The SportsTalk Shop: District Basketball “Mini” Primer

With the expanded playoff formats for both girls and boys basketball teams this year, it is nearly impossible to break down every single team in our coverage area along with insights for every game in a single blog posting—especially since there are more “sub-regionals” featuring many teams that are outside of the RCN viewing area that we haven’t had a chance to see.

Instead, I wanted to focus on four teams inside our coverage area with interesting storylines that you can follow as you watch this winter’s playoff coverage on RCN-TV (and be sure to check out our broadcast schedule each day this week for details on which teams we’ll be announcing, along with our airtimes).

ALLEN BOYS BASKETBALL
Yes, they did drop the regular season finale to a Class 4-A team…but when you look at the team that Doug Snyder can roll out there—and the depth to this year’s team, I don’t think you can realistically argue there is a better team in District XI.

The way Tyrese Martin is playing—he has to be the area’s “MVP” in a very crowded field of talented players (among them David Kachelries, Jalen Vaughns, Jeremy Johnson, Nick King and others).  Martin can play (and score) from any position on the floor.

The Canaries have a host of great ball handlers (Bless Jones, Malik Gordan, Jvon Winslow, Carlos Gutierrez, Diyel Steward) and an imposing front court (Rahmel Johnson, Brandon Moya, Tyrese Stewart, Orion Obade, A’quele Adderlay) that are very underrated in terms of their rebounding and defensive abilities.

Oh, by the way, I forgot to mention the popular preseason MVP choice, Talek Williams, too.

I heard a rumor that some people in Allentown were hoping the Canaries would lose a game during the regular season—so that they wouldn’t go into the playoffs with an undefeated record, and maybe help them refocus while not being too overconfident for the post-season—thereby firing them up for what they hope will be a long run through the state tournament.

Well, if that rumor was true (and it was), they got their wish.

EASTON GIRLS BASKETBALL
The Red Rovers did lose the EPC Championship to an incredibly talented Bethlehem Catholic squad—beating Easton in all three meetings between these two schools.  The Rovers are also not the favorite in the 6A playoff classification, as both Nazareth and Parkland finished with more “power points,” pushing Easton to the #3 seed.

However, the Rovers will not have to face the Golden Hawks again since they are in a different classification bracket, and I think Easton will thrive in the District XI and PIAA playoffs.  They continue to be loaded with talent led by Gabby Bloshuk (team high 13 points vs. Becahi in the EPC title game), Shelby Stocker (8 points) and are a very deep team (Mackenzie Miers, contrary to reports did play last Friday, as I had predicted on last week’s “SportsTalk” show).

Allen has made great strides and has had a fine season, but I don’t see any way the Rovers get tripped up in their opener versus the Canaries this Wednesday, which will fuel them through districts and into the state playoffs.  They’ll most probably have to face another scrappy Parkland team in the semifinals, and then, yet another showdown with Nazareth for the championship.

SALISBURY BOYS BASKETBALL
I have to admit, I am fast becoming a big-time Falcons fan—again–this winter, and for several reasons.

While Head Coach Jason Weaver has always had post-season success, he usually features an up-tempo team that loves to push the ball up-and-down the floor regardless of other team’s approach.

This year, for the first time in Jason’s tenure with Salisbury, he features a more half court oriented team, yet they are still fun to watch.

Big men Jaxon Costello and Ryan Slutsky have had numerous big-time games over the last month—both can bring the ball up effectively, shoot from the perimeter and have great hands.  Salisbury’s front court will create a tough matchup for their opponent—Octorara, a team with just two players over 6’1 and none taller than 6’3”—in their opening round playoff game (which will be seen on RCN-TV live, Friday at 6pm).

Jack Reichenbach and Blake Jones are lethal guards who are also very good ball-handlers.  Reichenbach in particular is extremely flashy and effective in scoring both from the outside and from penetration off his own dribble.

But perhaps the most underrated guard in the Colonial League this year was sophomore Sean Snyder, who’s been receiving praise with two great efforts in recent weeks.

In Salisbury’s regular season finale against Southern Lehigh, Snyder was quiet in terms of his point production, but impressed me with his savvy and maturity out in the court during some key moments in the second half to secure the Falcons’ win.

In Salisbury’s Colonial League playoff game last week, Snyder stepped up when teams were keying on other guys and came up big offensively to keep his team at arm’s length and continued to show poise during heated exchanges with the Spartans.  A number of other Colonial League coaches remarked to me after that game what a talent Snyder is—and will continue to be for the next two seasons.

