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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: 2/3/06

Game Recap: Home vs. Saratoga, 2/3/06, Sitting in the student section

[note: This essay is a combination of three things: a standard game recap, an essay about senior night, and an essay about sitting in the student section. Enjoy! And if you were any of the 20 or so students taking pictures last night - email them to me at girmindlsghost@hotmail .com so I can publish them with this article...]

It's probably worth your while to review my interview with Shaker 6th man and my student section cheering essay prior to reading this recap. -mg

Executive Summary: Shaker 72, Saratoga 50. Just an amazing senior night. The crowd was big and the H-gym new gym was rocking. The student section was absolutely packed, and the team came out to warm up wearing their 6th man shirts. After the traditional senior night activities of the introduction of the seniors and the presentation of flowers to the parents, the Bison senior blew the doors off Saratoga in the opening minutes. Three posessions and three crowd-igniting, ego-shattering plays: Duclos took an alley-oop pass for a dunk to start the game, Hans hit a three on the next possession, and Griff bulled his way to a basket in the lane. It was 7-0, the crowd was louder than it had been all year, and the seniors were jumping up and down on the court. Timeout Saratoga. Game, set, match: Shaker. The Bison went on to lead 20-7 at the end of the first and cruised the rest of the way. The blowout availed the Bison of the opportunity to put all the seniors on the floor in the 4th and take them out one at a time, to roaring applause and endless chanting. Truly a night to remember. Final score: Shaker 72, Saratoga 50. TU box score here (it's not correct). Shaker improves to 15-3 (13-1 Suburban Council). Next game: 2/9/06, Suburban Council Tournament 1st Round vs Nisky(?), site TBD.

Full Report, Turn back the clock : Arrived at Shaker around 7:00 for the 7:30 senior night presentation followed by game tip. I must say I was a little nervous. Bill Hooks saw me and asked if I was actually going to go through with it? I assured him I was, and he walked away laughing. SJC was with me, but she had declined the offer to join me in the student section. As we walked in, I noticed that it was already a big crowd. I gazed up at the student section and spotted my contacts - Chris and Joe - and climbed the student bleachers for the first time in 10 years. A few instant observations:

1) Ahhh, the student bleachers: There are at least six things that make the student bleachers at Shaker completely different from the adult bleachers. Some of them I remembered before I got over there, some of them I had forgotten:

Difference #1 (remembered): You have a totally different view of the game. I wrote about this yesterday.

Difference #2 (forgot): There are candy wrappers everywhere. You're not supposed to bring food or drink into the gym. This policy is univerally ignored at Shaker, but in the adult bleachers most people manage to take the garbage out with them. In the student bleachers, if you look down at your feet, it's basically a huge collection of Skittles wrappers.

Difference #3 (forgot): Half the aisle board are broken: When you are walking up the bleacher stairs, you have to be careful, because many of the boards are poorly attached. It's unbelievable that no one has actually broken through them yet. If the adult bleacher aisles had this problem, I bet they would be reparied ASAP. It's not that big of a deal in the student section, however, because...

Difference #4 (remembered): People just sit in the aisles, so you often have to meander your way up the bleachers. Some nights - like last night - this was out of necessity. It's just too crowded.

Difference #5 (remembered, but not fully): It is a good 20 degrees hotter in the student section. I had decided to go "full-student" and wear a sixth man t-shirt. Here's a picture of how I, as well as most of the kids at the top of the student section - were apparelled:

I had decided that I should wear a long-sleeve t-shirt underneath the 6th man shirt. Huge mistake. It must have been close to 90 degrees up there last night. Unreal.

Difference #6 (remembered, but not fully): Teenagers are loud, obnoxious, vulgar, and constantly flirting with each other. That all coalesces into what can only be described as a "youthful energy" in the student section. I certainly remember this from years ago, but I had forgotten how powerful it is. Somehow, the lens through which I was watching the game completely changed. It's the difference between watching kids play hoops and watching your friends play hoops. It was great.

2) What an atmosphere!: I couldn't have picked a better night to sit in the student section. Senior night is always a fun time, but I never got the chance when I was in school to see a senior night when the team was great. This team is great. And the kids in those bleachers care more about this team than I ever remember students caring about a team - and that includes 1992. It truly was awesome last night. In one sense, it was the end: for Griff, John, Vernon, Brad, and Tom, this was the last regular season game. But on the other hand it was a beginning: the real season, the playoff season, is next. And you could tell that everyone in the gym knew this.

