The SportsTalk Shop: John Thompson III Dismissal/HS Hoops Videos

I was disappointed to hear of Georgetown University’s decision to part ways with John Thompson III as the head coach of their men’s basketball season last week.   On our “SportsTalk” program, we had a chance to talk with the Washington Post’s Gene Wang, who covered the press conference announcing the change and had very comprehensive coverage of this big news in the DMV as well as the latest on the Hoyas’ search for a new head coach…

I first met Coach Thompson while announcing basketball games at Princeton University, before John left to follow in his legendary father’s footsteps as the head coach of the Hoyas program.  Coach Thompson was incredibly nice and always insightful each time I had the opportunity to speak with him and it was a tremendous experience to spend time with the son of a legend—who clearly learned a great deal from his father and was putting it to good use during his time while with the Tigers.

John Thompson Jr. put Georgetown basketball on a national stage for decades, and, initially, his son also had great success.  Among John Thompson III’s achievements during the first nine seasons as head coach:

  • Georgetown has been selected to the NCAA Tournament eight times
  • In six of the team’s eight NCAA Tournament appearances, the Blue & Gray have been seeded among the top four teams, earning three No. 2 seeds (2007, 2008, 2013), two No. 3 seeds (2010, 2012) and a No. 4 seed (2015).
  • In 2006-07, Thompson led the program to a 30-7 record as the Hoyas won the BIG EAST Tournament Championship, the NCAA East Regional and advanced to the Final Four for the first time since 1985.
  • In 2007-08, the Hoyas won back-to-back BIG EAST Regular Season titles (2006-07, 2007-08), posting a two-year record of 28-6 against conference opponents.
  • In 2012-13, Georgetown won the BIG EAST Regular Season Championship, winning 11-straight games at one point, and Thompson was named the BIG EAST Coach of the Year.
  • He had led the Hoyas to three appearances in the BIG EAST Tournament Championship game

As we talked about in the interview (which you can check out through RCN On-Demand), things soured greatly for Thompson during the last few years, with even some of his former players calling the program “a mess” and calling for “fresh air” for the program.

While it became a necessary change for Georgetown, I believe John Thompson III to be a great collegiate basketball coach, and I’m hoping he finds another big time coaching opportunity very soon.
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Also in this week’s blog, it will be our last time showcasing HS hoops videos until the summer leagues get underway in just a few months (and if you hate the cold weather like I do—this is a very pleasant notion).  We’ll already be turning the best on this Thursday’s live “SportsTalk” show, as we look ahead to the upcoming Major League Baseball Season with a live report from Florida with an update from spring training and a look at the National League East (you can hear the podcast at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk).

After taking some time to reflect on the new basketball classifications, the new expanded playoff seeding and a realigned format for the games, I’m going to be giving my reflections on this winter’s high school basketball season and all the changes in an upcoming blog entry.  Keith Groller and myself discussed our thoughts briefly on the most recent “SportsTalk” program, but I want to take some time to “digest” all the changes and the new expanded formats and to also take some time to get feedback from local coaches and administrators—the ones that are directly involved and affected by the new policies.

Now, here’s the last round of video highlights from this winter’s high school basketball coverage on RCN-TV:

We’ll gather more thoughts from the winter sports season as well as look ahead to the upcoming Major League Baseball season, with a live report from Florida with MLB Beat Writer Steven Gross, on this Thursday’s “RCN SportsTalk presented by the Morning Call” at 7pm on RCN-TV.

Last but not least, a big shout-out to my colleagues at RCN once again for their involvement in the local community.  RCN will be participating in the Pediatric Cancer Foundation 5K/8K Run held at one of my own stomping grounds—the Ironton Rail Trail in Coplay (there’s a nearby little league field in which the event benefits the Pediatric Cancer Foundation of the Lehigh Valley and we would encourage people to participate and also support this very worthwhile local organization.  More information about this weekend’s event can be found here: https://runsignup.com/Race/PA/Coplay/RunToLive2017

 

Behind the Mic: Dead Pool

I am the Sports Director at RCN.  RCN has only one Sports Director.  I am their guru of sports, right?