I feel comfortable in putting both Reichenbach and Snyder on a short list of the top guards for next winter and both will be prominently featured in next season’s “player to watch” when we get to December to preview the 2017-18 basketball campaign.

NOTRE DAME GIRLS BASKETBALL
On paper, they were severely overmatched with Southern Lehigh in last Friday’s Colonial League championship, but I was thoroughly impressed by the way the Crusaders hung with one of the most dominant teams in the region throughout its most recent contest.

Leading their hard-fought, never-say-die approach last week were seniors Tori Esposito, Cailee Murphy, Cassie Kelly, Amy Small and Kelsey Gorman.  They played tenacious defense against Solehi and contested every possession. Also, keep an eye on Murphy as she will be playing college ball locally next year for a great collegiate program and will probably be returning to post-season play often at the next level.

As far as the road ahead for Notre Dame, they have a very tough match-up in facing North Schuylkill this Friday in their sub-regional opener.  Even though they are the #6 seed, “North” is a very athletic team that knocked the Crusaders out of District XI play a year ago and will be tough to beat.  But if the ladies from Notre Dame play with the same passion (and can get a few more shots to fall than they did against Solehi), I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if the Crusaders advance into the next round to face the winner of the Jim Thorpe/New Hope-Solebury faceoff.

By the way, Notre Dame fans won’t have to worry about attending that next game at New Hope’s gym.  While the school is beautiful and I love the area, the New Hope-Solebury gymnasium is by far the smallest gym for high school basketball I have ever seen and would clearly not be large enough to hold Notre Dame’s loyal fan base.  Instead, that game will be played at a neutral—and definitely larger—facility.

One more playoff note:  Southern Lehigh needs to make sure it provides a luxury limo for LehighValleyLive.com’s Kyle Craig for their playoff games.  While they (and Becahi) clearly have the most talented girls basketball team in the region, its key player (and daughter of a local officiating great) Avery Bennett always has her best games when Kyle is in the house.  The Spartans could have a long run in the PIAA playoffs but I don’t think it should take any chances and so make sure that Mr. Craig is properly cared for during Solehi’s post-season.

Enjoy your high school playoff basketball action this week!

Behind the Mic: Packed House!

This past Friday, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference girls’ and boys’ basketball championships were held at Freedom High School.  Seating capacity at Freedom is @ 2700.  All those seats were filled.

By the third quarter of the first game, it became obvious that the gym would be sold out.  As we were doing game one, District XI personnel had to go tell the long line of people standing outside that many of them would not get in to see the game(s).  And as regretful as that message was to those who came to see great basketball, it was just as rewarding to know that so many people had gotten caught up in the Lehigh Valley basketball scene this year.

And it was easy to see why.  The Bethlehem Catholic girls had lost only twice and neither loss was to a Lehigh Valley team, but to two highly-respected programs – Cardinal O’Hara of Philadelphia and Rock Creek Academy of Maryland.  Their opponent, Easton, had only three losses and two of those were to Bethlehem Catholic by 18 and 19 points.  However, Easton was the defending champion and played like it.  The game came down to a final possession and Beca forced a turnover and won by five: 45-40.  Both teams played as hard as they could.

There was even more electricity surrounding the boys’ championship.  Allen was the #1 team in the state.  They were 23-1, with their only loss in overtime to (you guessed it) their opponent – Bethlehem Catholic.  To increase the drama, Allen had beaten Beca earlier in the season, but by only one.  The stage was set for a great battle.

It never happened.  The #1 Allen Canaries jumped on the Hawks early and never looked back.  With exciting and dramatic plays coming at a frenetic pace, Allen led at the half by 23.  But no one left the gym.  With Allen, you can expect plays, at times, that you have never seen before – whether it be passing, blocking, or, most dramatically, dunking.  No one wanted to miss the play everybody would be talking about tomorrow.  Allen supplies those plays every time they step on the court.  So… almost everyone stayed right up to the medal and trophy ceremony.

It was a great night for Lehigh Valley basketball.  Four good teams battling for two championships before a sold-out, standing room only packed house!  Hopefully, those who were turned away went home and joined the others watching the games on RCNTV.  High school basketball doesn’t get any better.

