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Rivalry Week: Battle of the Bridge

February 27, 2018 12:00 am Updated: February 27, 2018 12:43 pm

Editor’s Note: This is the second installment in a 5-day series looking at great rivalries in the area.

Catskill and Hudson. Two towns separated by 6 miles, a body of water and a bridge. They’re also well known for producing top notch high school boys basketball teams on a yearly basis.

The closeness in proximity of the two schools certainly helps, but what really makes Hudson-Catskill one of the top local rivalries is the competitive nature of their games and the fact that both teams are consistently at, or near, the top of the Patroon Conference standings.

Catskill got the better of the rivalry when it first entered the Patroon Conference in the late ’70s through the ’80s under legendary coach Jimmie Franco. The Cats went on to enjoy great success in the postseason, as well, winning numerous Section II titles and advancing to two state Class B championship games.

Hudson began to narrow the gap in the ’90s and then won nine of 10 games in the series from the 2004-05 season through 2008-09. After splitting the season series in 2009-10, the Cats won 10 straight over the Bluehawks, while winning five Patroon titles.

In 2014, the series was dubbed The Battle of the Bridge and Hudson ran off four straight wins over the the Cats over the next two years, while also claiming back-to-back conference titles and earning a trip to it’s first-ever state Final Four.

The two teams split this past season’s series, with Catskill eventually regaining the conference title by a game over Hudson.

We recently caught up with some experts to get their takes on what makes the Hudson-Catskill rivalry so compelling:


(Former Catskill player)

“For a very long time, Hudson and Catskill, especially in the Patroon Conference, have pretty much been the best teams. Over the years you’ve had other teams like Maple Hill have nice runs, but over the last 30 years or so, Hudson and Catskill have had the better teams and when you have the two better teams competing against one another it turns into a rivalry.

“We we were young, we didn’t have all this technology going on in those days. Everyone wanted to get outside and when you got outside we went to what we refer to now as ‘Hop-O-Nose University’ because you had the basketball court right in the middle of Hop-O-Nose Apartments and guess what we all did? We played basketball. We had the Boys Club for when the weather was cold and you couldn’t be out there and when he had guys like Junior Jackson and Maurice Lattimore, guys from the community that had basketball leagues and we traveled a little bit.

“In the summertime, you’d have guys come to Catskill from Albany, Poughkeepsie, Hudson and right down there on that basketball court you’d have some really good basketball games, and this happened right from the spring all the way through summer and right until you got back on the court at basketball season.

“I always thought that Hudson, talent-wise and athletic-wise, produced a pretty good product, but for many years some of their best players never set foot on the court. That has been an issue for years that pretty much has been cleaned up from the modified level right up to the varsity level.

“I was a young kid on the modified level when I started paying attention to the rivalry. I picked up on it when you had players like Mark Swain, Darryl Jordan, John Ford, Eric Swain on our side and Hudson had Tyrone (Hedgepeth), Rick Turner, Aaron Harris, James Dempsey and Joe Pazera. I remember Catskill would get the best of that rivalry.

“I remember the one year, though, before they brought Eric Swain up, Hudson beat Catskill over in Hudson. Right after that game, they brought Eric Swain up, who was a freshman at the time, and that made the difference in the rivalry. Catskill became the better team and went on to win Section II championships.

“In the 80s, Catskill pretty much made Glens Falls its home floor because Catskill would always go back and defend that Section II title and that really put Catskill basketball on the map.

“My senior year is when we played against Steve Weathersbe, Jake Walthour, Cleveland Spann, Leon Haney, Vernon Cross. That’s how the rivalry kept going. Hudson kept producing talent, Catskill kept producing talent. And during that area there wasn’t a lot of other teams as good as us. During that era everybody got along pretty good. Although we competed, we respected one another and became friends. Jake Walthour was my rival and now today is one of my best friends. I was in his wedding, he was in my wedding, that type of thing.

“As much success Hudson has had the past few years, Catskill has had that over the past 30 years or more, closer to 40 years. Of the 40 years they’ve been in the league, seems like Catskill has ruled it for 30.

“I don’t get caught up in the hype, though. I like to see them be successful. Of course, I want to see Catskill be No. 1, but when Hudson succeeds like they have the past couple of years, when they’ve done well in sectionals, we’ve went to the games and rooted for them. At the end of the day, although it’s a rivalry and of course I want Catskill to win, I’m not working against Hudson when we’re not playing.”


(Former Hudson player and current Hudson boys basketball coach)

“The Hudson-Catskill rivalry is the best in this area in any sport. The only thing I can compare it to was when I was in high school, the Hudson-Ichabod Crane rivalry for baseball.

“I love that I get to coach my alma mater and that I was part of the rivalry as a player and now as a coach. I feel like I have the best job in the world coaching in Hudson and getting to continue to be a part of the rivalry.

“I think as a coach my most memorable game is beating them in Catskill for the first ever Battle of the Bridge trophy. Our guys wanted that game so bad and I think winning there was the start of that team believing we had something special that year and we made the run to the Final Four.

“I love being a part of the rivalry because it’s not just about the players, but the communities for both schools are the best around and really get behind the teams and it creates such a great atmosphere.”


(Former Daily Mail Sports Editor)

“A good high school basketball rivalry needs to have three important criteria — a common geographical area, great players and of course legendary coaches.

Hudson and Catskill had that and much more. It is without question the most historic of all rivalries in the twin counties.

“Hudson coach Hank Theiss compiled a 327-182 record from 1972-96 and Catskill coach Jim Franco was even more productive, finishing with a 482-184 career mark from 1959-91. Franco would discuss the Hudson rivalry at Catskill Country Club, Couches Corner and in the hallways at Catskill High School. It was always a must-see game.

