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Top 10 high school sports stories for 2013

So many high schools and sports in Section III. So many possibilities and memories. We’ve said goodbye to 2013, but not without one more look at one reporter’s look at the Top Ten stories in high schools sports.

10. The emergence of SRC Arena – The opening of the new arena at Onondaga Community College provided a new home for indoor track and the Section III wrestling championships, but it really shined during the basketball sectionals. Great setting, ample parking, big crowds and terrific basketball spread over two gymnasiums made everyone forget Manley Field House and established SRC as a go-to venue for high schools sports.

9. Phoenix wrestling – Nick Tighe of Phoenix wrapped up his remarkable career as a three-time state wrestling champion. Tighe – who head coach Gene Mills called the “Tiggy Monster” – won at 138 pounds and was named the state tournament’s most outstanding wrestler.

8, Cazenovia – The Lakers boys lacrosse team won their second Class C state title in three years.  All-CNY Co-Player of the Year Connor Cannizzaro scored four goals – including the game-winner – in his team’s 13-11 win over Bronxville. It took everything for Caz just to get out of Section III and into the playoffs. It was validation for the outstanding depth and quality of Class C locally last spring.

7. Jordan Evans – One of the most accomplished lacrosse players to come through Section III ended his career at Jamesville-DeWitt. While the Red Rams stumbled in the Class B title game, Evans came back from injury to score 81 goals and assist on 99 others in his senior season. He finished his J-D career with close to 400 total points. Evans was named the No. 1 recruit in the nation by Inside Lacrosse Magazine and awarded the treasured No. 22 jersey with his new team at Syracuse University.

6. Legal games – The F-M boys hockey team was disqualified from the Section III playoffs for playing too many regular season games. The school district appealed the decision in state supreme court and lost. Westhill senior baseball player J.C. Pena went to court to fight Section III, which said his eligibility had expired. Pena won his case in state supreme court. He batted .452, earned All-CNY honors and helped the Warriors reach the Class B sectional championship game.

5. Fayetteville-Manlius Track – The great Nick Ryan capped his brilliant career by winning state indoor titles (1,600 meters) and state outdoor titles (3,200) in 2013. The juggernaut girls cross country team won another state title. The boys cross country team won a state title as well. The girls saw their incredible run of seven consecutive national titles end in December as the Hornets finished second at the Nike championships in Oregon.

4. Baldwinsville – The baseball team won Baldwinsville’s first ever state title in a team sport for boys. The girls volleyball team won the state title this fall. Football player Tyler Rouse, the New York Gatorade Player of the Year, got a last-second scholarship from Boston College in February, then scored his first touchdown in the Los Angeles Coliseum against USC this past fall.

3. Mike Messere and West Genesee – In the same year Messere was finally inducted into the national high school hall of fame, the legendary boys lacrosse coach led the Wildcats to an unexpected Section III title. They weren’t done and fought their way into the state championship game.

2. CBA – The Brothers won more state championship than anyone locally. The school’s ice hockey team (which joins forces with Jamesville-DeWitt) had a storybook playoff run that culminated with their Division II title. The girls lacrosse team won the Class B championship. And the tennis doubles team of Matt and Colin Nardella, despite ruffling a few feathers by choosing to play together instead of singles, won a state title at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow.

1. Cicero-North Syracuse – Big school. Big storylines. Sydney O’Hara and the softball team mowed down everyone in winning the state softball championship. And it came a year after all the drama that ultimately cost long-time coach Kerry Bennett his job. The girls soccer team reached the state semifinals and the girls lacrosse team made an unexpected charge to the Section III championship game in the Carrier Dome after shocking West Genesee. The boys ice hockey team spent most of last winter ranked No. 1 in the state. And the girls basketball team – minus a certain someone – returned to the state tournament semifinals. That certain someone was C-NS graduate Breanna Stewart, who led UConn to the NCAA Division I national title as a freshman where she was named MVP of the Final Four. Then there was the theatre around the troubled football team. Embattled coach Steve Ellis finally stepped down after the school district’s decision to pay him $20,000 (discovered through a FOIL request by The Post-Standard and Syracuse.com) as part of a settlement.

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