Or does it?  District playoffs begin this week!  Can’t wait!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. If you like offensive basketball, then I am pretty sure you enjoyed the NBA All-Star Game this past Sunday. The game ended with the West defeating the East by the ridiculous score of 192-182 and Anthony Davis broke Wilt Chamberlain’s scoring record by scoring 52 points.  It seems obvious that the game was only played at the offensive end of the court.
  2. November 17, 2014 is a long time ago, but that is the last time the Connecticut women’s basketball team lost a game – in double overtime to Stanford. 26 months ago! Following this past weekend, they have now won 101 straight games.  On Saturday, they only won by three points over Tulane.  That was the second smallest margin of victory in the streak.  Could the streak end this year?  Stay tuned.
  3. Dustin Johnson won the Genesis Open golf tournament this weekend and jumped to #1 in the world rankings. He is the 20th player to get to #1 in the 31 years of the rankings.  He replaced Jason Day, who held the spot for 47 weeks.
  4. The NBA dunk contest is being rivaled every time the Allen basketball team steps on the floor. Talek Williams and Tyrese Martin produce a highlight reel in just about every game.  The behind-the-back, between-the-legs pass by Martin to create a resounding dunk by Williams in the EPC Championship game this past Friday was just awesome.
  5. It’s PIAA playoff time and, for the first time, there are six classifications for both the boys and the girls. That means games almost every night.  Pay close attention to the TV schedule as we wind our way through the next month.

 

 

 

The SportsTalk Shop: League Playoffs

One of the great annual traditions of our “SportsTalk” program occurs this Thursday, when we have local coaches and media experts on our show for a roundtable discussion on the Lehigh Valley’s local league tournaments.

With district/regional/state-wide tournaments expanding ever so often now in every sport, it’s one of the few remaining weeks in which the entire Lehigh Valley is focused solely on the teams within the region—and it’s one of the most-watched shows (and frequently stirs up heated debates) on the calendar for the viewers in the market.  We examine both the girls and boys tourneys in both the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference as well as the Colonial League.

Joining Keith Groller and me will be multiple league-winning former head coach Megan Dellegrotti, along with current head basketball coaches Joe Stellato (Freedom HS) and Eric Snyder (Catasauqua).  Everyone will be giving their thoughts on the regular season and the league playoffs to-date along with making predictions, giving insights and “keys” for all of Friday’s championship games—all of which will be broadcast on RCN-TV (check out our broadcast schedule page for teams and airtimes).

Keith already made waves last week when he said the Colonial League Playoffs should be renamed the “Bangor Slaters Invitational” (as the Slaters have been in the last four title games while winning three of them—one more than any other team has accomplished this century. They also have the best record of any Colonial League team by far).

So tune in to the show this Thursday, live from 7-8 pm, or catch the podcast at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk and let us know your basketball opinions, questions and predictions. Be sure to email us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com right now and tune in for our panelists’ responses!

In the meantime, here’s a look at our recently broadcast games to get you ready for the Lehigh Valley’s “Championship Night” coming up this Friday on RCN-TV!

Also, make sure you check RCN-TV’s broadcast schedule throughout the week for details on this week’s league playoff coverage.

Behind the Mic: Ho-Hum!

Now what?  The Super Bowl has been played so there will not be any football for quite awhile.  The NBA and the NHL are in full swing, but for my interest is limited to the playoffs.  College basketball is heading to March Madness with league and conference championships right around the corner, but that’s still a few weeks away.  I do watch Villanova when I can and I pick up a Michigan game here and there just to watch former Allentown Central Catholic and Michigan starter, Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman, play.  Villanova was on this weekend and so was Michigan.

So, for me, that leaves golf.  There is nothing like the scenery offered up this past weekend at Pebble Beach in California.  With the sun shining brightly, there was beautiful green grass surrounded by the Pacific Ocean.  Even if you were not a golf fan, like my wife, the sight of beaches and whales and yachts and sailboats even drew her in.  For me, when Jordan Spieth is near the top, I will watch.  He has become my new “Tiger”.  I used to watch any tournament that had Tiger in contention, but, as I am sure you know, his back surgery has kept him away and “contention” is a long way off.

Spieth took a six-shot lead into Sunday and for that reason there was little excitement.  Now I would be thrilled if I could move from hole to hole and just get pars, which is what Spieth was doing.  He was playing “prevent defense” and there was no one in the field who could produce a New England Patriots comeback.  Spieth just moseyed his way around the course, had an early and late birdie, and settled for the victory, his ninth on the PGA tour.

Tiger won nine times in 61 starts.  This was Jordan’s 100th pro start.  But does that matter?   Spieth is now the measuring stick.  Tiger bowed out of the last two events he was scheduled for after coming back.  He was able to play just seven rounds before his back forced him to stop again.  He may never be back.

