The top sports story of the 2017-18 school year in Section II was authored by Glens Falls junior Joseph Girard III over a 23-game stretch from early December through late February.
It was an amazing stretch, one full of scoring binges and records that fell by the wayside.
“You can do whatever you want. You can throw the kitchen sink at him,” Schalmont head coach Greg Loiacono said of defending Girard III, a three-time member of The Daily Gazette All-Area first team. “The kid’s going to pull up from half court, and you can’t do anything about it. He’s a great player and gets all the attention for a reason. He deserves everything.”
Girard III averaged 50 points a game and became the state's all-time scoring leader in a display of talent, determination and consistency. He piled up 1,149 points in those 23 games which came on 179 3-point baskets, 181 2-point field goals, and 250 free throws.
"We thought if he scored 35, 40 a game we'd be successful, but 50, that's crazy," Glens Falls coach Rob Girard said of his second cousin, who pushed his career points total to 3,306. "It's freakish, and I mean that in a good way."
Girard twice scored 60 points in a game and had other outings with 59, 58, 57, 56, 54 and 50 four times in leading the rebuilt Indians to the sectional semifinals and a 20-3 record. Along the way he passed Jimmer Fredette on the all-time Glens Falls scoring list, Kobe Lufkin of Argyle on the all-time Section II scoring list, and Lance Stephenson of Abraham Lincoln (2004-09, 2,946) on the all-time New York scoring chart.
"He was bigger and stronger," Rob Girard said. "He worked all through the spring and summer. He didn't take days off."
Girard III averaged 36.4 points as a sophomore when he led the 24-1 Indians to the Section II Class B title. The basketball and football star scored 910 points that season before topping the 1,000-point plateau during his junior campaign. His low for the season was 41.
Girard III was named the All-USA Today Player of the Year for New York and recently was invited to try out for the national 18-under team. Twenty five Division I colleges made offers to the shooting guard, and Saturday he narrowed his choice down to Syracuse, Duke, Penn State, Boston College, Michigan and Notre Dame.
Here's a few more noteworthy sports stories from the 2017-18 school year in Section II.
Running for Team USA, Saratoga Springs junior Kelsey Chmiel got out fast and never surrendered the lead in winning the women's junior division race at the Great Edinburgh International XCountry Challenge at Holyrood Park in Scotland.
Chmiel, one of six Americans in the 19-and-under 4-kilometer race, ran a 14:10.00. Team Great Britain and Team Europe also had contingents in the January 13 event.
"Incredible," said Linda Kranick, co-coach of the Saratoga girls' cross country team with her husband, Art. "She was determined and focused. She took it out, took the lead 400 meters into the race, and never looked back
Saratoga never had a runner compete abroad before. Prior to that victory, Chmiel was selected the top cross country runner in her class for the third year in a row by the New York State Sportswriters Association.
TAKING A KNEE
A national debate became local when several members of the Niskayuna football team and a cheerleader took a knee for the National Anthem prior to the Silver Warriors' Sept. 28 game against Guilderland to protest racial injustice. The silent protest was discussed beforehand as a team, including with head coach Brian Grastorf.
"If they have the proper why and they feel that’s what they want to do, they know that — 100 percent — I've got their back,” Grastorf said afterward.
Not every team member participated, and the demonstration sparked heated debate on social media, just as it had when NFL players' protests that season.
Section II never had a football team win back-to-back championships in the state tournament until Cambridge topped Maple Grove 26-14 on Nov. 24 to defend its Class D crown at the Carrier Dome. Two days later, Troy beat Lancaster in the Class AA title game for its second consecutive New York title, and Section II-best fourth championship in the tournament's 25-year history.
Joey Ward's 26-yard touchdown run to finish off Troy's win was No. 1 on ESPN SportsCenter's Top 10 plays that day. The senior eluded six would-be tacklers in scoring his fourth touchdown. He ran for three of those TDs as part of a 38-carry, 227-yard performance.
Troy beat Victor for the 2016 Class AA title 21-20, and Cambridge beat Maple Grove for the 2016 Class D flag 22-21 in overtime.
SO MUCH PRIDE
Holy Trinity had never won more than five football games in a season or had a playoff win before its amazing fall that ended one victory shy of a state Class C championship.
