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Saturday, Dec. 15, 2018: Defending Federation champ Stepinac falls to 0-4

   Leading off today: The mighty have fallen ... but don't expect Archbishop Stepinac to dwell in the basement of large-school basketball much longer.

   Despite a roster that includes four returning starters, the defending Federation Class AA champions slipped to 0-4 on Friday after an 85-69 loss to Christ the King in White Plains.

   "I think we got off to a bad start thinking we're better than we are," senior Ed Sanchez told The Journal News after scoring 25 points in the loss. "With what we did last year, we didn't really come out the way we needed to start the season."

   The real issue, though, has been injuries. Sophomore Adrian Griffin Jr., expected to be in the conversation for state player of the year honors, has been out since October because of a stress fracture in his foot and remains iffy for the Slam Dunk Tournament on Dec. 21-22. Junior R.J. Davis and senior Ed Minaya have missed games with back injuries.

   "Once we get that going, we should get rolling soon," said Davis, who had 21 points in the latest loss.

   Ryan Meyers (24 points), Quaran McPherson (23) and Nick Molina (20) dominated the scoring column for Christ the King, which was without injured 6-foot-10 forward Moussa Cisse.

    • Rodney Swain coached Stepinac as Pat Massaroni completed his two-game suspension for his ejection in last week's loss to Monsignor Scanlan.

   Making it count: If you're going to shoot 1-for-13 from the field, you might as well make sure that the one shot that find the bottom of the net matters.

   Kevion Taylor came through with a game-winning 3-pointer with 2.4 seconds left to lift unbeaten Buffalo City Honors over MST Prep at Seneca 56-55, handing the Indians their first loss.

   Jaden Slaughter led the Centaurs with 25 points, including two 3-pointers. Earl Howard led MST Prep at Seneca with 20.

   End of an era: Section 5's tradition of football scheduling based primarily on geographically aligned leagues will end next fall with the football committee's announcement that Federation-style scheduling has been approved.

   The Federation scheduling format, which aligns teams by state classification was approved by a 53-19 vote, the committee announced.

   The next step will be for Section 5 coordinator Scott Barker and the football committee to work on divisional alignments and schedules for the 2019 season.

   In the short term, the process could be complicated by uncertainty over classification cutoff numbers. State football coordinator Gary VanDerzee told me last month that nothing had been ruled out as the committee works through several questions, the biggest of which pertains to the rapidly shrinking Class D as more and more schools convert to eight-man football.

   Teamwork in the MMAA: St. Joseph's has cheerleaders -- nearly two dozen of them, in fact -- for its basketball games for the first time since 1999 thanks to an arrangement with Mount St. Mary than benefits both schools.


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  •    "It's a lot of fun. Everyone is super excited about it and it's a little nerve-wracking cause we haven't done this in so long," MSM student Dani Gugino said. "But we've been working really hard on all of our cheers."

       The partnership pumps new life into the Mount St. Mary cheerleading program, which had slipped to just eight members last winter and was unable to participate in competitions. It came about after Mount St. Mary AD Jim Pernick, a St. Joe's alum, pitched the idea to Marauders counterpart Brian Anken.

       "We have the best fans in WNY. Our Rowdies are unbelievable," Anken said. "We want to try and pack the house every night. Give people a reason to come out and see the new (game day) product and what we're trying to do. When we received a call from Mount that they wanted to come out and cheer, it was a no-brainer to me because I wanted as many people out to be a part of this as we could get."

       Dipping into the H.S. ranks: This isn't New York-related, but folks who follow top-notch high school football will probably be interested to hear that the University of Maryland has hired a new running backs coach.

       Hyattsville (Md.) DeMatha Catholic head coach Elijah Brooks, who led the Stags to four championships in his eight seasons, accepted the offer this week just ahead of the early signing period for Division I programs. For the uninitiated, DeMatha is still known as a basketball school but has routinely produced major-college football prospects for decades; 10 alums were on the Maryland roster alone this fall.

       Brooks will be Maryland's main recruiter for the conference DeMatha plays in, which is no small consideration for new head coach Mike Locksley. Two current DeMatha seniors have offers from Maryland, but DeMarcco Hellams is committed to Alabama and Nick Cross has picked Florida State. If Brooks flips even one of them between now and Wednesday, it would be a big win for the Terps.

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