The good news is there are plenty of terrific, young golfers on the tour and they will make each week a true crapshoot.  My problem is I tend to latch on to a favorite and follow that golfer.  The good news is, for me right now, that golfer is Jordan Spieth.  He is polite, seems to have good family values, has ties to Saucon Valley, and is very competitive.  And, if he is not having a good week, the scenery is still beautiful!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. 76ers center Joel Embiid has been on the sideline with a torn meniscus in his left knee, yet he was caught dancing shirtless on stage at a concert this past weekend. He missed the entire 2014-15 season with a broken bone in his foot and went on to miss the entire 2015-16 season.  He played this season until February 11 when he tore his meniscus.  It just doesn’t sound like he should be dancing.
  2. You probably would not be surprised to learn that the Tom Brady NFL jersey is the #1 seller. Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is #5.  His jersey accounted for more than 50% of all Eagles’ jerseys sold.  Fletcher Cox is #2 among the Eagles, but #3 will surprise you.  The third highest selling Eagles jersey belongs to Brian Dawkins who has not played for the team in almost ten years.  You now have a good trivia question.
  3. Since 2001, the New England Patriots have a 196-60 regular season record. No team is within 30 wins of that record. They have played in seven Super Bowls in that time span and, surprisingly, every one has been decided by one score or less.  In fact, their average point spread in all seven games is 3.7 points.  Remember, they beat the Eagles in 2005 by a 24-21 score.  Sounds like they could have won them all or lost them all.
  4. Most people around here are Villanova fans and they are currently ranked #2 in the country after spending the early part of the season at #1. Gonzaga has that spot right now and they are 26-0.  It does not appear, looking at their schedule, that the Bulldogs will lose a regular season game.  Villanova should get a #1 seed in the tournament and then prove they deserve the #1 spot overall.
  5. Don’t ask me why, but I watched the Grammys on Sunday night. Thank goodness there were excellent performances during the BeeGees and Prince dedications because almost everyone else was bad or chose a bad song, including Queen Bee (yet no one will say it!); Lady Gaga who killed at the Super Bowl but not so much with Metallica; and even Adele when she sang the George Michael tribute song.  Some great talent wasted.

 

 

 

The SportsTalk Shop: “FINAL” 2017 Basketball Poll

I have to keep it real here—it was not the most exciting regular season in terms of monitoring our scholastic ranking system this winter.

While we’ve seen some well-played games (last Friday’s Freedom/Liberty game by far the best contest I’ve called this winter) and I’m anticipating a very entertaining post-season, there wasn’t a whole lot of movement among our “SportsTalk” poll results over the course of the regular season.

Before we get to our last rankings of the year, here’s a quick recap if you are not familiar with our program.

Our pollsters are comprised of a combination of local media members (Morning Call’s Keith Groller, RCN Sports Director Gary Laubach and RCN basketball Announcers Tom Stoudt and Dennis Laub and Lehigh Valley Basketball Rankings’s Toomey Anderson).  We also have three distinguished head basketball coaches giving their insights on the top teams in the Lehigh Valley area.

All District XI schools were eligible for the poll and were divided into either our “big schools” (5A & 6A classifications) or “small schools” (4A & below) rankings.

The “small schools” consist of Wilson, Saucon Valley, Bethlehem Catholic, Northwestern, Palisades, Palmerton, Salisbury, Notre Dame-GP, Moravian Academy, Lincoln Leadership, Pen Argyl, Northern Lehigh and Catasauqua.

The “big schools” are Bangor, Central Catholic, Southern Lehigh, Whitehall, Allen, Dieruff, Easton, Emmaus, Freedom, Liberty, Nazareth, E. Stroudsburg North & South, Pocono Mountain East, Pocono Mountain West, Stroudsburg, Northampton, Parkland, and Pleasant Valley.

As far as our “final” results…which looked very similar to what our pre-season poll looked like:

Big School Basketball Poll—Class 5A & up (8 pollsters)

  • Allen – 40 points (8 first place votes)
  • Emmaus – 26 points
  • Parkland – 22 points
  • Pocono Mountain West – 14 points
  • Bangor – 13 points

____________________________________________________________

Small School Basketball Poll—Class 4A & Below (7 pollsters)

  • Becahi – 35 points (7 first place votes)
  • Salisbury – 24 points
  • Notre Dame-GP – 23 points
  • Saucon Valley – 15 points
  • Wilson – 5 points

Just to recap, Allen maintained its standings as the area’s (and the state’s) top “big school” team all winter by running the table (through this past weekend), and was only really challenged in a handful of games all year.