Senior night festivities

The players came out to warm up, and the 6th man (and I) moved into position at the top of the bleachers. We had been sitting and chatting, but now it was time to get serious. One annoying thing that has always been true in the Shaker student section is that the bottom half of the student section refuses to stand throughout the game. It's all students who like to go to the gmes and like to cheer, but refuse to partake in the more overt school spirit and standing and chanting all game. Nevertheless, the 6th man is huge tonight. The top five rows of the bleachers are all standing, it must be close to a hundred students. And we're packed in there. I'm standing next to Joe Bianchino, a senior and a ringleader of the 6th man. On my left is a senior name Ryan, and in front of me are two juniors, Courtney and John Hans' cousin, who are decked out in homemade t-shirts and sparkly boas. There's absolutely no room to move. They begin an "Erik Elkin" chant for the announcer. When the warmup clock gets down to 3 minutes, we start chanting the players names, one at a time, and go through the whole team. This takes - surprise, surprise - almost exactly 3 minutes. The players take to the bench and the seniors are introduced one at a time to deliver flowers to their parents. They then continue their warmpus, we hear the national anthem, and the game begins.

Senior night festivities notes:

1) Damn, it's loud: You can remind yourself how loud student sections are, but you can never really remember until you're standing in the middle of it and the first chant starts. It almost knocked me off my bleacher. It was that startling. I instantly knew there was no way I was going to be able to remember much from the game. And I also knew there was no way I was going to sleep for a few hours after this one. It literally sends a shot of adrenaline through you the moment it starts. Wow. I had forgotten how loud 15 to 17 year old girls can shreik at a basketball game. Wow.

2) Amazing coordination: I've written about this before, but this year's 6th man is by far the best student section cheering I've ever seen at a Shaker game. It was intense in 1992, but this year it's just so darn organized. And I watched it in action last night. It's really just three people - Joe. B, Tom Maldonado, and Chris Caradori - leading the way. They spread out in the 6th man and signal to each other what chants should be started. Then one of them starts one and everyone joins in instantly. Wow. Just awesome.

3) The team and the 6th man are communicating: Sometimes, the players claim they try not to listen to the crowd. And sometimes, the 6th man refrains from trying to get the individual attention of the players. Not tonight. Players on the court are motioning to the 6th man, individual playesr are being called out for acknowlegements, and best of all - the team is sporting 6ht man shirts during warmups. Sometimes basketball teams are disconnected from their fans. Not the case at Shaker this year. I get the sense that if they weren't on the court, almost every member of Shaker's team would be standing in the 6th man.

4) Nice Senior night: Unlike the disastrous senior night at Bethehem - where the annoucer talks at length about each senior and it bores the hell out of everyone - Shaker does a very classy and very touching senior presentation. The seniors are called one by one to present flowers to their parents. No speech, no lengthy announcemnts. Just great applause and kids with their families. Very enjoyable.

1st Quarter

Shaker started the seniors - Brad, Duclos, Hans, Vernon, and Griff - and Brad won the tip. 5 seconds later, John threw an alley-oop pass to Duclos for a huge dunk, and the crowd exploded. Saratoga came down the floor and missed a shot, Shaker brought the ball down and Hans hit nothing but net on a three pointer. 5-0. Now the crowd really exploded. Shaker got a steal at the other end, they worked the ball around, and Griff got an inside layup. 7-0. You can't hear yourself think in the gym. Timeout Saratoga. Ear to ear smiles from the seniors. One of the best moments I've ever witnessed at Shaker basketball. Just a perfect way to start a senior night game. It couldn't have been any better. Saratoga finally scored, but Shaker kept the pressure on, and won the quarter 20-7. Fantastic.

1st quarter notes:

1) Good lord, what a rush: Right after Duclos jam, my mind instantly flashed back to the 1992 regional finals at HVCC. On the opening possession, Jim Haver hit a three and I thought the bleachers were going to come down they were shaking so much. It wasn't quite that intense last night, but it was darn close. The entire 6th man was jumping up and down on the top 5 rows of the bleachers. What a great feeling. There really was a playoff atmosphere in there last night. And to come out and just blow the doors off Saratoga like that was the best thing that could possibly have happened. You could just see it in the 6th man and on the court: everyone knew this was something special, and something they weren't soon to forget.

2) The game is totally different from the student section: I don't think it can be decribed, but every aspect of a basketball game just looks different when you are standing in the 6th man. Part of it is that you have the differnt view of the court that I've alluded to before - you can see the coaches, you can see the players on the bench, the cheerleader are facing you. But it's more than that. Offensive plays look different, the court looks smaller on fast breaks, you can see shots better. It's so wierd. And I know none of that makes sense. But it's true. And yeah, you have no chance of keeping track of the game. I thought I might have a shot at remembering things last night, but no way. You just get way too caught up in the moment. After the game, I was trying to think back on what I remembered that happend on the court. Here's what I came up with: I remembered the first 2 minutres perfectly, I remembered Hans had a ton of three's, I remembered Griff had lots of low-block layups, and I remembered the final 4 minutes when they took the seniors out. That's it. Sure - I have bits and pieces from the rest of the game, but nothing substantial. It was like being on a roller coaster - you remember how great it was, but you don't remember the deatils.