The RCN Fun Committee (notice the word “Fun”) runs an NCAA pool every year.  There is no money involved.  Anyone can enter and the prizes are donated by the company and are minimal.  In other words, it’s “for entertainment purposes only.”

One would think the Sports Director would have the inside track to victory or, at the very least, a top three spot or a top ten spot.  Or a place with the word “top” in it.  One would think that, right?

There are 63 games played in the tournament.  I already know that I will only get 35 right or 56% correct (I rounded up).  You see, I only have North Carolina in the Final Four and I have them losing that game.  My pool is over – Kaput!  Who would have guessed that Gonzaga, South Carolina, and Oregon would be in the semifinals?  Gonzaga and South Carolina have never been there and Oregon only once before even I was born.

Before Sunday’s games, I was trailing sixteen other fellow workers.  That’s not so bad, I guess.  Okay, Mr. Sports Director, it’s VERY bad!

To make matters worse, I have an arch–enemy in the pool.  Let’s call her Laura because that’s her name.  She takes great pleasure in challenging me and is not shy about rubbing it in when she is ahead.  She beat me last year and was quite obnoxious about predicting that she would do it again this year.  I considered last year a fluke.  She did not. And she took any opportunity to announce to everyone that she had embarrassed the Sports Director.  I was determined not to let that happen again.

I guess I was not determined enough.  Not only is she beating me, Laura is currently beating everyone.  She is in FIRST PLACE!  Out of 38 players, she has the lead!  Now, she may not win (she has Kansas to win the Championship), but she will certainly beat me and beat me badly.  I cannot earn another point with the three games that are yet to be played.  I have Duke and Kansas winning the semifinals.  Since their uniforms are washed and stored away for another year, that will not happen.  In fact, I can only go down; I cannot go up.

So Laura will beat me again!  Do you know how hard that is to type?

So for those of you who think that Sports Director is, obviously, a misnomer for me, then I can guarantee you that so is “Fun Committee” and “for entertainment purposes only”.  You see, again this year, I have had neither fun, nor entertainment.  Now if the company would just form an Embarrassment Committee, I would be the first to sign up.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. The Bethlehem Catholic AAAA girls’ basketball team won the PIAA State Championship! It was their first state championship in girls’ basketball.  They thumped Villa Marie -Erie 46-27 and finished the season with a 30-2 record.  They won all five of their state games with double-digit wins.  They were dominating.  Congratulations to Coach Medina and the girls.
  2. In the ESPN MLB power rankings, they have the Phillies as #24 out of thirty teams. They also picked them last in the NL East.  This doesn’t offer up much hope for the season.
  3. Speaking of Philadelphia desperation, the Flyers are six points behind for a wild card berth in the NHL and there are three other teams ahead of them. The Sixers, well, are the Sixers – no playoffs again this year.
  4. It appears that the Oakland Raiders will relocate to Las Vegas. 24 votes were needed as I write this and the league office said the result will be “positive”.  I bet (no pun intended) legal gambling across the country on NFL games will soon follow.
  5. The Giant Center held all 12 boys’ and girls’ PIAA championship games this past week. The highlight was the Reading-Pine Richland AAAAAA game. 9, 531 fans filled the Center, as Reading won their first state title in school history 64-60.  Reading has played basketball for 118 years; has won over 2000 games, but they had never won a state title.  Until now.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: “State” Basketball – Semifinals

We are heading down the home stretch of the scholastic basketball playoff action in Pennsylvania as we approach the semifinal round of the State PIAA Tournament.

A part of the statewide attention now focuses on the Bethlehem Catholic girls, who will now play Gwynedd Mercy Academy in the Class 4A semifinals this Tuesday at Spring-Ford High School in Royersford.  Click here for our broadcast schedule.

