By: Tim Birney | | December 13, 2020 | Photo courtesy Tim Birney


BINGHAMTON — With high school gyms closed due to Covid-19 concerns after the New York State Department of Health deemed basketball a high-risk sport, local athlete have very few outlets to work on their game, especially with the recent drop in temperatures making play outdoors more difficult.

However, the Valley-based Southern Tier Hawks have kept the doors open here at the St. Mary’s Rec. Center, and several Valley athletes have taken advantage, participating in weekly workouts (held three times per week) and / or camps. (Click here for details on the “Holiday Camp,” which will be held Dec. 28 through Jan. 1.)

“I think it’s a great thing that the church is allowing us to use the gym,” said Hawks founder Keith Thomas. “We follow all Covid guidelines, and will continue to do so, so these kids can have a place to play.

“Coach (Reggie) Hawkins and coach (Art) Williams are doing a great job with the workshops and camps.

“I think it’s marvelous,” added Thomas. “These kids really have no place else to go. They can’t play high school ball or college ball, but they can all come together here in a safe environment and play.”

Waverly grad Scott Woodring is a freshman at Division II Mansfield, but his collegiate playing days are on hold as the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference canceled the 2020-21 season.

“It’s definitely been a challenge to find court time to help keep my body in shape,” said Woodring. “Getting the chance to play here has been great.”

Waverly senior Ryan Lambert is glad to have a place to play.

“It means a lot to have a gym to use, without this I probably still wouldn’t have been in any gym,” he said. “This is a great opportunity for all of us.”

Waverly freshman Joey Tomasso is appreciative of the Hawks making court time available.

“Keith (Thomas) and Reggie (Hawkins) always find a way to help kids play basketball if they want to play,” he said. “They really do a great job here.”

Tomasso said the Covid-19 pandemic has had a detrimental effect on he and his peers.

“This has been really tough on everyone,” he said. “It’s been physically challenging, too. Not having football, didn’t help me conditioning-wise, so it will be rough walking into practice on the first day of basketball, but getting out here will help a lot.”

Sayre freshman Caprice Haney has more reason than most to be looking for court time as her high school team is not fielding a team in 2020-21 due to low numbers.

“It’s a bummer we won’t be playing this season,” said Haney. “We had an AAU season, but we didn’t get to play in as many tournaments as we usually do because of Corona.

“I am really glad I was able to expose myself to this kind of talent because I haven’t been able to in quite a while,” she added. “It’s a great opportunity, and I hope I can do this on a regular basis.”

Waverly senior Sidney Tomasso is also thankful for the opportunity to get on the court.

“I’m so glad Reggie is doing this,” she said. “I’m so grateful I’m even able to be on the court because I know a lot of people aren’t, with a lot of schools shut down.

“I’m glad I can stay in shape, and get ready for the season,” added Tomasso. “There’s a lot of talent here, too. It definitely makes you work harder.”

Among others on hand were former Susquehanna Valley standout Maeve Donnelly, and Waverly grad and former all-stater Alex Tomasso, who is now a Division I golfer at Merrimack College.

Lambert, who is an assistant coach on the Hawks’ 12U team since its inception nearly a year ago, and Woodring have also stayed busy working with the 12U team.

“I’ve really enjoyed coaching the younger kids. I’ve been working with them for several months,” he said. “It’s cool to see the relationships that have grown.”

“I love working with the younger kids, and teaching the game,” said Woodring. “Teaching younger kids is something I want to do later in life, so this has been a great opportunity.”


About the Author

Tim Birney Author Bio
Tim Birney

Tim Birney is the founder / owner of River Road Media Group. He was born and raised in the Valley, graduating from Waverly High School in 1984.

Birney earned an Associate's Degree in Journalism from SUNY Morrisville in 1986 and a Bachelor's Degree in Journalism / Public Relations from Utica College of Syracuse University in 1988. He began his newspaper career at The Daily Review in Towanda in 1989, before moving on to The Evening Times in 1995. He spent more than 10 years at the Times, the last four as Managing Editor.

River Road Media Group includes Valley Sports Report (launched Aug. 10, 2009), Tioga County (NY) Sports Report (Aug. 13, 2018), and Northern Tier Sports Report (Aug. 31, 2020). Southern Tier Sports Report is set to launch in 2021.