Sunday, March 14, 2010

What is running up the score?

I've tackled this topic before, yet feel compelled to answer some pretty serious allegations by ESPN's Rick Reilly. In his most recent column, Reilly essentially called for a suspension of the boys' basketball coach at Yates High School in Houston because his team beats its opponents too badly.


Now, the scores of some of the games on Yates' schedule are much more lopsided than you are accustomed to seeing. Coach Greg Wise led his team to its second consecutive Class 4A state championship Saturday with a 92-73 victory over Lancaster, ending a streak of 15 consecutive games with at least 100 points. This included a 170-35 rout of Lee High School in January and 154-39 throttling of Davis later in that same month.

Coach Wise, in various articles I've seen, doesn't apologize for this. He teaches his players, all 15 of of them, to trap on defense and push the pace on offense, no matter the score. He feels if he asks his bottom five players on the court at the end of one of these uneven matchups to stop pressing, or stop shooting, he's not treating them fairly as their coach. I agree with him.

Never mind that Reilly accused Coach Wise of inciting a riot when Yates defeated Booker T. Washington High School 132-68 on Feb. 20. There was a scuffle in the parking lot outside the gymnasium after the game, and Reilly reported shots were fired. For this, he blames the margin of victory.

Really? So in addition to mentoring his players, Coach Wise is responsible for the behavior of his fans and fans of the other team AFTER the game? As someone so quaintly pointed out, was it the fault of Maryland coach Gary Williams when some students at his school were arrested during rioting following the Terrapins' upset of Duke? Of course not. Reilly is way off the mark here.

So, for the final time, here is my view of "running up the score:" there is no such thing. If Yates can hold a team scoreless while putting up 150 points of its own, go for it. The duty lies with the other team to put up the effort to keep the margin closer. If this isn't possible, don't play the game. Forfeit. Would that help the morale of the players on the opposing team, to realize they are so bad they can't even be on the same court with Yates? I doubt it.

As some of you know, my local high school, Richmond Senior High in Rockingham, N.C., has a wonderful football program, one of the top ones in the state. A few years ago, I attended the homecoming game against Pinecrest High School, at the time a perennial doormat. The score at halftime was 59-0, and in an effort to keep the score down, the second half featured a continuously running clock. Not only that, Richmond completely stopped trying to score, choosing to run basic plays up the middle with his third- and fourth-stringers, all so no one for Pinecrest would be offended.

Was this fair to those Richmond players who might have seen their most extensive playing time of the season in this game? Of course not. Sure, there is a fine line between embarrassing an opponent and simply doing your best -- I would never advocate a fake punt in this scenario, but passing certainly should be allowed -- but to shut down completely does a greater disservice to the other team.

A friend of mine had a family member playing for Pinecrest that night, and he mentioned to me how proud this young man was that he and his teammates held Richmond scoreless in the second half. Really? He needed a running clock and an obvious surrender by the Richmond coaching staff to feel proud? That's pretty sad. I would think he would feel better if he would have made a tackle against somebody actually trying to score, not someone simply going through the motions to get the game over as quickly as possible.

So here's to Coach Wise and his Yates team. Congratulations on winning another state championship and putting up some amazing numbers along the way. And shame on Rick Reilly for wrongly making Coach Wise the bad guy. The only one filling that role in this scenario is Mr. Reilly.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

This is the day I've been dreading

All my "System" teams are done. Those of you who make a point to read these ramblings (hello? anyone there?) might have wondered why I haven't given an update on Whitmore Lake (Mich.) High School. As you know, the Trojans played Tri-County Conference foe Clinton in the Class C District Semifinals this past Wednesday.

Well, I put it off as long as I could: Coach Dave Arnold and his team lost 101-88, ending their season at 14-7. It was a tight one throughout, with Whitmore Lake taking a 70-69 lead into the fourth quarter, but Clinton opened the final period with a 10-2 spurt to take control. Nate Dreslinksi had 10 of his 12 points in the fourth for Clinton, and teammates Rick Smith and Nic Greenwood added 26 and 24, respectively.