The Golden Hawks have looked dominant in all three of its previous state playoff contests.  The state’s second-ranked team has not trailed in any of its recent games over the last few weeks.  Becahi has won by rather significant margins in nearly every game played since the local EPC playoffs concluded, including jumping out to a 16-1 lead early in last Saturday’s game against a very young but talented Lower Moreland squad that was probably a year away from being a state championship contender.

We’ll be talking about the basketball playoffs and other local sports issues, but also include a unique twist as our in-studio guests will be those who are also very involved in their school’s spring play productions.  Both student-athletes and performance-students individually are working hard this time of year, but those who do both truly have a hectic schedule this month—and we’ll address that on Thursday’s “RCN SportsTalk presented by The Morning Call,” live at 7pm on RCN-TV.

Also, since last week’s show was postponed due to the weather altering our basketball productions schedule, Phillies Play-by-play Announcer Scott Franzke was kind enough to reschedule and will chat with us this week to talk about the National League East and Major League Baseball spring training news and issues.

To get you caught up on the recent sports action on RCN-TV and get you set for the final week of the high school basketball season, here are clips of our recent broadcasts of PIAA playoff action:

 

 

 

 

 

Behind the Mic: Thrill; Agony

From 1961-1998, I regularly would watch The Wide World of Sports on ABC.  Jim McKay was the host and the show’s introductory video and catchphrase was “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”.  Those words were spoken over a celebration of a great win followed by a ski jumper severely crashing during a competition.  The pictures and the phrase became ingrained into the psyche of every regular viewer.

That phrase came back to me this past week while broadcasting the two Emmaus state basketball games.

Let’s start with the “thrill of victory”.  Emmaus had beaten Cheltenham 68-67 the previous Saturday to advance to the PIAA State second round.  They were the only AAAAAA boys’ team left from the Lehigh Valley because both Allen and Parkland had already been beaten.  The irony of their participation is that up until this year when the PIAA added six classifications, Emmaus would not have even gotten into the state playoffs.  With the additional classes, four teams were eligible and Emmaus was the fourth.

That set up a one day snow-delayed matchup with the Harrisburg Cougars, the #1 team out of a very strong District 3 at Reading High School.  Harrisburg had beaten Reading in their District playoffs and they were now considered the favorite to make it to the state championship game.  In a thrilling game with a nail-biting finish, Emmaus won 64-61 and, for the first time in school history, would move on to play in the state quarterfinals.  They would be part of, in NCAA March Madness lingo, the Elite Eight!  The celebration that followed was the definition of “the thrill of victory”.

That set up a return trip to Reading for Emmaus as they would take on the Carlisle Thundering Herd for a place in the state semi-finals.  Harrisburg had beaten Carlisle twice and they were in the same district as the Cougars.  They entered the playoffs as the #5 team in District 3.  Emmaus certainly could enter this game knowing they were every bit as good as their opponent.  And they were.

Emmaus led by six at the end of one period and by ten at the half.  They still led by ten with just 3:05 to go in the game.  But… Carlisle waged a comeback.  Emmaus still could clinch the win as they led 62-59 with 7.9 seconds to go.  Emmaus’ all-time leading scorer, David Kachelries, a 76% free-throw shooter, went to the line to shoot one free throw (he had made his first six of the game, but missed his previous three).  Make it and the Hornets are in the state semi-final; miss it and the Herd still needed to make a three-point shot to send the game into overtime.  He missed and Ben Milligan made a three at the buzzer to tie the game at 62.  “Thrill” and “agony” by anyone would be delayed.

Emmaus needed three free throws on one trip to the foul line by David’s twin brother, Matt Kachelries, to send the game into a second overtime.  He calmly went to the foul line and made all three.  The first overtime ended 69-69.

