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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: 1/31/06

Game Recap: Home vs. Shen, 1/31/06

Executive Summary: Shaker 65, Shen 59. Honestly, I'm surprised they won this game. They committed more turnovers than you can possibly imagine (I stopped counting after the 1st quarter because they already had 11, and it didn't get a whole lot better) but somehow they won each of the first 3 quarters. It was weird: except for the turnovers, they looked petty darn good. At the end of 3, it was 51-41 Shaker, and if it wasn't for the turnovers, the game would have already been over. It felt over anyway. Then the first five minutes of the 4th were a complete disaster, as Shen used a 13-2 run (based almost totally on Shaker turnovers) to take a 54-53 lead with about 3 minutes to go. But Shaker hung tough and finished with 12-5 run of their own. On the bright side, Shaker got some good outside shooting tonight, and the rebounding was very good. Two scary moments when Griff and EC both had to leave with injuries, but they both came back to play later in the game. Brad finished with 19, EC added 13 (including 4 clutch free throws in the final minute) and Griff had 10. Final score: Shaker 65, Shen 59. TU box score here. Shaker improves to 14-3 (12-1 Suburban Council). Next game: 2/3/06, home against Saratoga.

Full Report, Hey, they won didn't they?: Arrived at Shaker around 7:00 for the 7:30 tip, and had a nice conversation with Bill Hooks, who is both Brian's father and the person who manages the concession stand at Shaker home games. Now the Twix are free! Other notes from the pregame:

1) 6th man yes, crowd no: From the get go, I could see that the 6th man would be active tonight. Chest painting, loud chants, and a good-sized group were on hand. Everywhere else, though, it looked to be one of those lethargic Tuesday nights, where inexplicably no one wants to cheer and no one makes any noise. This was also the case at the Averill Park game. That's not a good omen. It's a medium sized crowd: the students section is 3/4 full, the Shaker adult section is 3/4 full, the Shen section is 1/2 full, and the 4th section has a smattering of people in it.

2) Greg Holle in the house: A few minutes before the game started, CBA star Greg Holle walked in and took a seat in the Shaker adult section. Scouting? A fan of the Bison? Don't know. But I'm betting he had lots to report to his team today at CBA.

1st Quarter

Shaker started Sheehan, Hans, Duclos, Griff, and E. Cross. Brad won the tip, but Shaker turned it over. That was a common theme this quarter. On the next trip, Shen missed but EC came down on his ankle and had to leave the game. Yikes, that could be really bad. VC came in for him. Shaker turns the ball over on its next two posessions, and Shen scores once. This is not good. Shen is pressing, and they have some quick guards, but this is just sloppiness. Really bad sloppiness. Duclos scores and then Brad hits a nice little jumper. Shen gets two baskets, both coming off Shaker turnovers, and then Vernon hits a jumper. On the next trip, Hooks gets a great offensive board to keep it alive, and then Vernon eventually gets a hoop. 8-6 Shaker. More turnovers turn into two Shen baskets. 10-8 Shen. Eddie then hits a jumper that I thought was a 3 but is ruled a 2, Brad gets a putback basket, and then Eddie hits a three that is counted for three. 15-10 Shaker. Shen get a three-pointer and the quarer ends. 15-13 Shaker.

1st quarter notes:

1) Slop city: This team is known to turn it over, but I've never seen anything like the 1st quarter last night. Yesterday, I said I was going to track turnovers. I was so mad after the 1st quarter that I gave up. But my first quarter stats show: zero turnovers due to press, 9 turnovers due to bad passes or dribbling, and 2 turnovers on violations. That's absurd. One reader email today described it as "dribbling with their fists and pointing out who they were going to pass it to." Ridiculous. But not as ridiculous as...

2) They still won the quarter?: Huh? I really can't believe this. A few thoughts: Shen looked pretty hideous on offense. Critchlow never got going last night, and Banks didn't do much in the first. But even more important is that the Bison were playing well when they didn't turn it over. They were moving the ball around and getting themselves open shots. And a good number of those shots were going in. Offensive rebounds helped. Shaker is clearly a better team than Shen, and they were even executing pretty well individually. The turnovers were just killer. But if they cut down on them, they should cruise the rest of the night.

3) Brad didn't get many touches in the post: Shen took the Bethlehem strategy and played a matchup 2-3 zone that severely collapsed in on Brad. They did a decent job of it: they have some very quick and very good defensive guards who can scamper around the perimeter, and they were cheating towards Brad with everyone inside if it looked like an entry pass might come. Shaker found the open the men a lot of the time for good looks, but it's still painful when Brad goes a whole quarter without getting the ball with his back to the basket.

