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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: 1/6/06, 'toga

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

Executive Summary: Shaker 68, Saratoga 57. An 11-point win doesn't look like a blowout, but this was the decisive victory the Bison had been looking for. They played well throughout the game, and held leads of 14-11, 33-20, and 47-31 at the ends of the quarters. Only a handful of late three pointers by Saratoga made the score look respectable, and the game was long out of reach by then. Nice job. The turnovers were way down, a large variety of players scored, and the defense looked good. Brad looked a bit off in the first half, but had a monster second half, scoring 25 after the break. Eddie Cross continues to impress, and Griff was once again a terror on the offensive glass. Jordan Stevens - Saratoga's star freshman - was very impressive, he will be a force for years in section 2. In general though, he Blue Streaks are pretty miserable - they just stand around on offense. Not good. There was some back and forth between the students in the crowd, and that was fun. Final score: Shaker 68, Saratoga 57. TU box score here. Shaker moves to 8-3 (6-1 Suburban Council). Next game: 1/10/06 at Ballston Spa.

Full Report, Warm up your thoroughbred: Arrived at Saratoga around 7:15 for a 7:30 tip off. Watched the JV team hold on and win a close game. Saratoga's gym is nice - it's newer than most gyms: it has railings in the aisles of the bleachers, lots of double doors at both ends, and the scoreboards are nice. I'd say it has about 60-70% of the seating capacity of H-gym, which makes it one of the bigger gyms around. You forget how big the H-gym is until you start going to alot of away games. It's huge. Beyond that, a few other things stood out to me about the gym:

1) Damn, that's a nice sound system: Each section of bleachers has a powerful, modern speaker system hanging from the ceiling and facing the fans. Awesome. They were blasting some great rap music during warmups, and it really pumped up the crowd. Loved it.

2) What's with the chain link roping?:For some reason, Saratoga is obsessed with keeping fans off the court. They probably mentioned 20 times over the PA that you shouldn't walk on the court after the game. But the coup de grace is that they have a chain-link roping system between the walkways and the court, whose only purpose seems to be to interfere with players diving out of bounds. SJC thought someone would run into it during the game, and she turned out to be right. How could they not? It's 2 feet from the out of bounds line. Ridiculous.

3) Extra space behind the hoops is a waste: In H-gym, there's not a lot of room behind the hoops - maybe 5 or 7 feet to the wall. In Saratoga, there's about 20 feet, and that's where the cheerleaders stand. But that's dumb, because in H-gym there's about 20 feelt between the court and the bleachers, which is where you actually want the extra space. In Saratoga, there's about 6 feet. So the cheerleaders are really far from the crowd, there's a traffic jam in walkway, and they have to resort to things like chain-link roping systems (see above). Hillarious.

4) Polite announcers: Shaker was wished "good luck" by the announcer before the game. I can't imagine that flying at H-gym, but on the other hand maybe they do it and we all just don't hear it.

5) Give me a break with the national anthem: They have this great sound system, during the warmups they are blasting hip-hop to excite the players and crowd, and then the national anthem is some sort of rock n' roll / techno / disco composite?!?! Each segment of the song featured a different musical style - it was like some medely you'd hear at the bizzaro grammy awards. It was so ridiculous that I don't think my description does it justice. I actually started laughing.

As the players came out to warm up, I surveyed the scene. It's not hard to pick out freshman superstar Jordan Stevens - he's got the babyface - but it is hard to not be excited about his potential. Wow, he looks great just in warmups. Shaker looks ready - shots are dropping and everthing seems crisp. The crowd is way bigger than I thought it would be - the bleachers are not too far from full capacity, and that's surprising considering Saratoga is 1-7. Shaker has brought a decent 6th man, but it looks like Saratoga has about 100 students at the game. Should be good. One idiotic turn of events is that Saratoga forgot to print the programs. I guess these things happen when you're 1-7.

