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Girmindl's Ghost

A diary of Shaker High School's 2005-2006 basketball season, a retelling of Shaker's fabled 1979-1980 season, and general commentary on high school hoops, updated daily...

"I like sitting in the back row. I found that sitting against the wall is just easier on your back." -Dean Smith, on the comfort of the H-gym bleachers

Game Recap: 1/3/06

Game Recap: Away vs. Nisky, 1/3/06

Executive Summary: Shaker 53, Niskayuna 51. But it really wasn't that close. For the first 29.5 minutes, Shaker wasn't flawless, but they did play like the best team in the Suburban Council. Brad was tough inside, Griffin was an absolute monster on the offensive boards, Duclos played another stellar game, Eddie Cross calmy drained his jumpers, and Matt Bodgan showed why he's getting more minutes, and why he's a fan favorite. The ball movement was excellent, the defense was excellent, and the shooting was excellent. Shaker led 26-22 at the half and was up 52-43 with 2:27 to play, when Nisky went on a 9-1 run thanks to three 3-pointers. Shaker also looked shaky against the full court press. But the Blue Bison held on and got a much needed victory. Maybe Friday they'll be able to find that elusive blowout they've been looking for. Final score: Shaker 53, Niskayuna 51. TU box score here. Shaker moves to 7-3 (5-1 Suburban Council). Next game: 1/6/06 at Saratoga.

Full Report, Dancin' days are here again: Arrived at Niskayuna around 7:15 for a 7:30 tip off, my wife decked in a red sweater but claiming she'd root for Shaker. Just as I thought I recalled yesterday, Nisky does indeed have a crappy little gym, although it's not quite as small as I remember. Stopped to chat with Ed Dopp and some of the early arriving Shaker 6th men, and we took our seats in the visiting section, across from the Shaker bench. Immediately, I noticed a few interesting things about the Nisky gym, which I dubbed the anti H-gym 5 minutes after observing it. Mostly it's the same, but if you look at the details it's nothing like H-gym:

1) It's small, but seemingly designed to be loud: There are probably 8 or 10 rows of bleachers on each side of the gym, and it's one of those places where the front row of the bleachers is only about 4 feet from the court, so there's barely enough room to walk. And it filled up pretty good - the crowd was significantly smaller than the crowd at a Shaker home game, but that still filled up the belachers 80% of the way. And my god is that place loud. Even before the game it's loud. The sound just magnifies in there. I knew before the tip it was going to be an intense crowd - Shaker had a decent 6th man, there were quite a few Nisky students there, and the gym seemed custom built for loud cheering. Bleachers on top of the court. Check. Tiny Room. Check. Full House. Check. Low Ceiling. Check.

2) Um, how come their crappy sound system works?: They have the same "close encounters of the third kind"-style sound system that Shaker has - that white ball hanging from the center of the ceiling. But mysteriously, you could hear the PA announcer. Even over loud cheering, you could make out what he was saying. Of course, the announcer took it a bit too far when he went with the Chicago Bulls-style name calling upon introducing the Nisky squad. But still, it was nice.

3) Nice scoreboards: Nothing fancy, but what's this? You can see the total team fouls and the number of the player who just commmitted the most recent foul? Of course, you're not that desperate for the information when the sound system works. But still.

4) Ugh. I was afraid of this. They have the banner up: People forget, but Niskayuna won the Class AA (that was the second largest class back then, Shaker was in AAA) state title in basketball in 1978. And so of course they have a monster banner celebrating the accomplishment on the wall behind the far basket."Niskayuna Silver Warriors, Class AA New York State Champions, 1978," with an outline of New York under it. I think I'm going to throw up. Looking up there and seeing it is like kicking Girmindl's Ghost in the stomach (read the essay here). We should have almost the identical banner hanging in H-gym - change two digits of the year from "78" to "80" and the class from "AA" to "AAA" and that'd be it. But we don't. Damn. I hate that Nisky banner. The thing must be 8 feet by 14 feet. Ugh. And no, I'm not jealous.

As the players came out to warm up, I surveyed the scene. Wow, Nisky is small. And my god, the Halayko kid looks like a slightly taller, slightly beefier Bogdan. It's comical how much they look alike. Hillarious. Shaker looks loose as usual - Duclos is laughing it up with Brad and Vernon. The crowd looks pumped - the 6th man is about 20 strong + the cheerleaders and the JV team. The Niksy student section looks pretty full. This should be good.