4) 6th man looks active: You got a lot of the typical chants last night - "De-fense!","Let's go Sha-ker!," and some incident-specific stuff like "You can't do that!" and "Not in our hose!" They also attempted "Boink" a few times, but there were two problems: one, they didn't quite have the critical mass to pull it off and two, every time they did it last night Shen hit a three. At least it felt that way. Nothing deflates "Boink" faster than a triple. Best cheer of the quarter, however, goes to the 5 year-old behind me. When Eddie got hurt and VC came in, this kid let off a huge "Gooooooooooo, Vernon!" all by himself. Good times.

2nd Quarter

Shen hits a hoop on an obvious missed travel call to open the quarter, and that gets the adult Shaker crowd going for the first time all night. Right after that, Schaller is called for a backcourt travel, which really gets the crowd going. The teams trade misses for a bit, then Griff gets a great offensive board and makes two foul shots. Shen scores and on the next trip Griff takes an excellent pass from Duclos for a layup and a foul. Misses the shot. 19-17 Shaker. Shen scores off a turnover and the Vernon hits a very nice jumper. On Shen's next trip, Critchlow drives the lane and puts his shoulder into Brad near the hoop, and Brad is called for a foul, a ridiculous call (I would have ruled the play a no-call, or maybe an offensive. No way a foul on Brad). Brad lets out a curse word - I think part in frustration at the refs and part in frustration at himself - and is immediately hit with a technical. Damn.

UPDATE (3:00pm): Apparently, Brad did not swear. He actually screamed, "I was straight up!" as an argument against the call. That sounded like "What the @#$%!" from the bleachers, but the non-cursing version actually makes a lot more sense.

Luckily, everyone keeps their cool at that point, but that's 2 fouls on Brad real quick. One problem with getting a technical on a shooting foul is that it gives the opponents four shots and the ball. I disagree with that - it should be either 3 shots and the ball or two shots followed by two more shots that are live free throws. Stupid, but whatever. Shen makes 3 of the 4 foul shots to take a 22-21 lead. Shaker then goes on its best run of the game - a 14-4 run over the final 4 minutes of the first half that includes a Hans jumper, a Duclos drive, a Griff basket, and a Brad post move. The sweetest play, however, was a turnaround jumper by Brad on the baseline from about 12 feet that fell and got a foul call. Then Griff came up lame on his ankle again and headed to the bench. Oh God, I hate these moments. You can just see the sectional title fading away in your head. Please be ok. (Griff returned not too long afterwards.) Tom Kahlne added a free throw after getting fouled on a nice offensive board, and Shaker took a 34-26 lead into the locker room.

Second quarter notes:

1) Better, but still not great: They continued to turn it over in the 2nd, although the last four minutes they looked excellent. The turnovers are just killer: it's lolly-gag passing, out of control fast breaks, and poor dribbling. They have so many weapons offensively, it's just maddening when they go up and down the court without getting shots. No team in the Suburban can stay with them unless they beat themsevels. Last night they almost did.

2) Brad gets mad, for the better: I'm not saying the foul was a good call, and I thought the T was a bit excessive (especially since a Shen kid let off a curse not a minute later that went unpunished), but it didn't really bother me because Brad clearly channeled his anger about the situation into positive play. He was on a mission for the rest of the quarter after that T.

3) Jumpers galore: Lots of perimeter weapons tonight: VC is stroking the ball as well as he has all season, and Eddie is really asserting himself. People are looking to shoot. And if teams insist on completely collapsing their defense to stop Brad, this has to be the counter-attack. I've noticed that they are sometimes hesitant to take open shots unless they are wide open. Occasionally, they will pass it around and people will opt not to take looks that they can make, but I think that's ok. Against a team like Shen, they will get very good looks if they are patient. One bonus for them is that the offensive rebounding is strong enough to make up for even somewhat subpar jump shooting. Griff and Brad - and to a lesser extent Duc, VC, Dare, and Kahnle - really get a ton of offensive boards off the jumpshooting.

Shaker's scoring looked like this at the break:

Brad 5 1 11
EC 2 0 5 (one three pointer)
JH 0 2 2
VC 3 0 6
TK 0 1 1
GM 2 2 6
TD 1 1 3

Total 13 7 34 (one three pointer)

Halftime notes:

1) Future 6th men: As I've written about before, the area at the top of the Shaker adult section is the traditional home of junior high school boys who like Shaker games but aren't yet brave enough to sit in the student section. Last night was no exception. During halftime, they worked on their routine by continually starting chants for individual players who were warming up. They even threw in a "Greg Holle" chant that got Holle to turn around an acknowledge them. Nice.

2) What do you say?: Just like last Friday, Shaker played a subpar first half, but managed to take a lead into the locker room. I'm sure Coach Holmes was not happy last night, but it's still hard to get really down about it - no serious damage was done. They have the lead, they are in control of the game, and they'll probably win. The real issue is that none of this is going to fly three weeks from now in the tournament.

