By Rob Centorani
A self-described perfectionist, Oneonta High's Mariah Ruff certainly has had plenty of time this summer to work on traveling.
She's been to Orlando, Nashville, Tenn., and New Orleans. While some sight-seeing no doubt encompassed those trips, the business end of the excursions centered on basketball.
Ruff, a junior-to-be, earned a spot on the Albany City Rocks, an elite national AAU travel team.
"It's much more physical than the (Southern Tier Athletic Conference)," Ruff said upon her July 26 return from New Orleans. "The girls are so much better. There's a girl who's No. 3 in the nation for the 2013 class. They're really good and everyone is much more athletic, and quicker and stronger.
"It's really beneficial," she continued. "I know what to expect when I get to college. I have to get quicker and become a better shooter. You realize that everybody else's dream is Division I, too _ not just yours."
Yellowjackets coach Matt Miller said feelers for Ruff already have begun to roll in from the likes of St. Bonaventure _ a school that advanced NCAA Division I Sweet 16 this past season _ Binghamton University and Vermont.
"Her name is definitely on a lot of bulletin boards," Miller said of Ruff, The Daily Star's Player of the Year. "There are some great names. I'm really happy for her. I've never seen a kid work as hard at her craft. She's just tireless and wants to be the best she can be. I don't know where she'll end up, but I wouldn't sell her short. She has God-given ability and I fully expect her to get a full scholarship somewhere."
South Kortright coach Josh Burroughs has had no one of Ruff's caliber on his roster, but that hasn't stopped the fifth-year coach from running up a 101-11 record that has included three trips to Class D state final four. Following a 22-1 season that resulted in the Rams' second straight appearance in the Class D state semifinals, Burroughs repeated as The Daily Star's Coach of the Year.
If Ruff, a 5-foot-7 point guard, continues her stellar play, she could become the first Daily Star circulation player to win three straight outright Player of the Year honors (Bainbridge-Guilford graduate Danielle Baldwin shared the honor with Liz McGrail in 1994 before winning outright in 1995 and 1996).
As a sophomore, Ruff led the Yellowjackets in scoring (15.9 points per game), assists (5.2) and steals (3.4). She also finished second on the team in rebounding (6.4) in helping OHS to a 17-5 record that included a Section Four-record fifth straight sectional title.
Along the way, she scored her 1,000th varsity point _ 502 of them coming with Andes, where she played as a seventh- and eighth-grader _ and earned Second Team all-state honors in Class B. She'll head into the 2012-13 season with 1,144 points and she'll no doubt attract plenty of attention from opponents.
Even as a sophomore, she saw combination defenses designed to stop her. Teams tried to take away her strong hand and attempted to keep the ball out of both.
Ruff's multi-layered game had all the answers, though.
"When they're double-teaming me, then the team contributes," Ruff said. "You find the open person as a point guard. Other people step up; it's just me."
What the next two years have in store for Ruff figures to be special. She'll likely be the top returning player in all of Section Four this winter and she'll have some talented pieces around her, including Daily Star First Team selection Kelsey Baker, 6-2 center Natalie Vanderlaan-Meyering and 6-0 Brittney Herrick.
"That's going to be awesome," Ruff said of Oneonta's size and experience, which also includes backcourt mates Dani Nicosia and Hayley Dower. "I have to find the hot hand and give it to them. Plus, everyone is so tall. We're going to get a lot of second chances."
Just what does she bring to the court?
Well, teams are reluctant to press against the Yellowjackets because her ballhandling, athleticism and vision often put OHS in position to attack and score easy baskets.
Opponents have to respect her outside shot, which opens up driving lanes and passing angles for her.
Back off and that smooth jumper might mean three points for OHS.
In transition, she can pull up, dish off or take it strong to the basket with either hand.
Then there's her work defensively. Be it in Oneonta's half-court zones or full-court traps, the mobile Ruff uses her active hands to deflect passes that often turn into offense on the other end.
"A lot of our kids are really good players and she makes them great players," Miller said. "She understands how to get a jump shooter open, she can get into the lane and make a post-player help, which leaves someone open. Every girl on our team would say they love playing with her. Sometimes, she gets too concerned with getting assists, and I have to pull her aside and say, shoot the ball. She's certainly the engine that makes us go."
As for Burroughs, his record really does speak for itself _ and much of it is built around a pressing defense that stifles opponents. Thirteen of the Rams' opponents scored 30 points of fewer in 2011-12.
"Defense is what we preach first and that's what leads to our offense," Burroughs said. "It definitely takes more effort and desire, and it's something we do every day in practice. You have to be in condition to play the full length of the floor and we know it's not going to be a steal or a turnover every possession. We want to force teams to take shots they're not comfortable with."