1st Quarter

Shaker started Sheehan, E. Cross, Hans, Duclos, and Griff. Brad won the tip, the teams traded misses, and then Shaker got the first two baskets on a post move by Brad and a offensive board by Griff. Nisky answered with a 3-pointer, which set off an explosion in the Nisky student section. Wow, this place is loud. And wait, was that an air horn? Yes, it was. It seems that level-5 cheering, or at least one sign of it, exists at Nisky. This should be good. Shaker is playing really well, though. Hans took a charge in the lane, Brad and E. Cross got two more easy baskets, and all of a sudden it was 8-3. Timeout Nisky. Yes, they've come to play tonight. Wooo! Nisky put in a hoop, Vernon Cross hits a shot, Nisky scores, and then Brad ends the quarter with two hoops in a row, including a beautiful alley-oop pass from Duclos off a set play. 14-7 at the quarter. Looked pretty good. The 6th man is active with the standards: De-fense! and S-H-S make routine appearances. You can't do that! is used appropriately. They even whip out "boink" a few times.

Four big things I saw in the 1st quarter:

1) Shaker is just killing Niskayuna on the boards: Nisky is getting one shot only each trip, but Shaker is muscling many offensive rebounds. Griff especially. Just a monster on the offensive glass tonight.

2) Turnovers are still annoyingly high: Yesterday, I promised I would count the turnovers. I did. There were five in the first quarter: 4 bad passes and a traveling violation. The bad passes are so frustrating, and they are everywhere: in the backcourt, in the front court, in transition. Ugh.

3) The ball movement is very good: They are moving the ball around crisply. Everyone is getting touches. They look to Brad inside, but they also are hitting people on curls in the lane when Brad is doubled. It looks good.

4) The referees are refusing to blow the whistle: There was only 1 fould called in the 1st quarter - the charge that Hans took. One foul? Are they kidding? I'll admit, it was a pretty clean game - Nisky refused to go inside - but still. Late in the 1st, Dare got absolutely hammered in the lane going in for a layup. Nothing. Must have been clean. Unreal.

2nd Quarter

Nisky goes on a 7-0 run to start the second quarter. Damn. And the turnovers continue. Nisky puts on a trap press, and Shaker looks tentative in breaking it. Brad dribbles one off his foot in the backcourt and is noticeably frustrated with himself. Still, they maintain their composure. Duclos gets to the line and makes one to stem the run, and then Griff gets an amazing offensive board, is killed on the putback by at least two guys, and still no call. Wow. Moments later, Duclos executes a great interior pass to Griff, who nearly puts it in as he's fouled. He makes both at the line. The teams trade baskets, and then Hans hits a three, Brad gets two easy post moves to drop, and Duclos puts in a runner. 26-22 Shaker at the half, losing the secondd quarter 12-15 because of the 7-0 run.

Second quarter notes:

1) Still no whistles: Nisky was called for 3 fouls in the 2nd, Shaker just 2. Amazing. I feel like the warden in Shawshank as I'm pontificating during the half: Lordy, it's a miracle, it's the cleanest basketball game in the history of high school hoops! I can't decide if the no-calls work for or against Shaker - it definitely allows more physical play inside, but it also allows Nisky to harrass our guards and press more aggressively, which is a probelm because....

2) The turnovers continue: five more big ones in the second quarter, 2 during the 7-0 run. Two dribbles off the foot and three errant passes. Ugh.

3) Bodgan and the 6th man: For whatever reason, Matt Bodgan is clearly the 6th man's favorite bench player. Maybe he's their favorite player overall. He came in with 2:37 to go in the half, and the 6th man immediately went crazy. Chants of "Boooggg-Daaaaan" and "Let's go Bog-dan!" started, as well as individal catcalls: Show him the D, Boggs! and Get in your stance! were heard. And, in a great hollywooding move, Bogdan got in his stance as the ball was about to inbounded near the 6th man section and made the slightest nod of recognition to the crowd. Subtle enough that he could deny it if Holmes got on his case, but I'm pretty sure he was letting them all know that he could hear them. Awesome.