3) Unimpressive plainsmen: I'm underimpressed with Banks and Critchlow - two players who are highly regarded around the league. Critchlow is firing up shots that are bricking left and right, and Banks hasn't done a whole lot yet. One thing that is impressive is Critchlow's defense, he's got to be very annoying to bring the ball up against. Of course...

4) The reffing didn't help: At this point in the season, there's not much to say. It's not that it's one sided, it's not. Shen got just as many bad calls and no-calls as Shaker. But it makes the gave sloppy, rough, and confusing when the refs are as loose and inconsistent as this.

3rd Quarter

The third quarter started with a Shen offensive board and hoop, one of the few breakdowns on defense rebounding of the night. Shaker then turned it over, but Shen missed. The Bison then went on a 8-3 run that I thought was going to springboard them to an easy win. Eddie missed a jumper but followed his shot, got the robound and put one in plus the foul. Duclos then used one of his patented slash moves to get to the hoop for a basket. Eddie then made one of his best drives of the year and hit an off-balance shot in the lane. After a Shen three pointer, Brad got the ball in the post and used a spin-move to get free for a crowd-pleasing jam. Shen then hit another three. Brad also picked up his thrid foul and headed to the bench, where he'd sit for much the rest of the quarter. After a Shaker turnover, Duclos got a nice steal but lost the ball. Shaker then stole it back and Duclos had a nice drive for another hoop. 45-34 Shaker. But then Shen got two baskets on two Shaker turnovers (ugggh!) and it was timeout Shaker. Off the timeout, Bodgan hit Griff with a great pass underneath and Griff put it in and got the foul. Hooks then added a three pointer and it was 51-41 Shaker at the end of the third.

Third quarter notes:

1) The officiating goes downhill: If that's possible. It was terrible in the 3rd. It was like they had given up calling loose-ball fouls or reach-ins. And that goes both ways. But it was particularly killing Shaker, because Shen plays much more of a pressure defense - they pick up 3/4 court and really hound the point guard. Still...

2) The Shen press started forcing turnovers: Most of the turnovers in the 1st were due to sloppiness. In the 3rd, Shen's press actually caused some Bison mistakes. The Shaker press break is way better than it was in the first half of the season, but it still has its trouble spots. They no longer get stuck way in the backcourt - they use Brad effectively in the middle of the court. They are now having their problems on the wings, either just before or just after getting it over midcourt. I'm not sure what to make of that. I wasn't too concerned about the current game, though, because...

3) Shaker played well at both ends: The defense, as usual, looks very good. The rebounding is there tonight, so there's not much to say. The offense - even with Brad on the bench, looks good. I'm pretty sure they are far more comfortable attacking straight man to man than they are when faced with a zone, but they have the weapons and they get the looks.

4) Nothing could get the adult fans going: It really was Night of the Living Dead in the Shaker adult section last night. Perhaps the most lasting image in my head during the second half was watching several Shaker fans in the adult section try their best to get the adult crowd into the game, without succeeding. Sure, people would cheer for baskets and go crazy when Brad dunked it or Hooks hit his three, but otherwise it was a ghost town. I mean nothing. I shudder at the thought of that crowd showing up for sectionals. Luckily, I think it will be different by then.

4th Quarter

A disaster of incredible magnitude during the first four mintues of the quarter. Shen scored the first three baskets of the quarter, all of them on Shaker turnovers. I'm 95% certain that Shaker did not get a shot off during the 6-0 run. Dribbling off the foot, throwing it out of bounds, you name it, it happened. 51-47 Shaker. Holy crap, if they lose this game I am going to be so annoyed. Duclos got a basket underneath off a nice pass from Brad to stem the tide, but then it picked right back up again. Shen scored a basket. 53-49. Then they got a breakaway steal but Brad came out of nowhere to block it, reminiscient of the block on Holle in the CBA game. But Shen got an immediate steal and a basket, 53-51. Oh my god. I'm going to be sick. Shaker turned it over - again - and Shen came down the court and launched a three. It was one of those shots that you just know is going in: the Shen crowd is going crazy, they have all the momentum, and Shaker is collapsing. I wish I could bet money on these shots when they are in the air. Of course it went it. 54-53. Shen leads. Just kill me. This feels worse than the Averill Park game. Timeout Shaker. And then out of the timeout, Brad just came out on a mission. You could see it on his face. They got him the ball in the post, he turned to the hoop, and went straight at it for the basket and the foul, plus a gigantic roar as he finished the play. Now that's unstoppable. He made the free throw and it was 56-54 Shaker, about 3 minutes to go. Brad then came up with a steal at the other end, and on the ensuing posession ripped off a monster jam that finally, finally ignited the crowd. 58-54 Shaker. Brad got a huge block at the other end with 2 minutes to go, and Griff put in a tough hoop to build a 6 point lead. Shen then hit a hoop, but there was only a minute left and they were forced to foul. Shaker wisely kept the ball in Eddie's hands, and he calmly made two foul shots with 50 seconds to go. 62-56. Shen then hit a three, but Eddie made 1 of 2 with 27 seconds to go. 63-59 Shaker. Shen missed and the Bison got a layup from Hans as time expired. Whew! Good lord.