1st Quarter

Shaker started Sheehan, E. Cross, Hans, Duclos, and Griff. Brad won the tip. The teams basically just traded baskets for the first quarter, neither team ever having more than a three point lead. Eddie Cross made a nice shot, Griff had a basket off a nice pass, and John Hans put in a jumper. Brad had trouble getting going. At first, they weren't really looking for him in the post - he only got 3 touches in the quarter. And when he did, the shots weren't falling. I thought he got a little bit frustrated by the reffing, particularly as the game went on. He had a sweet jam for his only bucket of the quarter, and he had a nice block on Stevens. Saratoga stayed with the Bison using a variety of mid-range jumpers, usually the result of just individuals going one on one with their man and then pulling up. If they go cold, they're done. At the end of the quarter Shaker led 14-11.

1st quarter notes:

1) Saratoga's offensive scheme was pathetic...: Stevens is a heck of a player, but the toga offense is non-existent. At first, I thought they were just playing a Princeton-style slowdown offense because they were just passing the ball around about 26+ feet from the hoop. But that's what they do: they don't look into the post, they don't screen all that much. They just pass it around until someone tries to take their man one-on-one, usually for a pull-up jumper. Luckily, they have some athletes - particularly Stevens - who are pretty good at this.

2) ...But not as pathetic as their fans: I've been to hundreds of high school hoops games. I've seen packed gyms and empty gyms, loud gyms and silent gyms, small gyms and big gyms, great student sections and terrible student sections. But I've never seen what I saw in the fisrt quarter last night: A packed Saratoga student section - and I mean packed - in which every student was sitting down and in which no one ever started a collective chant. It was like a bunch of zombies watching a basketball game. They barely cheered. I mean, I know your team sucks and all, but when the team sucks at Shaker, the attendance just goes down. Those that continue to go actually behave like their at a game, not a museum. I'm not even sure I can properly describe this. It was unreal. But more on this later.

Update (3:45pm 1/8): A reader emails to note that there was once type of cheering that the Saratoga students were doing: catcalls at Vernon, Eddie, and Duclos about how the Saratoga football team beat Shaker in the sectionals. I had forgotten about this because it wasn't loud enough to hear across the gym. It just looked like 4 or 5 guys in the front row who kept holding up Saratoga football jackets and pointing at them. Apparently, they were screaming stats from the game. That's creative.

3) The turnovers were way down: Hallelujah. I think it was partly because Saratoga didn't use any full court pressure, but the passes were on the mark and the silly turnovers were limited. I only counted 2 in the first quarter. That's much better.

4) The refs are calling a really odd game: Usually, refs are either tight or loose, but reasonably consistent. Not tonight. The whistle blew often, but it was always for some chippy foul away from the ball that I didn't even see. Then when someone (on either team) got killed in the lane, nothing. Very strange. Tom Duclos got 2 fouls quick, and so did a few Saratoga starters.

2nd Quarter

Shaker pretty much put the game away in the 2nd quarter. I say "pretty much" because I've seen them blow plenty of leads this year. But I couldn't imagine them blowing one to Saratoga. Stevens is great, but their offense just goes ice cold if he's missing from the field. And that's what happened. After 'toga got the first hoop of the quarter, Shaker went on a 10-0 run to make it 23-13. The teams traded hoops, and then Shaker closed the quarter with a 9-3 run, capped by Hooks nailing a great three pointer as the clock expired on the half. Duclos and Griff had some nice boards, but Duc picked up his third foul on a charge. Brad hit a nice jumper for his only points of the quarter, and he definitely looked frustrated, I think with both thre refs and the lack of him getting the ball. Seven differnt players scored in the quarter - Brad, Griff, Duc, EC, VC, Dare, and Hooks. Just a dominating performance (they won the quarter 19-9) as they went into the locker room up 33-20.

Second quarter notes:

1) A deep bench for Holmes tonight: The coach played more players tonight for regular minutes than I'd seen all year: Fallon, Schaller, VC, Bogdan, Hooks, Dare, and even Kahlne saw extended minutes in the second quarter, and they played well. It's a delicate balance having such a deep bench; somebody ends up with less minutes than they should: I thought VC got the short end last night.