For the Trojans, Colt "The" Judge led the way with 25 points and made three 3-pointers to lead four players in double figures. Alex Cattley had 13, Jacob Clinansmith scored 12 and Jake Kerrigan added 10 for Whitmore Lake, which finished 31-for-88 from the field, including 19-for-60 from beyond the arc.

So the season is over for Coach Arnold's team, and what a run it was. Here are some final stats to ponder: the Trojans set a school record with 356 3-pointers in 1225 attempts (an average of 58 in 21 games) while scoring 88.9 points per game. The Judge led the way with 22.5 points a game and made 87 treys for the season, while Cattley was the other player averaging in double figures with 16.1.

Whitmore Lake set a state record with 29 3s in a single game during its 117-80 victory over Morenci on Jan. 21, finishing 29-for-78. Austin Cattley had eight of them.

Congrats to everyone at Whitmore Lake on its success this season, and I wish them all the best in the future.

Now, as for the blog, not sure where I go from here. This pretty much has turned into an update for teams running "The System," simply the most exciting style of basketball known to mankind. With all the teams I followed now done, not sure what this might turn into. Perhaps I'll take a long break, or find something else to tickle my fancy.

Either way, another basketball season, with more running, shooting, pressing and subbing, is only eight months away!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

ONU falls in championship game

Erin Hanneman had 10 of her 26 points during a late 12-2 spurt for Saint Xavier, helping the Cougars pull away to a 103-96 victory over Olivet Nazarene in the final of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament Saturday. Saint Xavier, ranked No. 2 in the latest NAIA poll, secured the league's automatic bid to the national tournament, which begins March 17. Angie Bush matched her career high with 33 points for the Cougars (29-1).

This was the sixth championship in the 10-year history of the women's basketball program at Saint Xavier, but it was a tight one from the start. The game featured 13 lead changes and 13 ties, the final one coming at 82 on two free throws by ONU's Danielle Tolbert with 6:32 remaining in the game.

That's when Hanneman took over. All five of her baskets over the next 4 minutes were layups, and Bush added a jumper during the run that gave the Cougars a 94-84 lead with 2:15 left. The Tigers (16-17) got as close as 98-92 when Lisa Beyer converted 1-of-2 at the free throw line with 53 seconds on the clock, but Saint Xavier held on from there.

So the season ends for coach Doug Porter's ONU squad, and what a run it was down the stretch. A two-game losing streak back around the start of Feburary left his team with a record of 9-15, including 1-3 in the CCAC. But as so often happens with "The System," the completion of the schedule brought amazing results. Seven victories in the last nine games and a stirring run to third place in the final conference standings, during which ONU averaged 112.2 points.

In the final, Tolbert led the way with 18 points, and Danielle Pipal filled up her stat sheet with 16 points, seven assists and five steals before fouling out. Holly Wiersema scored 12 and Jaimie Buckman 11 for the Tigers. Buckman and Simone Coburn both made the all-conference team.

All in all, the future looks pretty bright for Coach Porter. Of the 14 players who played in the final -- each got at least 5 minutes of run, and no one got more than 21 -- only McCall Kitchel (2 points) completed her eligibility. And in the final, 82 of the 96 points came from either a freshman or a sophomore. The missing 12 points came from juniors Coburn (nine) and Beyer (three). You never can tell what will happen from year to year, but I would imagine Coach Porter feels good about where his program is.

I'll miss following ONU, and thanks to them for a wonderful season.

For those keeping track, that leaves only one "System" team left playing, officially: the boys' high school team at Whitmore Lake (Mich.), coached by Dave Arnold. I'm still hoping Glenville State receives a bid to the NCAA Division II women's tournament when the bracket is announced Sunday at 9 p.m. EST. It might be a long shot, but I'm an eternal optimist.

By the way, Whitmore Lake plays Tri-County Conference rival Clinton on Wednesday in the district tournament, so the best of luck to the Trojans. I'll keep you updated.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Way to go, Olivet Nazarene!