Among the “smaller schools,” Bethlehem Catholic lost just three league games to date—all by three points are less, and all of them to bigger-sized schools.

The only other teams that had any significant in-season movement in our polls were Parkland and Wilson.  The Trojans  got off to a slow start and fell off our poll completely before  bouncing back and, now, looking about as good as any team in the region (except perhaps Allen, who they played Monday night on RCN-TV).  The Warriors, under a new coach and armed with a very young squad, have made a late-season push and end the season as our “number five” team.

One other note, while Pocono Mountain West slid down from its “number two” position in our preseason poll, I had one local head coach whose opinion I really trust tell me last weekend that he is seriously concerned about “West” and does not want to face them in the post-season.  The Panthers dropped a few regular season games that, on paper, they probably shouldn’t have lost—but with all the talent on that squad and the match-up problems they could create–they very likely could play deep into the league and/or district tournaments.

To help break down these results in further detail and to talk about the Colonial League and Eastern Pennsylvania Conference playoffs, RCN Sports Director Gary Laubach will join us on this week’s “SportsTalk.”

We’ll also talk about high school basketball in the DC region on this Thursday’s show as DMV Elite’s Marcus Helton will join us via Skype to talk about the area’s regular season, identify the top players and teams and look ahead to a busy final week of the regular season.  Marcus will also give us some upcoming “match-ups to watch” along with his take on which teams will have the most success in the region’s post-season tournaments.

So tune in to the show this Thursday at 7pm or catch the podcast at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk and let us know your basketball opinions and questions. If there’s a team, athlete or playoff match-up you’d like us to address on that show, be sure to email us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and tune-in for our panelists’ responses!

Behind the Mic: Thoughts on #51

I do not think anyone would argue the fact the Super Bowl #51 was one of, if not the best, Super Bowl game ever.  The drama, the comeback, the overtime, the improbable plays, etc. all made for just a tremendous game.  And the telecast had everything from the commercials, to the human interest, to the Gaga extravaganza.  As I watched the game, I made some random notes about it all.  I thought I would share them with you in just the random way I wrote them down.

  1. Joe Buck made an early mistake calling an Amedola catch an Edelman catch and then he compounded it by making the mistake again after correcting himself. Obviously, I have been there and from experience I can tell you there is nothing worse than getting off to a bad start during a broadcast.  It affects you right away.  Naturally, Joe Buck recovered much better than I ever did.  I like Joe Buck and Troy Aikman – I am not sure why so many do not.
  2. Don’t you want WATSON to do your taxes? That’s what H&R Block says they are using.  I just get a sense WATSON would find ALL the possible deductions.

  1. There was a small snippet about motorized tackling dummies used for the safety of the players. It was intriguing, but fleeting.  I certainly wanted to know more.  I guess whoever promoted it couldn’t afford more air time.
  1. To me, the Honda yearbook commercial was the best and the most creative. It took quite awhile to realize it was a Honda commercial, but the message to chase your dreams from yearbook “nerds” who did just that was intriguing and meaningful.

  1. The Bradshaw stain followed by the journey to a Tide removal was funny. Even James Brown got into the act later in the game.

  1. Watching Julio Jones of the Falcons make catches is sheer artistry. He comes off as being almost superhuman.  He would have been the hero if…
  2. The last offensive play by New England, a flat pass instead of throwing into the end zone, was the worst call of the game. Time could have easily run out if the receiver had not been tackled right away.  Therefore, no field goal and, therefore no overtime, and therefore, no victory.  A win made that play disappear from everyone’s memory.
  3. Did you find the CURE auto insurance with Todd approaching Mandy the creepiest commercial of the day? The message was “don’t follow too closely”, but Todd was a weird stalker.  It was not funny and bordered on “icky”.

  1. How will someone follow the Lady Gaga spectacular? From the 400 drones (amazing), to the leap from the stadium roof, to the show itself, Gaga delivered a Super performance!
  2. In the midst of a critical third down play by Atlanta at the start of the second half, I assume, like me, all of Pennsylvania got an Amber alert. The system, obviously, works.  It can even interrupt the Super Bowl.  I hope the little girl was found and is back home safely.
  3. Did you wonder, as I did, why New England did not seem to be in any hurry offensively when they were down 28-3? And the slow and steady pace continued right into the fourth quarter.  There was no sense of urgency except in my family room.
  4. There must have been @ 10 commercials that I either did not know the product or did not understand the connection to a product. Is that a good commercial?  I’ll check with marketing.
  5. I want an Alfa Romeo!

