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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

Shen preview

Shen preview / things to watch : Shaker plays Shen tonight at 7:30 in the H-gym new gym. I'll be there, although I might be sitting alone since my wife has a meeting. So stop by and say hi. I usually sit about 10 rows up, behind the Shaker bench.

If you recall, Shaker beat Shen in their first meeting of the seson, 61-47 at Shen back in December. Brad had a nice game - 33/15/4 - and Shaker put 10 men in the scoring column. But they also turned the ball over 22 times and only made half their foul shots. Additionally, Shen's second leading scorer, 5'11" senior guard Cameron Critchlow, didn't play. (full scoring stats here). Shen is a clear middle of the pack team in the Suburban - they've beaten all the bad teams (Mohon, BHS, BHBL, B. Spa, 'toga) and they've lost to all the good teams (AP, Nisky, G'land, Colonie, Columbia, Shaker). That's basically the easiest way to be 6-6 in the league. Besides Critcholow, they get good offensive production from 5'10" senior guard Salih Banks and 5'10" junoir guard Todd Dengan, who has 20 three pointers on the year. They are surprisingly small for a Shen team - only one player bigger than 6'3" - but they did manage to outrebound the Bison in the first meeting, so we'll see.

As usual, I go into games with certain things on my mind (see here, here, and here for good examples ). Tonight I'm going to be watching the following things:

1) Turnovers: It's a tired line I'm preaching, but it's still the most glaring weakness in their game. It's been better in the past few weeks, particularly the pressbreaking. But they still throw it away way too much for a 13-3 team. So I'm going to count turnovers again tonight. I'm going to break them into three categories: pressure induced, sloppy dribbling/passing, and bad calls violations. I'll report my findings tomorrow.

2) JV seating during varsity game: I got a few emails this week in response to my blasting of the JV team for not sitting in the 6th man during the varsity games. They were oddly unapologetic. This one seems like a no-brainer to me. You're 15 years old, you play on the JV, you're going to watch the varsity game, you're wearing dress clothes but you smell like a hockey-equipment bag: all signs point to the students section!

3) Lineups: Over the past two weeks (Guilderland, Mohon, Bethlehem games), Coach H (ha, i never thought of that nickname before) has used a variety of lineups and substitution patterns. Of course, the Mohon game was a blowout, so that was an opportunity to look at a lot of bench combinations. But it still seems to me like they are tinkering with the rotation and constanty trying new things. Hey, that's a good thing! It means there are lots of capable players on the bench, and more importantly it means that some killer combinations might not have yet been found. Some years, the rotation is so obvious that I could coach the game - well, the substitution pattern - from the bleachers. Not so this year. One combination that I liked recently was: Brad, Dare, Vernon, Hooks, Hans. That happened (I think) after Griff got his 3rd foul in the BHS game.

4) Twix pricing: I'm pretty sure it's the end of an era. I now have it on good word that Twix are officially priced at 75 cents. Note that I've bought 6 or 7 Twixes (Twixs? Twax?) at Shaker games this year, and I've paid 50 cents every time but one. But we'll see tonight.

5) Jumpshots: Ever wonder what percentage of Shaker points come on jumpshots - be it three pointers or otherwise? I have a hunch that this number has been increasing during the second half of the season - more threes are being taken and EC, VC, and Hans are definitely shooting more 15+ footers than they did in the first half of the year. Even Brad has taken to using his baseline jumper a bit more, I'd say. I'm not going to lie and say that I'll keep track, but I'm definitely going to watch for this tonight.

6) Chanting: It's been a good while since the 6th man had a virtuoso performance. Granted, I missed the Colonie game, so that's probably not true, but still. This is Shen. One of my alltime favorite student section chants is the classic anti-Shen jingle:

The wheels on the bus go round and round,
Round and round,
Round and round!
The wheels on the bus go round and round,
All the way back to Shen!***

Now, clearly, this chant can only be used once a year - at home vs. Shen - and then only late in the 4th quarter when the game is sealed up.**** So if those condidtions arise and we don't hear it, well that's bad form. Looking forward to it tonight.

7) Fast Breaks: My wife has commented that the newfound up-tempo play (forward looking outlet passes, pushing the breaks, attacking the press) isn't yielding as many points as it first appears, because they are significantly more likely to turn it over in these situations. Usually, SJC has a good eye for basketball, but I totally disagree with her on this one. I feel like they get way more easy baskets now, and maybe it's not on a traditional fast break, but they tend to find things on the secondary break, after everyone is down the court but before the defense really sets up.

8) The 2-guard spot: Prior to the Bethlehem game, SJC asserted that guard play often made the difference for Shaker, since the frontline gave you about the same thing every night. I'm still not sure about that, but I am beginning to think that the "2" might be the key to Shaker's success in the next month. When EC (or Hooks, or VC) is scoring and playing well, it really gives the opposition fits, and it completely opens up the middle of the floor for the frontline. On the other hand, when the "2" is not taking enough shots - nevermind making them - it totally changes the danger-level of the Shaker offense. They run a lot of out-of-bounds plays for the 2, like trying to set Hooks up in the corner for a three, but I'm happy to see EC asserting himself more this half of the year.

Prediction: Shaker, but closer than last time. 65-56.

One other note: I got the following email yesterday in response to my complaints about the Big 10/Suburban coverage in the newspapers:
When the two conferences have played, the Big 10 has been dominant since the new millennium. Why this is can be account for in a couple of ways.

First and foremost is the impact that CBA has had in moving its location to Colonie by the airport. With the ability for all school districts to bus students into CBA within a 15-mile radius that gives them a HUGE advantage and has trasnformed their demographic because almost EVERY Suburban Council school district except Saratoga can bus to CBA. Then, Lasalle gets boosted because ALL athletes cannot go to one place if they want to play sports, so people begin looking for alternatives for their children for playing time, etc. That is the exact reason why Lasalle starting point guard Kyle Dignum left CBA and moved to Lasalle, opportunity.

The impact of LaSalle and CBA has had a huge effect on taking top athletes from the Suburban schools...[I]n the end, private schools are a big reason why the Big 10 dominates the talent and media coverage.

I think the reader is absolutely correct in explaining why the Big 10 is top-to-bottom a better conference on a consistent basis. No doubt. Clearly, it wouldn't be insane to think that the Class AA final four might be four Big 10 teams. And sure, when you have most of the top teams, you should get most of the media coverage. But I still think the Times Union goes beyond this. If you read the Troy Record or - in particular - the Schenectady Gazette, you get muchmore balanced Big 10/Suburban coverage. But look - I understand that the Big 10 is superior to the Suburban this year. I'm in agreement with that. But if Shaker wins the section this year, count me as one person who won't be utterly surprised. And count the Times Union as one newspaper that will be.

And finally: Nisky did indeed beat Columbia on 1/20, so they do have the inside track to the 4th SC tourney slot.

***Just like the real kids song, the "wheels on the bus" chant has lots of extra verses, and it's pretty typical to also make up some spontatneous ones as you go. I remember one year (I think it was 1993-94), we sang a good six or seven verses during the final two minutes of the game. Good times. Some of my favorite non-vulgar ones from the 90's include:

The coaches on the bus say "you guys suck!"...
The girls in your school scream "Let's go blue!"...
The kids in the stands say "section champs! (SEC-TION-CHAMPS!)"...

****I don't know why, but this chant has almost always been reserved for Shen. It definitely can be used for other teams without a problem, but it was always more prominent at Shen games. I have no good explanation for that. Against most others teams, we stuck with "Na Na Na Na, hey hey hey, good-bye!" or the classic "Warm up the bus."

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