Simply an amazing game for the women's team at Olivet Nazarene on Thursday night. Jaimie Buckman made a go-ahead 3-pointer with 25 seconds remaining to cap a furious rally down the stretch, lifting the Tigers past the University of St. Francis 76-72 in the semifinals of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference. ONU (16-16) reeled off the final 11 points in the final 2:19 advance to the championship game for the sixth time in the past 11 years.

Here's how it went down:

First of all, the second-seeded Fighting Saints (17-13) decided to hold the ball to slow the pace, forcing the Tigers to cover the whole court while trapping. The strategy worked to perfection in the first half, which ended with St. Francis ahead 38-28. ONU was held to 29 shots in the opening 20 minutes, making nine of them, and the Saints turned the ball over only 12 times. Everything was going wrong for coach Doug Porter's team, so adjustments were made at the break.

No, Coach Porter didn't back off the pressure, he increased it. No, he didn't advise his team to play slower, he told them to play faster. And he didn't back down, even when St. Francis still led by 11 at 51-40 midway through the second half. The pace, the pressure and the sheer will of ONU finally started taking its toll, and the margin slowly began shrinking.

It was only three points after a 3 from Lisa Beyer with 9:10 remaining in the game, but the Tigers simply couldn't any closer. Finally, with the score 72-65 and 2:19 showing on the clock, the momentum changed for good.

First, Simone Coburn got inside for a layup to make it 72-67, and following a steal by Danielle Tolbert, Coburn scored again to cut the margin to three. Anna Sears missed two free throws on the other end and Danielle Pipal found Coburn one more time for another layup. That made it 72-71 with 33 seconds on the clock.

Jacqie Storm turned it over for St. Francis, her third of the final sequence, and ONU had a chance to take the lead. Pipal, the playmaker, passed the ball to Buckman near the top of the key, and her 3 found the bottom of the net for the Tigers' first lead since it was 3-2.

This time, the Saints got the ball across halfcourt, but Jen Andes missed a heavily contested shot from in close, and Buckman corralled the rebound. She quickly was fouled and made both free throws for the final margin.

Wow, what a game. As you can expect, ONU dominated the stat sheet in the second half, finishing 19-for-49 from the field and 7-for-20 on 3-pointers to make the comeback happen. St. Francis had 24 turnovers after halftime, as well, which led to many easy points. Essentially, "The System" took over, and Coach Porter showed his experience and savvy to let it happen.

Buckman led the way with 19 points and Pipal added 16 points, five assists and five steals for the Tigers, who will play at St. Xavier in the title game Saturday. The Cougars (28-1), who won the regular season championship and currently are ranked No. 2 in the NAIA poll, moved on by beating Robert Morris 78-55. ONU held its own against St. Xavier during the regular season, losing 85-82 at home and 113-97 on the road. Game time is 2 p.m. EST, and I wish there was some way to follow the action.

Oh, well. I'll have to rely on the box score after the game is over, and hope everything goes well for Coach Porter and the Tigers.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Glenville State bows out of WVIAC tourney

Tori Hansen had 26 points and nine assists, Laura Malernee added 23 points and West Liberty held Glenville State to only seven 3-pointers in a 96-79 victory in the quarterfinals of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament Wednesday night. The game was played at the Charleston (W.Va.) Civic Center.

Not sure if this means the season is over for the Pioneers, coached by Bunky Harkleroad, but if it is, what a wonderful ride.

WVIAC Player of the Year Donita Adams was her usual electrifying self, going for 26 points for Glenville State, and Kristen Golden had 16. But the team that is going to set an NCAA Division III women's record for most 3s per game -- 14.1 -- finished 7-for-18 from beyond the arc. The Pioneers also averaged 45.9 attempts from downtown during the season, so it's easy to see West Liberty (21-8) did something to shut down this part of the offense.

