Basketball's back at MCS


By Patsy Nicosia


The squeak of sneakers on a hardwood floor. The soft swish of a ball through the net. The whirring fans and the buzzing lights.
And finally…
Just about the time they’d normally be heading into Sectionals, Middleburgh Central School’s basketballs team are back in the gym.
“It’s been a real emotional roller-coaster,” Coach Gregg Johns said Saturday as players started arriving for his open gym, a little more than 24 hours after the MCS school board gave its OK to winter sports.
“My phone’s just been blowing up…It’s been wild.”
Surprising everyone, on January 22, the state gave high schools the OK for high-risk sports like basketball, leaving it up to local Health Departments to come up with a plan and benchmarks.
A week later, Schoharie County unveiled its requirements; Friday at a special 6am meeting, Middleburgh’s school board OKed the plan. (See related story.)
Cobleskill-Richmondville did the same Monday (see the story in this week's print edition) and Schoharie is expected to consider it at Thursday’s school board meeting.
At MCS, practices began Monday and an abbreviated schedule of games starts the 15th.
“I can’t even say what it feels like to be back here,” said senior Ethan Adams, taking a break from drills.
“I really have no words. I’d pretty much given up. Then when I heard Friday there was going to be an open gym…I thing we all went crazy.”
Adams wasn’t alone in thinking the time for basketball had passed.
He’s one of a handful of players who took up bowling so MCS could at least field a team there.
“So now, they’re going to go from almost no sports to two sports,” Coach Johns said.
“And the baseball season starts in March. Who would have ever believed it? But they’ve been here waiting and they’re ready to go.”
Coach Johns’ son, Andrew, is a senior who’s grown up in the MCS gym.
He’d hoped to score his 1,000th career point in 2021.
“I don’t know if that’s going to happen…I’m just glad to be here with these guys and for the chance to play,” Andrew said Saturday.
“It’s just like we never left. It feels so good.”
While MCS athletes were able to play team soccer at Afrim’s Sports in Colonie, in-school sports have been on hold since the 2020 baseball and softball season after schools went to all-remote.
When kids came back in the fall, no one knew if or how well that would work or when or if sports would return, Coach Johns said.
And it helped all of them realize what’s really important.
“We talk a lot about sports being character-building…About how it’s not about willing, but playing. About resiliency,” said Coach Johns.
“And it turns out, it wasn’t just talk. We’ve had a lot of support from our administration and these kids have just kept going. It’s not about winning Sectionals. It’s about being out here playing. These kids are proof of that.”
Building & Grounds Supervisor Steve Weinhofer was on hand Saturday as well.
MCS already has an extensive cleaning and COVID safety protocol in place, Mr. Weinhofer said, something they’ll be stepping up with the return of sports.
“It’s one more step,” he said.