Holy Trinity (11-2), a mix of players from Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons and Catholic Central, earned a share of the Class C North Division title before topping Voorheesville, Chatham, Stillwater, Ogdensburg Free Academy and John S. Burke Catholic in postseason play to extend its win streak to 10 games. Holy Trinity's season ended with a 28-25 loss to Skaneateles at the Carrier Dome.
Holy Trinity sophomore quarterback Joe Tortello blew away the Section II touchdown pass record with 39 of them, including 22 in the Prides's six playoff games. Josh Nethaway of Fonda-Fultonville had held the Section II record since 2008, when he threw 30 TD passes.
Tucker Gifford pulled off a rare double last winter by coaching both the varsity boys' and girls' basketball teams at Broadalbin-Perth.
It was common for Gifford to lead one of the teams through a practice session and coach the other in a game afterward. On Dec. 28 Gifford coached two Christmas tournament games, his boys beating Hudson Falls at Mekeel Christian Academy after his girls lost to Simsbury at Mayfield.
"Don't get me wrong," Gifford had said. "It's exhausting, but it's something I want to do. I'm 99 percent sure I'll do it again."
Gifford began coaching the boys' team in 2004 and took over the girls' team when Mike Magliocca stepped aside.
The Mekeel Christian Academy boys' basketball team amped up its defense and rebounding like never before, and accomplished something it never had before with a state Class B championship.
The Lions (25-4) put together an eight-game postseason win streak before bowing to Fannie Lou Hamer 74-62 in the Federation tournament title game . Prior to that they beat Regis in a Federation semifinal, Seton Catholic, Briarcliff and Canton in the New York State Public High School Athletic Association tourney, and Schalmot, Watervliet, Bishop Gibbons and Johnstown in the Section II tourney.
"This [loss] will fade away pretty fast," Mekeel coach Bowman said after Fannie Lou Hamer beat the Lions on March 25. "The things they did before will live forever."
No Mekeel team in any sport had won a state title before the Lions' fantastic run. Mekeel won its only other Section II boys' hoop title in 2007 when it was known as Schenectady Christian School.
With a new cast of lead characters, Saratoga Springs secured its 17th straight Section II girls' gymnastics team championship, and its 24th going back to 1981.
Freshmen Ava Dallas and Sophia Damiano, a pair of team newcomers, were first and second in the all-around scoring. Dallas became the Blue Streaks' 10th all-around champ in 11 years.
The sectional team triumph also gave coach Deb Smarro 12 of them.
Ichabod Crane senior Calista Phippen turned in one of the best seasons ever by a Section II softball pitcher in leading the Riders to their second state title in four years and earning her second straight Gatorade New York Player of the Year award.
Over 148 innings, the Marist-bound righty struck out 357, walked 17 and gave up 23 hits, two earned runs and five runs in all. She hurled seven no-hitters to boost her four-year total to 15, and authored a pair of perfect games.
Phippins' last no-hitter came in a 5-0 state Class B semifinal win over Olean when she fanned 20. She spun a one-hitter and struck out 13 when the Riders beat Susquehanna Valley 2-0 for the state championship.
SCOTTIES ENJOY BIG YEAR
Ballston Spa may be among the smaller Suburban Council schools, but the Scotties played big, especially in the spring when they won their first Section II boys' lacrosse championship and second Section II softball title in three years. The Scotties also made their first appearance in a Section II baseball final since 1973.
The girls' soccer team recorded its first winning season (9-7) in seven years, Tyler Barnes, Jake Cook and Jacob Stangle repeated as Section II wrestling champions (Barnes was a state runner-up), and Faith DeMars and Tim Dwyer both won Section II steeplechase titles and advanced to the state meet.
On Feb. 2, the NYSPHSAA Executive Committee approved a baseball run rule, or mercy rule, and let each of the state's 11 sections decide if and how they wanted to use it. The Section II Athletic Council approved the rule for the regular season and gave each of its eight league's the option to employ it or not. At the varsity level, the Adirondack League, Central Hudson Valley League, Wasaren League and Western Athletic Conference chose to use it.
Section II's Athletic Council determined the mercy rule would be in place for the Section II BASEBALL tournament. The NYSPHSAA Executive Committee determined the mercy rule would be used for all regional and state final four games.
Under the rule, a game ends with a run differential of 10 runs after 5 innings, or 4 1/2 innings if the home team is winning. The rule was approved as a two-year pilot, or on a trial basis.
In response to the foul weather that plagued the spring season, the NYSPHSAA on April 19 waved a rule that prohibits school teams from playing and/or practicing in seven consecutive days.