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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

Sectional Preview II

Sectional Preview, Part II of III: [This is part two of a three part sectional preview. Back on Saturday, I reviewed Shaker's sectional fortunes during my lifetime (1978-2005). Yesterday, I wrote a quick post quoting Sam Perkins on his outlook on sectionals. Today, I'll be discussing the gyms that the sectional games are held in. And tomorrow, I will make my first and second round predictions.]

The gyms of the Section Two basketball tournament

As far as the Class AA basketball tournament goes, there are four locaions any team can play at. The first round of the tournament is held at the home location of the higher seed, so that means it's the regular high school gyms tomorrow night. On Sunday (2/26), all four games will be held at the RACC at Suny Albany, in the mother of all quadruple-headers. The semi-finals are held at the Glens Falls Civic Center the following Saturday night (3/4), and the finals are held at the Pepsi Arena in downtown Albany on the following Tuesday (3/7). Of course, there's also my favorite place to watch a sectional game, Hudson Valley. Unfortunatley, HVCC is no longer used for the Class AA games.

Historically, things were very different. Back in the '70's, there was no Pepsi Arena or Glens Falls or RAAC, and they used a variety of different locations. The finals weren't moved to Glens Falls until 1980 (when the civic center was built) - they had previously been at a variety of different locations, like the ARC at Siena. And often the bigger high school gyms - Shaker, Mechanicville, Troy, etc. - were used as neutral sites for early round games. First round games were still played at home gyms of higher seeds.

Here's a look at the various gyms Shaker may will play in over the next three weeks:

1. Shaker High School H-gym new gym: I think we've said enough about this place over the past three months. Here's my original essay on it, you can also get a flavor of it by rereading the old game reports from home games.

2. SUNY-Albany RACC: I think next Sunday is one of the best days of the year if you are simply a fan of high school basketball. A quadruple-header of quarterfinal games, all on one admission price. If the bracket holds, it would look like this on Sunday: Nisky vs. Schenectady at 1pm, CBA vs. Columbia at 2:30, B. Maginn vs. Colonie at 4:00, and Shaker vs. Albany at 5:30. That's some fun basketball. And it's kind of like the first day of the ACC tournament - there are four games and, by god, there are people there who sit through all four games. Now, it's not exactly like the ACC tournament - many people only stay for one game, and most people don't stay for more than two. But it's a good atmosphere. If I had my way, I'd probably go to all four games, but that's a tough sell for SJC. If Since Shaker is playing, I'll probably go to just the third game and the Shaker game. In the disastrous event that they aren't playing Otherwise, I'll probably go to the middle two games.

The RACC itself - in my opinion - is the best of the "big three" locations currently in use for the AA tournament (I do like HVCC better), at least in terms of the "watching" part of basketball. It's one of those facilities that's halfway between being a gym and being an arena. To me, that's a good thing. You enter from the top, kind of like at Glens Falls, and that means there's a lot of railing space up high if you want to get an eagle-eye view of the game. The seating is pretty spacious - they claim it seats 5,000, but I'm no sure. My favorite part of the RACC is that it has both arena style seats and bleachers. That's perfect for high school playoff basketball - the students can stand and the grandparents can sit comfortably. And you're pretty close to the court - not as close as at the Armory, and certainly not as close as at the high school gyms, but pretty close. The other great thing about the rack is that it gets pretty loud - it really is a great facility for high school or college hoops.

The RACC has some downsides, mostly related to logistics: the parking situation at SUNY is not very good. You could easily be stuck out past the tennis courts, no fun on a cold day. I also don't particularly think the RACC does a good job, architecturally, at crowd management. Even if the place is only 1/2 full, it's annoying to go to the bathroom or go get something to eat.

Here's the best picture I could find of the RACC - it was taken from the upstairs entrace area:

3. Glens Falls Civic Center: The premiere night in high school hoops, to me, has always been the Class AA (or back in the day, the Class A) sectional semi-finals. It's always a Saturday night double-header - the only weekend night games of the whole tournament in the current format. And it's always a great crowd. It wasn't always held up in Glens Falls like it is now - it was typically at Hudson Valley in the early and mid 90's. And believe it or not, Shaker has never lost in the sectional semis in my lifetime. Granted, they've only made it there four times since 1978, but each time they've advanced to the finals. Glens Falls has also hosted the NYSPHSAA state tournament every year since 1981. It is also currently the home of the federation tournament as well.

The Glens Falls Civic Center is not my favorite place to watch basketball. It has some advantages: unlike the RACC, it has good traffic flow, there are a ton of seats, it has a nice top-entrance like the RACC, and it can get pretty darn loud. It also can jam almost 7,000 people in if necessary (until last year, the largest crowd ever to watch a setion 2 basketball game was the 1980 sectional final in Glens Falls - just over 7,000 people). But it's an arena, and that means that everyone has to sit in a real seat. There aren't any bleachers. The student sections tend to be stifled in that kind of atmosphere. Don't get me wrong - by the sectional semis the student sections are all roaring, but they are not nearly as roaring as they could be, and it's because of the seating situation. This diffuses the crowd quite a bit. And the other problem in Glens Falls is that it was built for hockey. Not many of the seats are super close to the basketball court. I'd much prefer if they held the semi-finals at HVCC, the RACC, or even the ARC. Here's a picture of the Glens Falls Civic Center:

4. Pepsi Arena: They started playing the sectional finals at Pepsi arena because the crowds that wanted to atten the game were getting too big for Glens Falls. So they moved the AA final down to the Pepsi. I'm sympathetic to the idea that we should let as many people see the final as want to come, but I also think it kind of sucks. I've been to the sectional final many times, and I can say without hesitation that - from a fan's persepctive - last year was my least favorite final. I mean, you've been to Siena games, right? That's what it's like to have 6500 or 7000 people in an arean that holds 15,000. It does not feel like the sectional finals. The atmosphere just isn't there. It's like Glens Falls, except not full. Ughh. Now, I don't know what the answer is - there's no venue around section two that holds 8,000 or 9,000 people comfortably. But honestly, I wouldn't be against moving the game back to Glens Falls. It's kinda important to have a packed house for the sectional finals, and if the trade-off is 500 or 1000 people can't see the game vs. playing in a half-full Pepsi arena, that's a tough one. But I'd probably lean toward the packed house.

The Pepsi itself is a so-so place to watch high school basketball. If you discount the half-full effect, as an arena it's a lot nicer than Glens Falls. I like the scoreboards and the ease of getting there from Latham. And the seats are comfortable. But it's just like Glens Falls in most of the characteristics that matter: there aren't any bleachers and most of the seats are really far from the court. There's probably no solution to that dillema - the section two tournament is just too popular to hold the finals at HVCC (I guess), but it does bother me quite a bit. Anyhow, here's a picture of the Pepsi set up for basketball:

I'll be back tomorrow with my predictions for the first and second round games...
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