“Great players, legendary coaches and two communities that are passionate about their respective teams. Hudson-Catskill is the perfect rivalry.”


(Former Hudson player)

“Hudson versus Catskill growing up was like watching an NBA game — it was always different, the atmosphere, the crowd, it was just electrifying and I remember when Trey Morrison got the put-back dunk in Catskill and the crowd went crazy. But Hudson always used to lose to Catskill, including me — my freshman and sophomore years we took losses to them. They had Daniel Green, Pooh Pooh, Justyn Lacy, and a lot more other guys. Catskill coaching was very good and you could tell they wanted it more. Junior year I had enough of the losing and having Hudson fans come out and be excited just to be disappointed.

“This rivalry means a lot to me because it goes back further than I would ever know and understand, but I’m a guy that gives credit when it’s due and when Justyn Lacy hit that half-court shot against us in Hudson, I was speechless because he was killing us and I can honestly say he was the only person I looked forward to playing in our conference.”


(Current Catskill boys basketball coach)

“My two fondest memories of this game: In 2002-03 they beat us in Hudson, 70-63. Isiah Heard had 33. He was a very good, strong, athletic kid. They came to us in mid-January. The gym was packed, exciting atmosphere. Heard steals the ball from us with under 10 seconds and goes coast-to-coast for the go-ahead basket. We call time out, set up our last play for Andy Gonzalez to get to the elbow for game-winner. He drives off screens and three guys close out on him, instead of forcing the shot he dumps it to Maray Mackay for a baseline 8-footer. Ball is in the air when horn goes off — nothing but net. Could not have happened to a better kid, that was a wild one.

“At Hudson in 2010-11, we had a 6-foot-8 kid who never played basketball. He was sort of everyone’s favorite because he worked so hard and was very endearing. We were beating Hudson pretty bad in Hudson so I called Ryan Skinner to go in the game. He pulled down three rebounds and scored an and-one, and hit the free throw. I remember the whole team standing and cheering for him, and him doing so well. That was something I’ll never forget.”


(Former Catskill player and current Catskill girls basketball coach)

“Wow, those were the days. The rivalry is so much different now because of social media — the kids are actually friends and communicate with each other. Back in the ’80s there was an ingrained disdain for each other. My earliest remembrance of the rivalry was 1982 when both teams were powerhouses. I distinctly remember the doors being closed at halftime of the JV game because of a packed gym.

“My most vivid memory as a player who graduated in 1986, was that it was an unwritten rule that we dare not show our face in Hudson or a Hudson player dare not show their face in Catskill. During the winter of ’86 our team snuck into Hudson and went into a club called Park 7. Hudson players got wind we were there and we literally fought them for three or four blocks until we could get back to our cars and retreat to Catskill.

“That year Hudson beat us on our home court which broke our home winning streak — I believe 76 games — causing us to have a playoff at C-GCC for the Patroon title (we beat Hudson at their place). I remember the game was played before sectionals and was scheduled for a Saturday at 6 pm start. Coach Franco had us leave Catskill at 5:55. He told us they won’t start without us. All I can remember is that when we walked into the gym, Hudson was warming up and there were like 8 minutes on the warm-up clock and we were still in our street clothes. I remember walking though the doors and everyone going crazy and feeling the vibrations going through my body. C-GCC was standing room only. We won a 52-50 thriller giving us the Patroon title.

“We ended up 11-1 against Hudson from 7th-12th grade. My senior year, Hudson was much more talented than us, but my crew (myself, Kyle Lyles, Marlon Irvis, Stacey O’Neil) just knew how to play basketball. Hudson had Cleve Spann, Steve Weathersbe (unbelievable talent), Jake Walthour, Dan Grandinetti. I look back and smile on those days as when I see the aforementioned Hudson players who are now personal friends of mine. I don’t hesitate to remind them that we owned them for six years and we let them win one just so we could play on a college floor.”


(Former Hudson player and current Hudson boys basketball assistant coach)

“Catskill and Hudson are only 7 miles apart, one is Greene County, the other is Columbia County and what separates us is the bridge and the water. At the end of the day, though, they’ve always had good players there and we’ve always had good players here. There was a time when Hudson and Catskill weren’t playing each other, we only played each other in the Boys Club Leagues. That’s when the rivalry became strong and very competitive. And Catskill residents hang out in Hudson and Hudson residents hang out in Catskill and some of us were related, too. But when it came to playing basketball, each of us wanted to be king of the mountain.

“Athletic-wise and speed-wise we could compete with them, but if we had someone to match their bigs it would have given us a better opportunity. We never could compete with their size and we were never deep. More than anything else, though, the difference between them and us was their bigs.

“The only thing I can think of is like being at Duke. That was the crowd, that was the atmosphere. If you didn’t get in by halftime of the JV game, you weren’t getting in. It was standing room only. It’s like the town would shut down when Hudson was playing Catskill. Everybody would go to the game. If you didn’t go to the game, you were missing a hell of a show.”


(Current Catskill Athletic Director)

“Simply put, I think the Catskill-Hudson rivalry is the best in Section II and the reason is, first and foremost, the players. You can feel the excitement level building around the school before a Catskill-Hudson game. Secondly, the fans. We are a talking about a high school rivalry that fills college gyms to capacity. When these two teams meet you can throw records out the window and buckle up for a great game.

“As for a favorite memory of mine, I think it would have to be that during our run of five consecutive Patroon titles we went 10-0 vs Hudson in the stretch. Amazing accomplishment.”