3) Chants: We whipped through "Let's go Shaker!" several times, "De-fense!" a number of times. "Fun-da-men-tals!" after a missed Saratoga layup, "You can't do that" after a travel, "Not in our house!" after a block by Brad, "Griff's a beast!" after another bull layup, "Boink!"on several occasions, and numerous catcalls that probably shouldn't be mentioned. All in the 1st quarter. But they saved their surprise for...

3) Brad's birthday: If it wasn't enough that it was senior night, it was also Brad's 18th birthday. As the players sat down for the quarter break, the 6th man broke into a nice rendition of Happy Birthday, and much of the adult crowd joined in as well. I think it embarassed Brad a bit on the bench. We then shifted to a "Brad is legal!"chant, which probably wasn't joined in on by the adult section. Well done.

2nd Quarter

I honestly don't remember much of the game in the second quarter. Shaker won it 18-14 to take a 38-21 halftime lead, and that basically sealed the game. They never were ahead by less than 9 after the 2nd quarter began. Hans certainly did put on an exhibition from behind the three point line. I'm surprised I don't remember more from the game, but that's the nature of the student section - the chants keep you going on a level that prevents close analysis of the plays. During breaks in the game, I spent most of the quarter talking to students in the 6th man.

Second quarter notes:

1) John Hans fan club: Although I think Brad can get people screaming the loudest, Hans has the most intesne fans, judging by what I saw last night. Two girls in front of me were decked out in homemade t-shirts dedicated to John, and they were also wearing white boas and angel wings. Whenever Hans would score, they went completely nuts. I mean, completely nuts.

2) Sevens: A could of times a game, they do a cheer called "Sevens." It's coordinated with teh cheerleaders, and involves stamping your feet clapping your hands, and lots of yelling. It's pretty much reached cult status in the 6th man - people demand it even though it's a pretty pedestrian chant. Then, after it's done, people give each other huge over the top high-fives, exalting the great and mysterious Sevens chant they have just completed.

3) Heat stroke, hearing loss: It must be 95 degress in the 6ht man. I'm sweating through my shirt, and so are most people. And it's just so loud. The chants are actually the easiest time on your ears: you know what's coming. At any other time, 4 or 5 different people are shreiking or screaming something. Often just behind you and into your ear. Unreal. You really can't imagine how much is being screamed over there that you can never pick up from the adult section. It's amazing.

Shaker's scoring looked like this at the break: Yeah right. It was 38-21 and Hans had a bunch of three's. Don't ask about anything else.

Halftime notes:

1) A momentary escape:I went over to the adult section during halftime to visit SJC, who was sitting with an old family friend, Sara Clark. Nice surprise. God it was so serene over there. Mrs. Sheehan came over and asked me if I was planning on going back for more, or if I had had enough? I assured her that I would go back, but that I don't recommend it for the faint of heart. I also saw a kid in the junior high 6th man wearing aviator sunglasses. Beyond cool.

2) End of an era, confirmed: I paid 75 cents for a Twix. I should have bought a gatorade, however, because my mouth was parched.

3rd Quarter

I don't remember any details. I know they were up as much as 26 and the game was over. And I know Hans hit more threes and Brad made some nice baseline moves. But I tell you I cannot remember the sequence for the life of me.

Third quarter notes:

1) Bogdan's snowball date: A girl carrying some Bodgan signs was standing next to me when I returned to my space in the 6th man. Turns out she's going to the snowball with him. Is she dating him, I ask? "I wish," she replies. "He's so hot. But don't tell him I said this. Oh, I guess you're recording it. Oops." Yeah! And thus continues the 6th man's intense facination with Bodgan. Guys and girls alike cannot resist him. As he enters the game for the first time at some point in the 3rd, the sixth man goes crazy. Which is wierd because...

2) One problem is that they fatigue: This is particuarly true in blowouts. The 6th man was not nearly as active in the second half. Up 20, it takes more than a standard basket to really get them going. They want dunks, blocks, and huge three pointers. When those come, it's wild. But otherwise it is becoming more serene. This is partially because of the heat - one girl behind me, a sophomore named sarah - spends most of the second half sitting down and drinking a gatorade, clearly hot and exaughsted.

