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St. Regis Falls enjoys that winning feeling

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One of the most dominant Section 10 Class D boys basketball teams this season has been St. Regis Falls.

The Saints, who have not won a division title in 31 years, are off to a 6-0 overall start. St. Regis Falls has played in only one close game this season and has won by a margin of 44.5 points.

The only close game for St. Regis Falls was a 50-47 victory over Chateaugay on Dec. 10, which marked the Saints’ first win against Chateaugay in 26 years.

“The whole perception in the community is changing,” said St. Regis Falls coach Justin Todd, a member of Canton’s 1995 Section 10 overall championship squad. “You see more people coming to games and they are happy. We haven’t had a winning team in a long time.”

The Saints were 8-10 last year and returned most of the players from that squad.

So how did they go from two games under .500 to a team that’s scored more than 80 points three times this season?

“We played 52 games this summer in AAU,” Todd said. “We took two kids from St. Lawrence Central (Sam Ramsdell and Cody Meacham) and we went all over the place. As soon as (last) season ended, (Larries coach) Joey Reyome and I decided it would be something good. We are both smaller programs and if we wanted (an AAU team), we had to combine.”

St. Regis Falls is the smallest school in Section 10 with a high school enrollment of approximately 70 students. The population of the town is about 1,300.

“We have nine players but one is injured so having eight guys makes practice interesting every day,” Todd said. “We have to break down each part of our offense or defense, talk about that, and try to put it all together for games.”

The Saints’ top player has been senior Caleb Green, who leads Section 10 in scoring with a 20.2 average. Brandon Votra, who is 6-foot-4, averages 12.7 points, and Corey LaBounty averages 11.3. Louis Goodrow is close to double figures at 8.7 points.

“Many of the boys (also) played soccer,” Todd said. “A typical day for them would include a weight-room workout with me during the day, soccer practice, then they would head over to (SUNY) Potsdam to play pick-up (basketball) for two hours. They bust their tails every single day in practice and give it everything they’ve got. They know they have to log a lot of minutes.”

NEAR A MILESTONE

Clifton-Fine junior Hunter Hitchman needs just 23 more points to become the first girls basketball player in school history to reach 1,000 points for her career.

Hitchman, who has played on the varsity since her freshman year, will likely reach the milestone Saturday night when the Eagles host West Division rival Harrisville. Clifton-Fine has a game on Friday night at Morristown, but Eagles coach Rich Hitchman, Hunter’s father, said they will make sure she does not reach the mark until Saturday’s game.

“Everybody is very supportive at the school,” Rich Hitchman said. “It’s big for Clifton-Fine to have somebody step out and do this.”

Hitchman has been a big scorer since her freshman year but the Eagles have also improved since then and she no longer has to carry the team by doing nearly all of the scoring.

“She’s the leader of the team, but we have a tremendous forward in (senior) Morgan Skeldon,” Hitchman said.

Hitchman has also begun to draw notice from colleges. According to her father, she’s received about 15 letters from coaches.

MOVIN’ ON UP

The most successful hockey team in NYSPHSAA history has decided to move from Division II up to Division I this season.

Salmon River won six state titles at the Division II level, more than any other school in the state, with the most recent title coming in 2002.

It now joins Massena, with five Division I state titles, and Canton, which has won two Division I titles and two Division II titles, along with Potsdam in Section 10’s Division I.

“If you ask (other) coaches what Salmon River wants to do, we want to play the toughest nonleague schedule we can get,” Shamrocks coach Tim Cook said. “We feel this kind of raises the program to the next level. We feel we could have been competitive (in Division I) for a long time now. We’ve been doing well in Division II, and we enjoyed it.”

The Islanders, a team comprised of players from the former Thousand Islands and Alexandria teams, were in Division I last year, but once Carthage ended a merger agreement for hockey with the team, they opted to move back down to Division II this season.

As for the state playoffs, Cook is not worried that it will be more difficult for Salmon River to win a state title in Division I than it was in Division II.

“I’ve always felt when you get into the top eight, if not the final four teams in the state, most years you can interchange,” Cook said.

Sportswriter Cap Carey covers Northern Athletic Conference sports for the Times. You may reach him at ccarey@wdt.net

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