  1. In the excitement of the New England late drives, it seemed like everyone on the broadcast forgot about the spectacular Julian Edelman catch. He deserved more credit for the victory.
  2. Tom Brady IS the best quarterback ever!
  3. The NFL overtime rule is totally unfair. Each team should have the opportunity to have a possession.  Allowing a coin toss and one successful drive is unfair to the opponent.
  4. I know there are plenty of Brady haters, but the scene with his mother after the game was heartwarming.
  5. I saw Bill Belichick smile!
  6. The New England crowd booed during the entire Roger Goodell trophy presentation, remembering Deflategate and the Brady suspension.  Maybe that is when Belichick smiled!
  7. My blog prediction last week was New England – 31 Falcons – 27; it was 34-28 – pretty close!

 Final results – NFL Picks – Last week – 1-0
169-95-2 – 64%

 

 

 

Behind the Mic: #51 Should Be Fun

The stage continues to be set for Super Bowl LI (that’s #51 for those of you who are not Romans).  This matchup between New England and Atlanta looks like it could be one of the best games ever.

You know the names – Tom Brady and Bill Belichick versus Matt Ryan and Julio Jones.

Atlanta, this year, was the 8th highest scoring team in NFL history and Bill Belichick is the best defensive mind in NFL history and this year was no exception – the Patriots have the top-scoring defense in the league.  New England has Tom Brady, but Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn made Brady and the Patriots very uncomfortable when he was the defensive coordinator for the Seattle Seahawks.  The Falcons, however, gave up more than 400 points during the regular season.

In the playoffs, the Falcons outscored Seattle and Green Bay by an 80-41 combined score.  Matt Ryan threw for 730 yards and seven touchdowns.  And Julio Jones is a super-human receiver.  During these playoffs, he became the first player in NFL history to put back-to-back 150+ yards receiving and two touchdown games together.  Belichick is known for saying he designs a defense to take away the opposing team’s best player.  That is Julio Jones.  If that becomes New England’s goal, then Mohamed Sanu and company should have a big day.

But, you must consider the fact that New England and Belichick have had two weeks to prepare for the Falcons’ offense.  Consider, too, the intangible motivation – the Patriots taking the trophy from Roger Goodell after the four-game suspension penalty imposed on the Patriots and Tom Brady to start the season.  The Patriots have been solid in the playoffs – easily beating the Ravens and Steelers.

So who will win out?  This year’s probable MVP – Ryan, or, perhaps, the greatest QB of all time, Brady?  You have two great defensive minds going against two outstanding offensive units.

I think we can expect lots of scoring – the over/under is 58.5 and that is the highest number in Super Bowl history, and could be attained.  New England is favored by three to win the game.

64% of the time this season, I have correctly picked the NFL winner.  I would like to see a Falcons’ win this Sunday, but it is very hard to go against the dynasty:

NEW ENGLAND – 31                 FALCONS-27
P.S. – Take the under!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Super Bowl III was the first to use the term “Super Bowl” and the first to use Roman numerals. No Roman numeral was used last year for #50.
  2. The top 24 shows watched on network TV all-time are ALL Super Bowl games.
  3. Americans eat more food on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year except for Thanksgiving.
  4. The first Super Bowl was simulcast by both NBC and CBS. Neither was happy with the other company and they had to build a fence to separate the two production companies and their trucks.
  5. No Super Bowl has ever gone overtime – five AFC or NFC championships have gone OT.

ENJOY THE GAME!!

Gary's Picks 

Gary’s Guesses: NFL Picks – (Last week – 1-1; Overall – 168-95-2 – 64%)

 

 

 

           

 

 

The SportsTalk Shop: “Up Next…What the —-

A few years ago a local athletic director appeared on our “SportsTalk” show and tossed out the real possibility that Pennsylvania would reclassify its sports teams and expand the playoffs.  At that time several things quickly passed through my mind about those possibilities and what might be the end result.

One that quickly came to mind was what will happen over the next two months.  Let me explain…

In years past, this is a very difficult time of year for everyone involved in local sports, including those of us in the media.  Traditionally for the next several weeks, there are at least five days a week in which we are doing high school basketball playoff productions, which normally triples (and sometime even more) the number of games that we normally prepare for.

That’s three times the amount of coordinating crews, loading/unloading trucks, rolling cables and wires, calling/acquiring/resending information, compiling rosters, statistics, computer graphics, and so on…

It’s always a hectic time, but at least there was usually at least one or two days here and there in which everyone (coaches, players, media members, administrators et al) can try to catch their breaths, recharge their batteries and maybe spend a little time with their families.