But the second overtime period ended with Carlisle controlling the scoreboard and the Thundering Herd galloped to a 78-74 win.  The Emmaus season was over.  The Kachelries twins had scored an amazing 57 points in the game and that was still not enough.

David ended his career with 1,910 points and Matt finished with 1,027.  Matt had missed two-thirds of his sophomore year due to injury or his total would have been much higher.  Emmaus finished with one their greatest and most memorable seasons ever.

None of that mattered though at @ 6:30pm on Saturday night as the Green Hornets and Coach Steve Yoder walked off the floor in Reading.  Much like the skier in the Wide World of Sports intro, they were severely suffering from “the agony of defeat”.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. The Bethlehem Catholic AAAA girls’ basketball team is the last team standing from the Lehigh Valley. As I write this, they are preparing to play Gwyned Mercy in the PIAA semifinals.  A win would get them into the state championship game.  Congratulations to Coach Medina and the girls.  Go Hawks!!
  2. How are you doing on your NCAA bracket? I assume many of you had Villanova and Duke to go far into the tournament and even winning it all.  I had Duke making it to the Final Four.  I still have Arizona, Kansas, and North Carolina alive to make the Final Four.  I heard a lot of moans and groans this past weekend.
  3. It is hard to imagine that the next Eastern Pennsylvania Conference basketball season could match this one. Losing so many stars like Sam Iorio, Kevin Wagner, the Kachelries twins, Tyrese Martin, Talek Williams, etc. will be hard to duplicate for a very long time.
  4. He gets a mention every week – Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman of Central Catholic is still playing in the NCAA tournament. Muhhammad starts and plays as many minutes as anyone for Michigan.  He scored 16 against Oklahoma State and some vital points down the stretch against Louisville as his team moved on to the Sweet Sixteen.
  5. My usual reaction at the end of the basketball season is how fast winter flew by. Except this year, the season has come to a close and winter continues to rear its ugly head.  C’mon!  What’s a golfer to do?

Behind the Mic: Bracketology

Northwestern is in!  For the first time in school history, the Wildcats are in the NCAA tournament after winning 23 games this season.  Can they win their first game ever when they take on Vanderbilt in Round One?

Before we get to that, there are more important things to consider – which of the 68 teams will win their bracket and move on to the Final Four?

WEST
Gonzaga (32-1) was given the top seed in this bracket.  There are many who believe that, despite their 29 straight wins before a loss to BYU, top seed was only possible because they played a weak schedule.  With that said, they have beaten the #2 team in this section – Arizona.  Gonzaga has never made it to the Final Four.  And… they will not make it again.  They will lose to Arizona in the Regional final.

And, by the way, Northwestern will lose to Vanderbilt in the first round.

MIDWEST
Kansas (28-4) is #1 in this region and the committee selected them #2 overall in the tournament.  They were the Big 12 champions.  I like the way Michigan played in the Big 10 tournament and they have local favorite Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman.  I like Michigan to beat Oklahoma State in their first-round game, but then they run into Louisville and their season will end.  Louisville will play Kansas in the Regional final.  Kansas is a potential national champion and will win this region.

SOUTH
After winning the ACC tournament championship, many expected Duke to garner this top spot.  Instead it went to North Carolina (27-7), a team that Duke beat two out of three times.  Time will tell if this was a wise decision by the committee.  It is probably their most questionable top seed.  It appears that UCLA or Kentucky would be their biggest challenge and that can only happen in the Regional final.  UCLA’s Lonzo Ball is certainly one of, if not the best, freshman in the country.  So I like UCLA vs North Carolina in the final.  North Carolina wins.

EAST 
I saved the East for last.  Can Villanova (31-3) do it again?  They are good enough to do it and they are certainly battle-tested having played one of the toughest schedules in the nation.  If, as many believed, Duke should have been a #1, then Villanova may have the toughest road to the Final Four because Duke is #2 in this region.  And it should come down to these two outstanding teams.  I would rather see Villanova win, but I think Duke wins this game.

