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THE SPORTS REPORTS: CORNING'S JOHNSTON JR. HEADLINES BAKER'S DOZEN AS 2023-24 'COACH OF THE YEAR;' TWO BRADFORD COUNTY COACHES MAKE THE LIST (2024-07-08)

The Sports Reports
Three-sport coaches are, for the most part, a think of the past, but Corning’s Mike Johnston Jr. is a throwback, and a very successful one at that. He guided his teams to a state title, and a pair of Section IV championship game appearances. He is The Sports Reports’ 2023-24 All-Region “Coach of the Year.

The Corning softball team was ranked 23rd in the state when the postseason began, but ran through the competition, including a no-hitter in the Section IV finals, to win the first-ever New York State Class 3A crown.

Despite dealing with a number of injuries throughout the football season, Johnston Jr. led the Hawks to some standout moments.

Corning had a regular season win over Section IV champ Elmira, and took two state finalists — Maine-Endwell and Christian Brothers Academy — to the wire.

The Hawks fell to CBA, 49-40, on a late score. Christian Brothers only had one other game all year in which they won by 10 points or less as they went 14-0 and won the state title. Christian Brothers won the state championship game by 13 points.

Against Maine-Endwell the Hawks came down to a two-point try at the buzzer, falling 43-42. Maine-Endwell reached the state final, where they fell to Rye. No other team all season scores more than 28 points against the Spartans, as the Hawks put up 14 more points than anyone else on the year.

During boys’ basketball season the Hawks had a young team, led by an eighth-grader and a group of newcomers, but advanced to the Section IV finals.

The 2023-24 All-Region Baker’s Dozen Coaches of the Year:
Mike Johnston Jr., Corning, softball, football, boys’ basketball:
See above.

Jason Miller, Waverly football: In his 21st season, Miller finally brought home a state title to his alma mater.

The Wolverines finished 13-1 on the season (the most wins in a single season in school history) — their only loss coming to Class D state champ Tioga in overtime — and played its best football in the postseason, beating perennial power Chenango Forks in the Section IV, Class C championship game for the second year in a row.

The Wolverines averaged 44.4 points per game in their five postseason games, and beat their three foes in the state playoffs by an average of 45.7 to 11.3.

Kris Harrington, Tioga wrestling: Harrington has taken Tioga wrestling to new heights, including two more state titles this season. The Tigers have now won five consecutive Section IV Duals titles, and three straight State Duals title. They are currently riding a 41-match win streak.

Tioga has also won seven straight Section IV, Division 2 Championships, and five straight team title at the New York State Championships.

This year, Tioga sent 10 wrestlers to States, and all 10 brought home medals — one state champ, three runners-up, three third-place finishers, two fourth-place finishers, and a sixth-place finisher.

Nick Aiello, Tioga football: It seems a bit odd that a coach coming off his third straight title would be an honorable mention, but Tioga’s Nick Aiello is kind of a victim of his own success.

Tioga went 14-0, is currently riding a 41-game win streak, and only had one game decided by less than 28 points — a 23-17 overtime win over Waverly.
 The Tigers outscored their five postseason opponents by an average of 60 to 13.

Aiello now has 11 Section IV titles, four state titles, and a career record of 136-23 in 14 seasons. He has a 28-2 record in Section IV playoffs, and a 19-7 mark in the state playoffs.

Rusty Virkler, Owego bowling and flag football: On the lanes, the River Hawks went 10-0, claiming 48 of a possible 52 points in the process, to win their third straight STAC Central championship. They were the STAC, Section IV Class B and Section IV State Qualifier runner-up.

On the gridiron, the River Hawks dominated 14 of their 16 opponents en route to a 16-1 record, falling in the NYSPHSAA Division 2 semifinals. On average, Owego outscored its opponents, 33.6 to 5.8, and only three teams scored in double digits.

Pam Quinlan, Candor, Volleyball: Quinlan the Coyotes to the NYSPHSAA Class D semifinals, where they fell to eventual champion Chautauqua Lake in a five-set marathon. Candor went 16-3 overall and was undefeated in the IAC Small School division.

Curtis Miller, Troy cross-country, girls’ basketball:
Miller had a busy year as varsity coach for two sports and an assistant for a third.

He led the boys’ cross-country team to a District 4 runner-up finish and state appearance, while in the winter he led the girls’ basketball team to its first league title since the mid-1990s. In the spring, he coached third base for the title winning Troy baseball team.

Lyle Wesneski, Troy/Canton, baseball, wrestling: This winter, Wesneski led Canton wrestling to a top-six performance at the District 4 Duals, had three state qualifiers, and one state medalist in Hudson Ward. In the spring, he led Troy baseball to its first league title in a generation.

Lou Judson, Waverly boys basketball:  Judson directed the Wolverines to an 18-4 record, and the program’s first Section IV title since 1996.

The Wolverines also won the Valley Christmas Tournament, and did not lose a game to a Class B opponent until the state playoffs. Waverly's only losses came to Class AA Binghamton, Class A Owego and Seton Catholic, and Class B state runner-up Marcellus.

Laurel (Neira) Evans, Owego girls soccer: Evans guided the River Hawks to a 15-2 record and a berth in the state playoffs. Owego upset top-seeded M-E in the Section IV Class A championship game before falling to eventual state champ Rye in the state tournament.

Abbey Manning, Owego volleyball: The River Hawks went 16-3 and won the STAC championship, then upset M-E for the Section IV Class A title. Owego bowed out of the state tournament with a regional loss to state semifinalist Byram Hills.

Will Condon, Corning boys’ bowling:
Condon piloted the Hawks to the first state title in program history, as they defeated last year’s state champion, Elmira, in the state qualifier to earn the trip to States.

Andy Scott, Horseheads girls’ basketball: Scott led the Blue Raiders to the STAC title and the Section 4, Class AA title, only the second time in school history the Blue Raiders won both titles.


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