4th quarter notes:

1) Finishing off: Man, over the course of this season, Shaker has probably had something like a 10 point lead going into the 4th on 10 different occasions. Rarely have they run away with it from there. Far more often it has gotten very interesting. When Shen took the lead last night, I really thought the Bison might fold and take a hideous loss.

2) Tough under fire: But they didn't. They recovered and got it done down the stretch. And for that they deserve a lot of credit. For all the games that they've given back comfortable leads this year, it has really only bitten them in the backside twice - against Maginn and against AP. Maybe they've gotten lucky, but they've also been pretty resilient when the chips are down.

Here is the partial boxscore:

NameFGFTFTAFT %3-PtPoints
Eddie Cross34580%113
Vernon Cross300--06
Tom Duclos41250%09
John Hans122100%04
Brian Hooks000--13
Thomas Kahnle01250%01
Griff McLoughlin42367%010
Brad Sheehan833100%019

And here's the quarter log:

Shenendehowa 13131518 59

Brad was solid tonight. Eddie played a very good game. And Griff was his usual self. The bench was less productive than normal. What you can't see on these stats are the turnovers. And they were indescribably bad. I would guess 35 or so, but who knows.

Four major things to sum up:

1) That's eight in a row: Honestly, I'm just going to repeat the exact same paragraph I wrote after Friday's game, because it pretty much fits perfectly. Just sub in "Shen" where it says "BHS", "great" where it says "perefect," and "turned it over a billion times" where it says "went cold." The point is exactly the same:
In some ways, the games at this point in the season mean more: momentum and confidence can be everything going into the postseason, and a seven game win streak is nothing to sneeze at. On the other hand, these games also mean less: nothing that happens between now and sectionals is going to change Shaker's status, so it's more important to play well and improve than simply to pile up wins. I thought they played pretty well tonight. They certainly weren't perfect, by any means. BHS picked a nice game plan and Shake went cold for a few stretches and got frustrated inside by the refs and the zone. It happens. They weren't going to beat Schenectady with last night's effort, but that's ok. They weren't playing Schenectady.

2) Brad needs the ball: It makes sense to me to shoot from the outside when they collapse the entire middle on him. But it does not make sense to me for him to go for 3 or 4 minute stretches without getting a look. If he can't get it in the post, get it to him on the baseline, or at the foul line, or somewhere. It's very important that they shoot over the collapsed zone, but it's probably more important that they never go 3 trips in a row without Brad touching the ball once. Especially in the 4th quarter. That's not the way to do it.

3) Passing, dribbling, and staying in control: Here's how I would get ready for the Saratoga game on Friday: I would go back to old-school, junior-high style passing and dribbling drills. Check Hoosiers out of the library or something, and duplicate Hackman's first practice with Hickory High. And then I'd make minimizing turnovers my only concern for Friday night - more important than winning. Bench anyone who doesn't throw crisp passes. Bench anyone who dribbles out of control. The out of control part is important: Shen played a pretty sloppy game too and the Bison got lots of fast break chances off turnovers. But often they just gave it back with a turnover of their own. Last night proved to me that it's not the press that is causing turnovers. The press break is fine. It's the lazy passes and out of control dribbling.

4) It's go time, for the fans: I'm not one to quote Public Enemy, but it is absolutely time to Bring the Noise in that gym. Sectionals are too close for people to be sitting around like they're at a picnic in Washington Park or something. Ridiculous. And Friday is a great opportunity. It's the last regular season game. It's senior night. It's Brad's birthday. I'm requesting that the place be packed and the place be loud. There's no excuse at this point. You have to realize three things:

1) Shaker hasn't had a basketball team this good in a long, long time.
2) The homecourt advantage in high school hoops is real,
3) But only if it's not a funeral in the stands.
4) No team ever won sectionals and got polite golf claps.

Thefore: get over yourself and start screaming your lungs out. Q.E.D

So come out to the game Friday. And bring your brother. It's go time.

Summary and notes

I won't have a standard recap for Friday's game, since I'm sitting with the students. I'll have something, but I ain't keeping score...Schenectady beat Maginn last night....A win Friday gives Shaker the outright Suburban regular season title...

Final score: Shaker 65, Shen 59. TU box score here. Shaker improves to 14-3 (12-1 Suburban Council). Next game: 2/3/06, home against Saratoga.
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