2) Brad struggled a bit: He definitely looked off his game in the first half. Five total points, and a lot of shots missed that he would normally make. He looked frustrated: at not getting the ball, at not getting calls from the refs on the offensive end, and for getting shoved on rebounds. I thought the third of those was the most legitimate - Saratoga was all over him on the defensive glass, but the refs were basically silent.

3) Great defense: Saratoga's offense isn't much, but Shaker played very well on them. Over and over again, Stevens was forced to take awkward jumpers off the dribble. When they tried to go inside, Brad was all over it. And the guards were doing a nice job not overextending. I thought it was the best quarter - defensively - that I've seen them play all year.

4) The 6th man was embarressing Saratoga: And by "Saratoga" I mean the fans. I guess the 6th man was about 25 strong last night - including one 4 year-old I saw standing with Chris Caradori. They pulled out all the usual stuff, but then took it up a notch by both extending the cheers - Who's your daddy! and Shee-han owns you! made appeareances - and by directly mocking the Saratoga students - why are you sit-ing? It was sooooo odd. Here's this gym full of 'toga fans, including maybe 100 or 150 studnets, and this little Shaker 6th man is just pounding them with no response. And coordinating with the Shaker cheerleaders. And doing catcalls. They were particularly vicious as Stevens missed 5 foul shots in a row - Head, shoulders, knees, and toes! - but there was literally no response from the toga students. Nothing. Just sitting there in silence. Unreal.

Shaker's scoring looked like this at the break:

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

Total 11 10 33 (one three pointer)

I thought Shaker looked very good in the first half. The two runs in the second quarter were very impressive.

Halftime notes:

1) No Twix?: For the second game in a row, no Twix. Who ever heard of a concession stand in the United States that doesn't sell Twix bars. I know two now: Nisky and 'toga. Silly. I had to settle for a Hershey bar. And yes, the 'toga concession is in the modern economy. One dollar. Can't wait for a home game.

3rd Quarter

I don't what happened in the locker room, but Brad just exploded in the 3rd quarter, scoring 12 of Shaker's 14 points (Bogdan had the other two), as Shaker won the quarter 14-11, making it 47-31 at the start of the 4th. Against some teams - say, Nisky - that's not a completely safe lead, but against this 'toga team it was. It was 47-27 with 1:30 to go in the quarter, and the fans shifted into relaxed mode. Well, except for the 6th man, but more on that in the notes. Brad was basically unstoppable, despite still not getting many calls. He had a few dunks, and otherwise had his way in the lane.

Third quarter notes:

1) Holy cow, Shaker's got a press!: Holmes has always been a practictioner of great halfcourt defense - he teaches a compact, safe style that doesn't rely on full court pressure or even tight play with the guards in the frontcourt. But last night they used what looked to me like a 1-3-1 three-quarter court trap,with Bodgan at point racing from side to side, guards on the midcourt wings, Brad slightly behind midcourt, and Hans back in the lane. It was quite efffective - they forced two turnovers with it - and I'm looking forward to seeing more of it in upcoming games. Nice.

2) Awaken the Saratoga students: The Saratoga students finally had enough of the badgering from the 6th man, and they unleashed a You can't do that! on a Dare travel. That exploded the 6th man - Score-board! Score-board! - and was probably a mistake on the part of the Saratoga students. The 6th man might have gone easy in the 4th quarter, but now all bets were off.

3) I think the Saratoga coach got a technical...: ...but I really don't know. All of sudden, Eddie Cross was on the foul line, shooting two with no one in the rebounding blocks. Never saw what happened, it never was explained. He made the shots.