However…

Using some rudimentary math skills, if the number of championship tournaments would then be doubled from what we’ve always done in the past, a quick computation would reveal that we’d be doing….

WOW!!! That’s a lot of games!!!

Gone are the days when Mondays were reserved for make-up dates, in the realistic and usually likely situation that there’s significant snow in the forecast in eastern Pennsylvania area over the next two months.  Sundays—once forbidden to be used for any high school playoff games—are now being slated for some games to be played.  And, for some of us who would normally settle for working from home at least a few hours on the “off days”…those hours are now filled with significantly additional prep time, more texts/emails/phone calls and many more games to work.

So let’s flash forward to this week.

Our studio manager emails out the crew schedules to everyone (and also posts the schedule on a beat-up clipboard on a rusty hook in the side office—for the “Old School” folks) that list our production schedule and everyone’s work assignments.  As our hearty and incredibly talented crew members slowly make their way in to the studio to check out the new schedule, I knew what was coming as their eyes started scanning our upcoming workload…

A glance over the assignment schedule…eyebrows slowly rise,
followed by a widening of the eyes…a quick breath and a glance
to the side to see if the production calendar supports what
is on the clipboard…then, a quick look around for guidance,
but finding none…facades deliberately transform into more
exasperated expressions, and finally forced utterances of …
“Wow…that’s a lot of games!!!”
(or something along those lines)

Make no mistake.  Every single person on our crew roots for the young people in our area, and not a single person in our studio will ever hope that a team that reaches the state semifinals comes home with anything less than then a PIAA gold medal.  I truly don’t think anyone who feels differently would endure these next two months every year for more than a season or two…and we have crew members who have been here for decades!

And so, it now begins. Monday, February 6, will be our first Monday high school broadcast of the year…and don’t ask me when the playoffs end, because I never look that far ahead.  All hands are on-deck and many of our other responsibilities get pushed off until a much later date.

But for all the work we do, it is, in the end, a great experience.  While I don’t enjoy rarely seeing my family over the next few weeks, this time of year is truly special.

When you arrive at the arenas—there’s a different atmosphere that you don’t feel at any other time of the sports calendar year.  There are rising levels of adrenaline in every quarter…every series…every play.  The intensity only increases exponentially once you get to the ‘do or die’ games–in which the losing team sees their long season come to an abrupt end.  The rush is incredible—not to mention thrilling when games go down to the final play and it’s a great honor to have the chance to be on the floor when those exhilarating moments occur.

Memories include the smiles on the faces of the players, the coaches, their staffs and everyone’s family of the winning teams that advance through each round of the playoffs … and the hugs, tears and special moments that you physically and mentally record each year while watching the trophy ceremony after the successful completion of each round.  Those are the memories we are so fortunately to get an up close-and-personal look at, year in and year out….and make a grueling work schedule for a few months, all worthwhile.

So until next week, forgive me if I try to take some pleasure in peaking around the corner of my office and down the hallway, and chuckle a little each time one of our crew members arrive at our studio and make their way over to that beat-up old clipboard on the wall.

The SportsTalk Shop: “Calm” Before the Storm

It’s been an exciting run of high school sports action so far this winter.  You have your dominant teams (like Bethlehem Catholic & Nazareth wrestling, Allen and–up until Friday–Bangor boys basketball teams that have been undefeated).  You also have teams that are surging of late (Parkland & Liberty boys basketball, Easton & Nazareth girls basketball), along with other schools (Emmaus, Becahi & Whitehall boys, Parkland, Allen and Bethlehem Catholic girls basketball & Parkland, Northampton & Easton wrestling) that have been very consistent all season long.

Things start to get serious for teams as we head into the final two weeks before the post-season commences in all of the winter sports.  Teams fighting for playoff spots start facing “do-or-tie” games in order to qualify, and other schools are looking to solidify as many home games and higher seeds as possible as the league and district playoffs appear on the horizon.  Wresters are also tuning up and trying to zone in on individual matchups and target the weight classes that they will be competing at for the post-season.

This Thursday, we’re going to be taking an in-depth look at the local wrestling season with the Morning Call’s Tom Housenick and RCN’s own wrestling analyst,Jim Best.  They’ll be identifying the top athletes and best match-ups going forward, in addition to talking about the wrestling season overall and handicapping the District XI Team Wrestling Tournament, which will be on RCN-TV the following week.