Shaker's scoring looked like this at the break:

Brad 5 0 10
Duc 2 0 4
EC 1 0 2
Grif 2 2 6
VC 1 0 2
Hans 1 0 3 (one three)

Tot 10 3 26 (one three)

I thought Shaker looked very good in the first half, except for the turnovers. The 7-0 run by Nisky was the only reason they didn't have a decent lead. But a very good effort overall. They are a better team than Nisky, and they looked like it in the first half. It was one of those games where you felt like Nisky was struggling to hang on, and Shaker could blow them out of the gym at any moment. The second unit - Schaller, Fallon, Dare, Bodgan, Vernon - played well when they were in there together, which was promising. Halftime notes:

1) Um, Niskayuna cheerleading needs a mention: First, they almost drop a girl on her head during a gymnastics routine. Then they bust into a PG-13 R-rated dance routine that would have looked more at home in a rock rap video. Yikes. Not that the 6th man was complaining. But come on.

2) No Twix?: Who ever heard of a concession stand in the United States that doesn't sell Twix bars. Silly. I had to settle for a Snickers. And yes, the Nisky concession is in the modern economy. One dollar.

3rd Quarter

With the exception of the turnovers (4 more), this was a really nice quarter for the Bison. Things just clicked on both ends of the floor. They started shaky, having to take a timeout after not being able to inbound the ball, but they quickly put it together. Eddie Cross put together his nicest quarter of the season, droping a few short jumpers. Duclos followed his missesd shot and got an easy putback, and all of a sudden it was 32-24 with 5:15 left in the quarter and you could feel Shaker pulling away. During a Nisky timeout, SJC and I decided this was the moment: here was their opportunity to bury a good team, if they could just go on a run here. And they did. Brad put on a great baseline move in the post, Bodgan hit a jumper from the line, and then Eddie Cross nailed an old school 17-foot bank shot from the right wing. You could almost hear him call glass! as it went up. The 6th man was out of control, and the Nisky crowd was basically silent. Bogdan had a sweet feed to Dare for an easy two, and all of a sudden it was 42-30 with 1:28 to go. Our blowout was at hand. Nisky got a chippy basket to end the quarter, 42-32, and the 6th man howled with satisfaction as the buzzer rang. Nice quarter.

4th Quarter

The 4th quarter began with more of the same. Griffin got a steal in the lane and got the ball upcourt to Duclos, who was fouled. He made both shots. Strangely, the announcer seemd to have taken in Duclos as his own: every mention would be an enormous, Jordan-style, DUUUUUUUUclos. Wierd. Also note that Shaker still had 2 team fouls at this point - not for the half, for the entire game. The Nisky coach must be ripping his hair out this morning over that one. The teams traded hoops, and then Brad got a nifty pass into Griffin for an easy bucket. 48-34 Shaker, 5:48 to go. That was the high water mark. Nisky responded with a three pointer, and then Brad hit from the post. 50-37, 4:50 to go.

Then Nisky turned up the pressure, both with full court press and tighter guard defense in the frontcourt. They got a hoop, Shaker missed, another Nisky hoop, a bad pass for a Shaker turnover, and another Nisky hoop. All of a sudden it's 50-43 with about 3 minutes to go. Griffin is fouled dribbling the ball up court, and Shaker is finally in the bonus. But he misses the first shot. The crowd is really loud now. I mean, loud. And every single Shaker fan is thinking the same thing. Averill Park, Lasalle, Magin. Not again. Oh god, not again.

Hans shuts the crowd up with a steal, and again Griff is fouled on the floor. But again he misses the front end. Ugh. Nisky misses a shot and Griff pulls a great rebound and is fouled, again. This time, though, the Nisky crowd thinks the call is bullshit and lets the refs know directly. This was particularly enjoyable because we got to watch the Nisky administration pull a Shaker and silence their own student section. Hillarious to watch. It was this one big dude who sat near the Nisky bench, he would just make a "cut it" signal by pulling his hand across his neck, and they would all shut up. It was amazing crowd control. Really. Finally, finally, Griff makes both his fould shots (Shaker is now in the double bonus). 52-43 Shaker, 2:37 to go. I actually relaxed for a minute. We've got this one now.