4th Quarter

The 4th quarter was pretty odd. The game was basically out of contention the whole way, but Holmes didn't lift his regular rotation in favor of subs until their were :10 left. I thought maybe he wanted the starters to practice press-breaking, but maybe he just hates the Saratoga coach. I don't know. Also, Shaker scored 21 points in the quarter, all but 4 of them on foul shots. The last 4 minutes took forever, and with the game basically decided, the raging battle between the Saratoga fans and the 6th man became a feature attraction. More on that below. Brad dumped another 13 points - almost all from the foul line - to give him 30 for the game, 25 for the half. Just unstoppable. But still visibly annoyed by the refs. On one Saratoga offensive trip, they got 4 straight offensive rebounds, and I thought at least 3 fouls could hav been called. On another play, John Hans was smacked so loud you could hear it in the 10th row, but no call. Still, tons of fouls were piling up on chippy things. Duclos foulded out, as did two 'toga players. The score was 64 - 48 with 1:35 to go, and Saratoga made 3 meaningless three pointers to make it look respectable. It wasn't. It was a blowout.

4th quarter notes:

1) Nice shooting from the line: Shaker made 17 free throws in the 4th, and I bet they only attempted about 21. That's great.

2) Griff looked great on the offensive boards: One memorable play was on an EC foul shot that missed. Griff just went up and took it away from a kid 2 inches bigger than him. I love watching that kid hit the offensive glass. Wow.

3) The 6th man wouldn't let up, and almost started a rumble: In the 4th quarter, Saratoga students tried to do some cheers: T-O-G-A, Toga, Toga, Toga! was a nice one. But since their team sucks and was getting killed, they were flat like you might expect. Since the game was long over, the 6th man took up the cause and started mocking them, copying their pro-toga cheers and belting them out in much better fashion. That's pretty inflamatory. But just hillarious. This set off a war. By the time the 6th man got to Thanks for having us! things had devolved quite a bit. Joe B. filed this report last night about the incidents that followed:
Saratoga fans came over to our side and stood behind us. We weren't havnig any of it, so me and several of my friends walked up and stood behind them and cheered. We chanted lets go shaker and other things, and words were exchanged. More and more words were exchanged as we started to walk out, even getting into with a Saratoga assistant coach who yelled at us to go home while we were yelling back at there highly irrational fans who were saying that they were great. Overall, had security not stepped in it was very possible that a straight up street brawl would have gone down. Luckily that didn't happen and just some very angry words were given to both sides.
Good lord. Well, I'm glad it didn't escalate beyond that. I like it better when it's kept at the humerous level, like at the CBA game.

Anyway, a great effort on the court tonight. Here is the partial boxscore, discussion below:

NameFGFTFTAFT %3-PtPoints
Matt Bogdan100--02
Eddie Cross25771%09
Vernon Cross100--02
Ryan Dare100--02
Tom Duclos12450%04
John Hans12367%04
Brian Hooks000--13
Griff McLoughlin36875%012
Brad Sheehan9121486%030


Shaker 1419142168
Saratoga Springs119112657

Four major things to mention:

1) You have to kill bad teams: And that's what they did. These victories are important.

2) The bench played well: It's important that other people pick it up if Brad is only going to get 5 points in the first half. And that happened. Seven other players scored, and that's great. The two key runs of the 2nd quarter were sparked by EC and Griff. And it was so great to see Hooks bury that three at the halftime buzzer - he really needed something like that. Stil...

3) When Brad gets on fire, just give him the ball: Even though he scored 12 of the 14 points in the 3rd quarter and 13 of the 21 in the 4th, I'd still say they weren't going to him enough. He basically couldn't miss, and it was almost like Saratoga has given up guarding him. There's no reason to look elsewhere when that's the case. Just give him the ball.

4) Keep the momentum rolling: Two big games next week - B. Spa on the road and Colonie at home. I'd love to see two more blowouts.This team is looking much better this week after the debacle over break, and it's time to start building toward the late season peak.

Summary and notes

I wouldn't say this was the "complete 32 minutes" we've all been looking for, but it was darn close...Looks like Saratoga High was built long before schools ever thought of locking their exterior doors, there are about 45 doors on the front of the building...John Weinhemier has been sent down to the JV team so he can get more playing time, he was a key part of their win last night, sinking some clutch late free throws...

Final score: Shaker 68, Saratoga 57. TU box score here. Shaker moves to 8-3 (6-1 Suburban Council). Next game: 1/10/06 at Ballston Spa.
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