Still, an impressive start to the Coach Harkleroad era, as he finishes his first season 18-10, including a fourth-place finish in the WVIAC. Remember, Glenville State was 9-19 a year ago, so quite a turnaround. With a year of "The System" now in the books, I would expect we'll see the success continue in 2010-11.

There I go, talking as if the season is over. I don't know for sure, so let's keep our fingers crossed. Perhaps there's an at-large bid out there for the Pioneers.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ho-hum, another ONU romp

Not sure what coach Doug Porter has been telling his women's team at Olivet Nazarene, but he needs to bottle it. The Tigers made quick work of Holy Cross 134-67 in the quarterfinals of the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference tournament Tuesday night. That makes ONU (15-16) a perfect 3-0 against the Saints (5-26) this season, with the average score 128-64. Yikes.

Coach Porter's team put up some huge numbers in this latest victory, pretty much across the board. Six players reached double figures, led by Lexie Heinold with 21 points, all on 3-pointers. She was joined by Holly Wiersema (20 points, six 3s), Rachel Kearney (17), Simone Coburn (15), Jaimie Buckman (14, four 3s) and Nikki Dier (10). Guards Danielle Pipal (14 assists, eight steals) and Lisa Beyer (eight assists) helped out, too, as the Tigers finished with 35 assists on 46 baskets. Overall, they were 46-for-112 from the field, 24-for-76 from beyond the arc, and finished with 34 steals.

Believe it or not, the game actually was close for a good part of the first half; when Tanesha Vanardo made a 3 with 7:32 remaining until halftime, Holy Cross trailed only 40-30. ONU ripped a 17-0 spurt in about three and a half minutes to pull away, and the margin only got worse from there.

The Tigers move on to the semifinals of the CCAC tourney, traveling to the University of Saint Francis on Thursday night. We wish them the best of luck.

In high school "System" play, the Whitmore Lake (Mich.) boys' team saw its 10-game winning streak end -- and the Tri-County Conference regular season title go bye-bye -- with a 92-83 loss to Clinton. Remember, the Trojans had given Clinton its only conference loss earlier in the season, so this game decided the championship.

Clinton appeared to have been just a little too strong. Nic Greenwood had 36 points and Nate Dreslinkski added 34, good enough to allow both of them to set personal bests. Whitmore Lake (14-6, 11-3) didn't shoot the ball with its normal accuracy, finishing 11-for-57 on 3-pointers and 30-for-87 overall. Colton "The" Judge (my own nickname) led the way with 19 points, Alex Cattley had 18 and Tim Avey scored 14 for the Trojans, who appear to be done with the regular season until facing Clinton again the district tournament. That's next Wednesday at Clinton, and I'll let you know if the schedule I have is incorrect.

Meanwhile, go Trojans.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Congrats to Glenville State College

The women's team at Glenville State College, coached by Bunky Harkleroad, rolled on to the quarterfinals of the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference tournament with a 119-86 victory over Alderson-Broaddus on Monday night. And, yep, the Pioneers were part of a couple of tourney records in the opener: the 205 combined points were the most in the history of the event, as were the shots (100) and 3-point attempts (49) by Glenville State.

Coach Harkleroad's squad, seeded fourth, improved to 18-9 and will face No. 5 seed West Liberty (19-8) on Wednesday night at 8:30 p.m. at the Charleston (W.Va.) Civic Center. The winner of that game likely plays regular-season champ West Virginia Wesleyan in the semifinals Friday.

Newly crowned WVIAC Player of the Year Donita Adams scored 19 of her 25 points in the first half and Kristen Golden went off with 35 points, making 15 of 21 shots. Beth Deren added 15, Kim Stephens had 13 and Suzi Harvey finished with 11 to give Glenville State five players in double figures. Point guard Miranda Reed filled up her stat sheet with nine assists and six steals.

Alderson-Broaddus LLC (sorry, I couldn't resist, it's actually not a limited liability corporation) turned it over 38 times to finish the season at 7-20.

Good luck to Coach Harkleroad and his team Wednesday night; I'll keep you posted.