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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

Things I'm looking for tonight

Seven things to watch at Nisky tonight: A few weeks back, I wrote a "things to watch" column prior to the Columbia game. It's worth reviewing, because I'm still looking for those things (well, I guess not Dopp's goatee, but most of them). But a lot has happened since that game. So tonight I'm going to be carefully watching the following:

1) Team attitude: It's never easy to bounce back from a tough loss and last Thursday was, oh - I don't know, the most stunning Shaker loss I can ever remember.*** And it doesn't help that it came on the heels of the Lasalle debacle. But I don't want to be like one of those college basketball announcers who thinks the whole sport is a game of "mental toughness" and "overcoming adversity." I'm not talking about that kind of "attitude" - that's mostly made up BS as far as I'm concerned.

I'm talking more about swagger, or confidence. Back in December, they had it. And I think they still had it after the AP game. And heck, I thought they looked good last Thursday night. But it's hard to go 0-for-Christmas break in the fashion they did and not lose some of the fun-loving, smililng-like-bandits attitude that they were displaying in the wake of the CBA game. So we'll see. On the other hand, I can't imagine that someone like Griff McLoughlin isn't unbelievably fired-up for tonights game. Same with Duclos and Brad.

2) Composure with the lead: Let's face it, Shaker hasn't played well this year with the lead. Again, this is a classic bullshit dump for college basketball announcers, and I don't want to sound like one of them. So I'm not going to say they "don't have the killer instinct," or any of that crap. To me, it's more of an issue of executing well for 4 straight quarters. And hey, I know the other team is trying to play well, too. Sometimes teams go on a run. That happens. But I still don't think I've seen Shaker play 4 quarters to their fullest potential. At their best, this is a great basketball team. Even at their low moments, this is a good basketball team. But it's not good enough to play badly and still win.

3) The crowd: I haven't been there in over 10 years, but if I remember correctly Niskayuna has one of those tiny little gyms that looks like the old gym at Shaker. That's always fun if there's a good sized crowd: those places get pretty loud, everyone is sitting almost on top of court, and you can pretty much hear each and every heckle as it's delivered. Definitely a good situation for the 6th man.

4) Turnovers: Usually, I either keep track of the offensive stats or I just watch the game like a regular fan. Tonight, however, I'm going to track the turnovers. Both the number and the type. That way, I won't have to report that they "must have had 40 turnovers." I'll just know.

5) My wife's behavior: My wife teaches at Niskayuna, and I've put her on strict instructions that she'll either be cheering for Shaker tonight or walking home. That should do the trick. Nevertheless, I'm going to keep a careful eye on things, especially because she did wear a red sweater to school today.

6) Transition defense: Now, I know that Taylor Battle is a bit of a cherry-picker, but still. He had 4 breakaway or otherwise clear transition layups Thursday night. That's got to stop.

7) Tom Duclos: Although Brad had another great game last Thursday, Tom's play really stood out in my mind. If he can contribute like that every night, it will be a much improved team.

Here's the skinny on Nisky this year: Nisky is a good team. They're 6-2 overall and 4-1 in the suburban. They've crushed Guilderland, B. Spa, Mohon, and Berkshire. They won a close game against Bethlehem, and they've lost two close games to Colulmbia and Bishop Magin, getting torched by Zampier in the Columbia game. They have a pretty balacned scoring attack, with three players averaging about 10 pts/game. They are led by a contingent of seniors: 6'1" Bryan Grastorf, 6'3" Dan Halayko, and 6'3" John Kock (full scoring stats here). The Gazette season preview had this to say about the silver warriors:
Niskayuna tied Guilderland for the Gold division title last yeare, but with senior Dan Halyako and Bryan Grastorf returning to the lineup [from injuries that kept them out last year], Niskayuna should control the division.
Yup. They're pretty good. But I'm confident Shaker is better. As is typical this year of Bison opponents, Shaker should dominate the boards and the inside play tonight. Halayko is the tallest Nisky player, and he's only 6'4". Shaker won't be able to win this one without playing well, but I think they get the victory tonight.

***I'd call it the most stunning Shaker loss in my lifetime, but alas I was alive in 1980. But we'll get to that in a few months.
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