This past season, he used the talents of post players Robin Ward and Kayla Craft _ both Daily Star First Team selections _ along with eighth-grade guard Tori Rockefeller and Britney Northrop. The Rams rolled through their first 22 games, winning all of them by at least six points, including a 44-38 win over Worcester for their second straight Section Four Class D title.
They followed with a 47-38 victory over Section Three champion Oriskany in a state quarterfinal before falling, 57-44, to Elba in a state semifinal.
Ward, a senior who earned First Team all-state honors, averaged 15.3 points, followed by Craft (a Fifth Team all-state selection) at 12.0, Northrop at 9.8 and Rockefeller at 8.6.
"It goes back to the girls and how hard they work," said Burroughs, who returns starters Craft, Rockefeller and Miquela Hanselman next season. "They play AAU and both summer leagues. They always want to work hard and be competitive. Our JV program won the (Delaware League) crossover, so there's talent coming up again."
Rob Centorani can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 607-432-1000, ext. 209.
DAILY STAR GIRLS BASKETBALL FIRST TEAM ALL-STARS
Jordan Anderson, Unadilla Valley junior
Kelsey Baker, Oneonta junior
Jordan Beers, Franklin sophomore
Carolyn Butler, Walton senior
Kayla Craft, South Kortright junior
Casey Manzanero, Unatego junior
Karli Pochkar, Worcester senior
Shania Vandermark, Bainbridge-Guilford senior
Avalon Ward, Milford senior
Robin Ward, South Kortright senior
DAILY STAR GIRLS BASKETBALL ALL-STARS HISTORY
Players of the Year
Year, Player, Team, PPG
2012, Mariah Ruff, Oneonta, 15.9
2011, Sienna Wisse, Oneonta, 14.6
2010, Sam Meyerhoff, Davenport, 25.2
2009, Madie Harlem, Oneonta, 18.2
2008, Jen Wehner, Cooperstown, 14.7
2007, Stephanie Shellman, Downsville, 17.2
2006, Jessica Laing, S. Kortright, 25.6
2005, Jarrin Hayen, Oneonta, 16.7
2004, Renee Kemmerer, Afton, 20.2
2003, Shannon Weir, Milford, 19.6
2002, Angela Mirabito, Sidney, 24.5
2001-x, Brooke Davis, Stamford, 18.2
2001-x, Ashlei Kenchen, S. Kortright, 18.8
2000, Katie Arnold, Cooperstown, 16.1
1999, Courtney Mattingly, B-G, 24.1
1998-x, Krissy Zeh, Oneonta, 15.3
1998-x, Courtney Mattingly, B-G, 24.7
1997, Krissy Zeh, Oneonta, 15.4
1996, Danielle Baldwin, B-G, 22.0
1995, Danielle Baldwin, B-G, 18.3
1995-x, Liz McGrail, Stamford, 14.2
1994-x, Danielle Baldwin, B-G, 15.4
1994-x, Ellen McGrail, Stamford, 13.2
1993-x, Melinda Knapp, Schenevus, 17.6
1993-x, Cindy Wagner, G-MU, 19.1
1992-x, Jill Kathmann, Delhi, 23.8
1992-x, Jennifer Wright, Davenport, 22.6
1991, Jill Kathmann, Delhi, 22.2
1990, Mieke Veenhof, Gilbertsville, 24.3
1989, Janet Merrill, Walton, 17.8
1988-x, Karen Finn, Cooperstown, 15.2
1988-x, Stacie Kane, Afton, 20.2
1987, Karen Finn, Cooperstown, 16.1
1986, Daphne Joy, Morris, 20.6
1985, Denise McNeilly, Franklin, 33.2
1984, Denise McNeilly, Franklin, N/A
Coaches of the Year
Year, Coach, Team, Record
2012, Josh Burroughs, S. Kortright, 22-1
2011, Josh Burroughs, S. Kortright, 21-2
2010, Bob Zeh, Oneonta High, 20-4
2009, Bob Zeh, Oneonta High, 25-1
2008, Mike Niles, Cooperstown, 25-1
2007, Bob Conway, B-G, 19-3
2006, Harry Nissen, S. Kortright, 25-1
2005, Christine Baldauf, Downsville, 24-3
2004, John Simonds, Afton, 15-10
2003, Bob Conway, B-G, 22-2
2002, Loraine Butcher, Sidney, 26-1
2001, Jim Johnson, G-MU, 17-6
2000, Tom Sherwood, Stamford, 23-1
1999, Bob Conway, B-G, 25-3
1998, Tom Moriarty, Oneonta, 27-0
1997, Tom Moriarty, Oneonta, 26-1
1996, Duane Ely, Roxbury, 18-5
1995, Floyd Bourne, Richfield Spr., 18-4
1994-x, Tom Sherwood, Stamford, 26-1
1994-x, Bob Conway, B-G, 20-3
1993, Tom Sherwood, Stamford, 24-1
1992-x, Ray Preston, Davenport, 22-2
1992-x, Karen Clark, Sidney, 24-3
1991, A.B. Jones, Roxbury, 20-3
1990, Tom Sherwood, Stamford, 21-4
1989, Ray Preston, Davenport, 24-3
1988, Jim Johnson, Gilbertsville, 17-3
1987-x, Doug Fessenden, Sidney, 22-2
1987-x, Ray Preston, Davenport, 21-1
1986, Bob Conway, Mount Upton, 21-1
1985-x, Earl Sussman, Unatego, 24-3
1985-x, Joan Martin, Morris, 22-2
1984, Doug Fessenden, Sidney, 21-4
By Rob Centorani
- Local Sports
OHS falls to Windsor in STAC tiebreaker
ONEONTA _ It turned so quickly. One moment Oneonta High appeared poised to take control in the sixth inning. About 10 minutes later, Windsor had a two-run lead.