Now, after the game, alot of spectators blamed what happened over the final 2:37 on Shaker not being able to break the Nisky press. I agree that was a problem, but it was more of a problem earlier in the second half. In the last 2:37, Shaker only turned the ball over once, and it was in the front court, not against the press. In fact, Shaker didn't play that badly in the last 2:37. Instead, Nisky's shooters came to life:

Immediately after Griff's foul shots, Nisky got a 3-pointer to make it 52-46. Shaker easily broke the press this time, but Eddie Cross double-dribbled in the front court, and he knew it the instant he threw the ball down the second time. He just started walking down the court. Not a good moment, because it sent the Nisky crowd into a frenzy, as loud as it had been all game...until they nailed another 3-pointer 15 seconds later to make it 52-49. Now I can't hear myself think. As soon as I could hear myself think, I was thinking about two things: the Averill Park game and the Columbia game. Please don't give Zampier Nisky another look from 3. Eddie Cross was fouled, and I calmed down. If we just make the foul shots, this game is over. Eddie made 1 of 2, 53-49. Under a minute to go. Nisky misses their shot, but gets one of their only offensive boards of the game and the putback goes in. 53-51, 28 seconds to go. I can't possibly describe to you how loud it was in that gym. What a nightmare. Shaker breaks the pressure and gets the ball to Griff near the hoop, who is absolutely clobbered as he shoots, but no foul is called. Nisky ball. F%$#. They bring it up with 16 seconds to go, the place going nuts. But for the first time in weeks, Shaker gets a break. They miss. Duclos is there for the rebound and is fouled with just two seconds on the clock. Whew. But Tom misses both shots, and then the following sequence happens:

The rebound comes almost back to the foul line. Tom and Brad both go up for it, but it's tipped around up in the air. A Nisky player finally grabs it, takes three dribbles to halfcourt, and then launches a desperation 3-pointer. See the problem? There were only two seconds on the clock, which should have started running as soon as the ball was first tipped. God knows when it actually started running, but I would estimate that closer to 5 seconds went by before the shot was taken, maybe 7 until the buzzer sounded. All of this is academic, except that...

...the goddamn halfcourt shot rimmed out of the basket. My lord. If that shot had gone in, it would have been mass chaos - to the point of probable physical altercations - in the Nisky gym. As it was, Brad was livid. And I don't blame him. Five days after maybe getting jobbed down at the Armory because of a late start to the clock, it's not easy to let something like this go. He never got heated, but Holmes had to yank him away from lecturing the referee after the game, using the "don't worry, it's over," method. But you can be sure if that last shot had gone in, Holmes would have been leading the charge to kill the timekeeper. It was that bad.

But whatever. It didn't matter. They won. Here is the partial boxscore, discussion below:

NameFGFTFTAFT %3-PtPoints
Matt Bogdan100--02
Eddie Cross41250%09
Vernon Cross100--02
Ryan Dare100--02
Tom Duclos33650%09
John Hans000--13
Griff McLoughlin24667%08
Brad Sheehan9010%018


Shaker 14121611 53

Four major things to mention:

1) This was a quality win: With a capital Q. Shaker played well and beat a good team. Sure, the last two minutes were hairy, but good teams like Nisky don't just fold. There's not a whole lot you can do about the late 3's - they were tough shots, and we have to give the Nisky kids credit for making them. A huge win, as it gets them back on track in a situation in which a loss would have been just devastating. The ship has been righted. Still...

2) Pressure is the way to beat Shaker: This seems clear enough. Our half-court set can basically score on anyone. We have good ball movement, we have a range of options for scoring, a tough-as-nails rebounder in Griff, and a deadly go-to guy in Brad. Once they get setup in the halfcourt, they are comfortable and they execute quite well. It really is a pleasure to watch them work in the half-court set.

They aren't nearly as good in a fast-paced, transition-laden game. They turn the ball over a lot moving it up the court, and they always look shaky breaking pressure. And I'm not sure why. They have two press-breaks: generally, they have Griff take the ball out, John waits in the right corner. Brad stands at center court, and Tom and Eddie stand at midcourt on the sidelines. Griff has three options: get the ball into John, get it to Brad flashing toward him, or get it in to Eddie or Tom near midcourt on the sideline.

