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Tuesday, Dec. 26, 2017: Buffalo Public Schools sports get big-names boost

   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

the fall and boys and girls track in the spring, but that's relatively simple since teams in those sports routinely practice and compete alongside each other. Basketball is a different animal.

   "I knew it would be seven days a week non-stop, but I was willing to do that," said Gifford, the married father of two daughters.

    • Tom Winiecki was recently named the Bob Sheppard High School PA Announcer of the Year by the National Association of Sports Public Address Announcers in recognition of 37 years of service calling games at Fayetteville-Manlius.

    • The award is named for the legendary New York Yankees PA announcer and is meant to recognize those who grasp all aspects of the responsibility, from the national anthem to player introductions to passing along details on scoring plays and penalties in the games. It may like easy to some, but it's not a "let's just wing it" kind of job if you're serious about being good.

   "Bob Sheppard once said that a PA announcer is not a cheerleader, or a circus barker, or a home town screecher. He's a reporter," said Brad Rumble, executive director of the NASPAA.

   Said Winiecki: "Every once in a while, someone will go out of their way and say, 'You do a nice job.' And I appreciate that. That's all I need. It's nice when I get that. But it's even nicer when they don't even notice me.

   "I'm not the show. I'm part of the production -- putting the game together -- but I'm not the show. That's the coach. That's the players. That's the cheerleaders."

   Winiecki scripts everything he does during a game, at least the things he can control. And he is mindful that less can be more.

   "My fear is that someone will turn around and say, 'Will you just shut up so I can watch the game,'" he said.

   Extra points: Kim Condon, who started coaching JV girls soccer at Canandaigua in 1987 before moving up to the varsity in 1995, has resigned. Jackie Corbett, a 2011 graduate of the school and a former player under Condon, will be the new coach.

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