Wainright lifts Panthers to T-V title
ONEONTA -- Linton Wainright got it done with his arm for Edmeston on Friday. His feet were pretty good, too.
Edmeston rides 4-hitter to T-V crown
The good news for the Edmeston softball team was a 5-2 victory over Milford in the Tri-Valley League championship game Friday at Oneonta State. The better news? Winning pitcher Catherine Johnson and batterymate Sarah Lawrence have yet to spend one day in high school.
Area Sports Briefs
Jelic leads OHS to 6th-place finish
Oneonta High's Jennifer Jelic earned a pair of runner-up finishes in the hurdles and helped the Yellowjackets' 400-meter relay team to a school record Thursday during the Southern Tier Athletic Conference Track and Field Championships at Union-Endicott.
Local Sports Results
Kelby cruises to title; Meno reaches crossover
Oneonta High junior Emerson Kelby had little trouble winning his second straight Section Four Class B tennis championship, dropping a total of five games over two days of singles play at Owego.
Section Four Tournaments
- Friday, May 17, 2013
Oh what a relief for Stamford
ONEONTA -- Matt Anderson struck out nine in four innings of relief to lead Stamford to a 13-10 victory over Downsville in the Delaware League baseball championship game Thursday at Field 6 in Neahwa Park.
Unatego wins MAC baseball title in seventh
Hits are overrated. No. 9 hitter Tanner Winchester rounded the bases in the bottom of the seventh inning without the aid of a base hit Thursday, leading Unatego to a 5-4 victory over Sidney in the Midstate Athletic Conference 1-4 Tournament baseball championship game at Afton.
Gilboa runs away with first DL softball title
ONEONTA -- There's a first time for everything. Aggressive baserunning and an eight-hit attack led Gilboa to its first Delaware League softball championship as the Wildcats topped Windham, 7-1, on Thursday at Ted Christman Field in Neahwa Park.
Phillips strikes out 14 as Afton returns to top
Welcome back Afton. Four seasons removed from its last Midstate Athletic Conference softball championship, Afton rode a two-hitter from Cassidy Phillips to return to the top of the league with a 3-1 victory over visiting Hancock on Thursday.
Area Sports Briefs
Cooperstown stays perfect in softball
Senior pitcher Nicole Cring struck out five in a three-hitter Thursday, leading the Cooperstown softball team to a 9-1 Center State Conference victory at Sauquoit Valley.
Kids have sparkle in their eyes
When I was in my teens, old Bill Naatz told me about a stream north of Lake George where a man had panned out enough gold to make his wife a wedding band. It was all rumors, but to his grandson and myself, it sounded like the makings of a great adventure.
Thursday's High School Results
Foglia, Kleso win top Hartwick honors
Hartwick College honored junior women's basketball guard Maria Foglia and senior men's swimmer Kenny Kleso as its Athletes of the Year on Wednesday during the Hawks' Athletics Awards Ceremony in Lambros Arena.
- Thursday, May 16, 2013
Milford softball clinches East title
Kaley Chase and Natasha Skillen hit two-run doubles during a seven-run fourth inning that carried visiting Milford to a 10-7 softball victory at Richfield Springs on Wednesday that clinched the Tri-Valley League East Division title for the Wildcats.
- OHS falls to Windsor in STAC tiebreaker