We’re also going to feature Rodney Williams—a standout high school basketball player from the Washington, DC region who’s now having tremendous success for the Drexel men’s basketball team.

Your comments are most welcome in advance of the show (email us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com) and tune in this Thursday, live at 7pm on RCN-TV, to hear our wrestling experts’ responses to your questions/opinions.

In the meantime, here’s a look at some of our recent broadcasts of both local wrestling and high school basketball.

We’d also like to let you know that we are now offering exclusive, behind-the-scene tours here at RCN-TV to charities, youth and community groups, schools and local organizations (20 members or less).  Discover how television productions like “Community Spotlight,” “Pennsylvania Crossfire,” “Nuestro Valle,” and even our own “SportsTalk” shows work and learn different aspects of the broadcasting industry. Tour times are flexible and our staff will work hard to accommodate your needs.

If you are interested in a tour, please call our studio manager, Rick Geho, at 610-443-2909 to learn more.

 

Don’t forget to check the RCN schedule here on the website for our upcoming games as the contests get more heated, with local teams jockeying for a spot in the league and district playoffs—along with fighting for the best possible seeds!

Behind the Mic: Beca-Nazareth Wrestling

It seems that every year the question on every District XI wrestling fan’s mind is, “Can ANYONE beat Bethlehem Catholic?”  The answer this year is a definitive “maybe.”

This past weekend the Golden Hawks dropped two dual meet matches to #4 in the nation Lake Highland Prep out of Florida and then lost to Malvern Prep, ranked #8 in the nation.  They will wrestle #9 Wyoming Seminary on Thursday, before moving on to the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference “championship day”.

This Saturday on RCN, the #14 Nazareth Blue Eagles will take their shot at the Golden Hawks, in the Eastern PA Conference Championship match.  The teams are each champions of their divisions, and will meet at 7:00pm on Saturday night at the Easton Middle School.  The atmosphere should be much like the old days when fans looked forward to three or four outstanding dual meets each year.  That environment has been missing for a few years, but rest assured the Middle School gym will be rocking, especially if Nazareth can give the Hawks a battle.

Both lineups are peppered with nationally ranked talent, and both offer plenty of balance throughout their squad.  There is a very good chance that Beca, banged up with injuries, can be in the throes of a three-match losing streak by the time Saturday rolls around.  Granted—all three losses are to top-tier academies – but the losses are not something that Jeff Karam’s team is used to.  How will they react?

Nazareth, under legendary coach Dave Crowell, will have their hands full.  They will need bonus points from their blue chippers, and will need to grab at least two tossup bouts.  Even if this all goes the way of the Eagles, they may need one more upset.

If Beca prevails, as I suspect they will, fear not Blue Eagle fans.  This may be the first of three consecutive Saturdays that feature these squads.  There is nothing that can stop a rematch for the District XI Team Championship, and both are favored to make the PIAA State Championship finals.

Scott Barr (who assisted with this blog) and Jim Best will be there along with the RCN television crew to bring you these two powerhouses.  It will certainly take us back to the days when Easton-Northampton, Easton-Nazareth, Nazareth-Northampton, etc. were on every wrestling fans’ calendar.

Those were the good old days of Lehigh Valley wrestling!

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Tom Brady of the Patriots and Matt Ryan of the Falcons text each other regularly during the NFL season. Matt Ryan played his college football at Boston College and Tom Brady always followed him.  Two good friends will try to beat the other in the Super Bowl.
  2. Up this way, we do not get to see the Falcons very often, but they were sure impressive yesterday against the Packers. No player was more impressive than Julio Jones – 15 catches, 247 yards, and 3 TDs.  Bill Belichick always says he wants to stop the opponent’s best player, but seven Falcons caught passes on Sunday.
  3. How do the Patriots do it? They draft Chris Hogan, a Penn State lacrosse player, and they make him a star wide receiver.  No organization is better at resurrecting careers and finding obscure players.
  4. During the Lafayette at Lehigh men’s game on Saturday, Lehigh honored the team that stunned Duke in the first round of the NCAA playoffs in 2012. The star of that team, C. J. McCollum, could not be there because he was preparing to play the Celtics as a member of the Portland Trail Blazers.  He did send a recorded message that was played in the arena.  He went on to score 35 points against Boston and Portland won the game.
  5. Only Allen remains undefeated in high school basketball as Bangor suffered their first defeat to Stroudsburg this past weekend. And then there was one.  Allen has Liberty and Stroudsburg this week – two tests for the Canaries!

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