Usually, they get it into John, who looks to either get it back to Griff who can get it to Brad, or just take it himself. If Brad gets it, he looks for Eddie or Tom moving upcourt. This seems like a reasonable press break. But they also get themselves into a lot of trouble. Their other press break is for a tighter press, and involves starting in a four-across at the close foul line. They screen and just try to get the ball in. I thought they should have tried one or two longballs last night, just to loosen up the Nisky press a bit. They kept getting stuck racing to get over the timeline, out of control.

In most every game I've been to this year, Shaker has been least effective when they were strongly pressured. This was true against Guilderland, Columbia, AP, and Nisky. The teams that didn't pressure them strongly - CBA and Magin - were much less able to disrupt the offense. All this is related to a somewhat different issue...

3) The transition game is pretty shaky: They don't get a lot of fast-break baskets. Part of this is because they are so good in the half-court set, so they don't look for breaks. When they get a defensive rebound, they try to slow things down, get the ball to John, and walk it up the court. But they also miss a lot of opportunities - either when they could be running and they don't, or when they try to run and they turn it over. Every once in a while they'll get an easy one in transition, and I'll sit there wondering why can't they do that more often. I say all this because I think it would really help the press breaking if they saw it as part of their offensive attack, instead of simply them trying to get the ball over halfcourt so they can run their offense. God knows they have the athletes - Duclos and VC in particular - to play fast break basketball. But mostly I think it might give them a mindset that transformed their press break from a stress to a opportunity. I dunno. Anyway, no reason to harp on the negatives, because...

4) This team is coming together: And in a major way. EC and Duclos have really found their game in the last week or so, and the bench players are contributing more than ever. Dare has been solid all year, but getting quality minutes from Bogdan, Fallon, and Schaller looks like it might help a lot. Griff and Brad are solid as ever. I do wish that VC and Hooks would get more time - it puzzles me how sparingly they have been used, particularly Hooks. But overall, both the offensive and defensive units look very cohesive and solid.

Here's a second account of the game, from Joe Bianchino:
I just have a couple things to mention: first, Shaker's problem with closing games probably isn't a mental thing, it's just an inability to handle the press combined with their predisposition for turnovers.

Second, Brad owns the paint - no school should bring the ball anywhere neare there, because its not getting to the hoop.

Finally, Bogdan is my hero. Real coming out party for him last night. Solid defense like always, but he added great floor vision, a nice shot, and that one play on the break where he jumps up, saves it, and in the air passes to the trailing Dare for the easy two, that was just gold.

Overall, a good job bouncing back. Not the prettiest last 3 minutes ever, but they got the job done.
I agree. I guess the one thing I forgot that Joe brings up is the Brad factor in the paint. I didn't count his blocks last night - I would guess about 6 - but it really is the phantom blocks that make the difference. At least 5 or 6 times last night I watched Nisky players take absurd shots on what would be relatively easy hoops, because they were scared Brad was going to swat it. And then there's the ultra-phantom blocks - Nisky almost never went inside by design last night, and it really hurt them because their shooters were cold for 3 quarters. Well done, Brad.

Summary and notes

Pray there's never a fire in the Nisky gym, because there's only one door out of there and it took like 10 minutes to get everyone throuhg it last night after the game ended...I like Coach Holmes' move to rest Brad at the ends of quarters to give him extended time off, but sitting him down for the last 15 seconds of the first half made no sense last night...It's probably true that the Nisky students broke every single applicable code of conduct rule except #7 last night....

UPDATE (2:50pm): Tom Maldonado notes in the comment section that the Nisky students did break rule #7 (which prohibts throwing things on the court) last night when they threw a beach ball onto the court and the ref had to stop the game to remove it. I stand corrected. Hillarious.

Final score: Shaker 53, Niskayuna 51. TU box score here. Shaker moves to 7-3 (5-1 Suburban Council). Next game: 1/6/06 at Saratoga.
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At 2:26 PM , Anonymous Maldo said:

"It's probably true that the Nisky students broke every single applicable code of conduct rule except #7 last night...."

haha nope they threw a beach ball on the court that a ref picked up during a foul shot. he then gave it to security and we wanted him to pop it but sadly he didn't.    

At 2:46 PM , Blogger Matt said:

That's right! I totally forgot about that, thanks for reminding me. I'll update the game recap.    

At 10:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said:

you have nothing else to do but bad mouth Nisky find some thing better life    

At 10:06 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said:

better to do with your life*    

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