4th Quarter

Just a great way to end senior night. The on-court action had been settled long ago, and Holmes had all reserves in the game. The seniors were on the bench laughing it up, interacting with the 6th man, and generally having a great time. Then Holmes shuffled them in the game and got them all on the court together with about 4 minutes to go. The chants really fired up at this point - "Class of '06!" went for a few rounds, and then a "Council champs!" was unleashed. At that point, Holmes started removing the seniors one by one to massive ovations. As he took Griff out - the first senior to depat - Holmes himself started motioning to the 6th man to get loud. He didn't have to. The whole place - students and adults alike - went nuts. The game continue on the floor, but no one was watching. The 6th man then started a "We love Griffin" chant and continued it for 6 or 7 rounds. When we finished, Holmes took another senior out at the next stop of play. And the secne was repeated. And it was repeated 3 more times. Just wonderful.

4th quarter notes:

1) Senior night blowout are great: I think it was really special that they could get all five of them on the floor at the same time in the 4th quarter and bring them off one by one. That wouldn't have been possible in a tight game.

2) Surpise party?: Talking to one senior named Mo, I learned that Brad was receiving a surprise party after the game. And pretty soon I realized that a good proportion of the 6th man was going to be there. Hillarious. I wonder if Brad's parents know.

3) Getting comical: At one point in the 4th, they started chanting singing the theme song to "Fresh Prince of Bel-Air." That was followed by the Humpty-Dance. Man, I was in 5th grade when the humpty Dance came out. None of these kids were even born yet! But it is hysterical to hear 50 or 60 people sigining a TV show theme song at a basketball game.

Anyhow, here is the partial boxscore:

NameFGFTFTAFT %3-PtPoints
Eddie Cross022100%15
Vernon Cross200--04
Ryan Dare03475%03
Tom Duclos31250%07
Pat Fallon122100%04
John Hans133100%417
Griff McLoughlin81250%017
Brad Sheehan55771%015

Saratoga Springs 7141217 50

Hans was remarkable tonight. So was Griff. Brad was solid as usual. Saratoga really packed it in on him, and that's what unleashed Hans. The turnovers were really down.

Four major things to sum up:

1) That's nine in a row: They played tonight like it was a playoff game. And in some ways, it was more important that a playoff game. I know for a fact none of them will ever forget Duclos' dunk. It was one of the most crowd-pleasing and emotionally-charged baskets I'd ever seen that wasn't at the end of the game or in the playoffs. This team is on a roll. They haven't lost since Christmas break, and I think they are pulling it together just when they need to. Next weekend is the Suburbans, and after that is sectionals, the regional final, and the state tournament. It seems like a long way off, but the state title is just 9 games away.

2) Would I do it again?: I got back over to the adult section after the game, and more than a few people asked me if I'd go back to the 6th man again. Honestly, probably not. But on the other hand, it was probably the most enjoyable game of the season. The energy over there was just awesome, I hope they can duplicate that on an even bigger scale in the playoffs. Probably the most ridiculous thing is that I was completely wired after the game, just like I might have been when I was a teenager. It really pumps you up to sit over there. And as silly as it might sound, I recommend you try it. Just once. It's worth the experience.

3) A more detailed essay: I conducted a lot of interviews in the 6th man last night, and I'm going to put together a more complete essay about going over there, probabaly a comparison of my memory from high school with the reality of last night. Look for it in the next few weeks.

4) Special thanks: Thanks to all the students who took me in for a night last night. And particularly the students who gave me interviews: Emily, Kyla, Ryan, Sarah, Courtney, Hans' cousin (can't remember your name), Mo, Bill, Jay, and Rebecca. And particular thanks to Tom, Chris, and Joe, who convinced me against my skepticism that I should come sit in the 6th man for a night. Thanks guys.

Summary and notes

Colonie beat Nisky last night, so it looks like the seeding for the Suburban tourney is Shaker, AP, Colonie, Nisky...

Final score: Shaker 72, Saratoga 50. TU box score here (it's not correct). Shaker improves to 15-3 (13-1 Suburban Council). Next game: 2/9/06, Suburban Council Tournament 1st Round vs Nisky(?), site TBD.
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At 4:59 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said:

awesome recap!!! cant wait for the essay later in the week


At 5:12 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said:

very impressive....you got my name right first try!

love the recap,.....shaker basketball wouldn't be the same without your awesome work!


At 5:28 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said:

damn straight kyla!!


At 9:01 PM , Blogger Matt said:

Kyla - drop me an email (girmindlsghost@hotmail.com) b/c I'd like to ask you some follow up questions for my upcoming essay. Or, if someone else knows Kyla's email, shoot it my way.


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