to AD Matt Ehrenreich.
"The first thing that comes to mind is, 'He's got to be crazy,'" Ehrenreich told The Daily Gazette. "No one else could fit this situation."
Said Gifford: "I enjoy it. I'm in the gym. It's my life."
Gifford, 40, also coaches boys and girls cross country in