GOSHEN — You might have more success filling out your March Madness bracket this year than predicting the outcomes of the Class A girls basketball playoffs. Okay, that may be a stretch, but there's still plenty of contenders in the mix.
Last season, FDR flipped the bracket on its head, winning the Class A title as a five seed. This time out, Goshen holds the same distinction. Do the fifth-seeded Gladiators have the same ability to crash the party? If they do, a large part of that will be due to Madison Clark.
The sophomore forward represents both the present and the future of girls basketball in Section 9. Playing alongside star guard Erin Smith, Clark has not only thrived as a viable passing outlet and sharpshooter. She's set an example to everyone around her on how to keep a high grade point average while excelling on the court.
“They see a girl who's killing it in the classroom and killing it on the court,” Smith said.
Smith, who became Goshen's all-time leading scorer this season, feels confident that after she graduates this year, the team will be in good hands with Clark. But first, there is one more postseason to complete.
It will be a Herculean task to simply reach the Class A finals. On Monday, Goshen travels to No. 4 Red Hook to face a team that caused a few problems for the Gladiators in the first game of the season. Goshen won, but not before erasing a 19-1 deficit. Then, if Goshen can skate by Red Hook, there's Cornwall, the top seed and presumptive favorite heading into the playoffs. On the other side, there's No. 2 seed FDR and No. 3 Warwick. Simply put, the field is stacked this year.
“We have our work cut out for us,” said Goshen head coach Eric Harris.
Clark is used to balancing a lot of work, maintaining a 97 average in between two hour practices and lifting weights. She started on varsity in eighth grade, and has seen incremental changes in her game through the years.
“My shot has improved,” Clark said, “which makes me a threat.”
A captain, Clark has learned to be more vocal, saying, “I think it gets easier, because I was always shy.” During games, though, she'll hardly show it, playing above her age and height to score against the league's best.
Smith admits she'd be struggling this season if it weren't for Clark. Harris said Clark's knowledge of the plays they run really stands out.
“She knows all of our sets,” Harris said. “All of our stuff that we run. I think that's an impressive thing for a sophomore.”
The secret, Clark said, to being one of the most well-rounded young athletes in the section, is, “I learned I can be serious and try to play hard while also having fun.” The next week will only be fun for one of the seven teams participating in the Class A tournament.
Starting Monday at Red Hook, Goshen is hoping to bust some brackets.