FINAL FOUR
                        Kansas vs North Carolina
                        Duke vs Arizona

NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
                        Duke vs Kansas
 
NATIONAL CHAMPION
Kansas

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. It was certainly not the weekend that local basketball fans expected when our 15 boys’ and girls’ teams played in the first round of the PIAA basketball playoffs. Only four of our teams advanced into the second round of playoffs.  Northampton, Bethlehem Catholic, and Southern Lehigh girls moved on, but only the Emmaus boys won their game against Cheltenham by a 68-67 score.  It was shocking that the Allen boys, Bethlehem Catholic boys, and the Easton girls lost.  What is the adage – “That’s why you play the game.”
  2. If the local basketball players disappointed over the weekend, the District XI wrestlers did not – Lehigh Valley AAA wrestlers claimed four state titles, two runner-ups, and 18 total medals. Nazareth won the team title, had two state champions, and Coach Dave Crowell was named Coach of the Year for a record sixth time.  In AA, eight local wrestlers won medals.
  3. Parkland boys’ basketball lost to Archbishop Ryan on Saturday, indicating, once again, just how powerful the Philadelphia Catholic League teams are. Ryan was the #3 team out of District 12 and they were every bit as good as any team here in the Lehigh Valley.  They beat Parkland by 24 – enough said.
  4. The Bucknell men will face West Virginia in their opening round NCAA matchup in the West Region. Bucknell was seeded #13 and that’s impressive for the Patriot League. West Virginia is the best team in the nation at forcing turnovers, so this will not be a pleasant experience for the Bison.  But I will cheer them on and hope for the upset.
  5. One final note about the Allen Canaries – this team under Doug Snyder made basketball in Allentown meaningful and exciting again. No team had a more supportive fan base and their energy migrated out to other communities once basketball fans got to see them.  It was a great year ending in disappointment, but thanks for so many memorable individual plays and games.

The SportsTalk Shop: Wrestling Round-up & Hoops Highlights

While the PIAA wresting season has come to its conclusion, the state basketball playoff tournament continues for the teams still alive in this year’s state playoffs (make sure you check out our broadcast schedule this week here on the RCN-TV website!)

Due to this week’s winter storm and the highly likely possibility that our state playoff basketball broadcast of the Emmaus’s boys team will be moved to this Thursday evening, this week’s “SportsTalk” show will be preempted.  We are in the process of trying to reschedule this week’s guests for an upcoming program and hope you enjoy RCN’s PIAA coverage in its place this week.

You can also watch the show through RCN On-Demand or hear the podcast at rcn.com/rcntv/sports-talk.

Now, check out a sampling of video highlights from our recent playoff basketball games, along with our final wrestling broadcasts of 2017:

Don’t forget, RCN customers can see all of these games in their entirety for free through RCN On-Demand.  Also, be sure to check out RCN-TV’s broadcast schedule right here on our website for the best high school state basketball games on the air this week!

 

The SportsTalk Shop: State Basketball Preview

The PIAA basketball playoffs are almost upon us and RCN-TV is gearing up for outstanding coverage of your local teams!

To get you ready for the state playoffs, here are some storylines to follow as the schools in the RCN coverage area embark on facing teams from across Pennsylvania over the next several weeks.

“And the Winner Is…”
No “La La Land/Moonlight” moments here, there was no doubt who the Cinderella team was in this year’s EPC & District XI playoffs—the East Stroudsburg North boys basketball team.

While many fans in the Valley incorrectly assumed a game against ESN would be a cakewalk, a few local coaches warned me before the regular season ended that opponents should not take ESN lightly.

The Timberwolves are a scrappy team that’s fun to watch in each of their playoff games, which included wins over Emmaus (EPC’s #1 seed), Whitehall (a higher seeded district team) and a Central Catholic team that also was playing really well entering the post-season.  ESN defeated a very good Pottsville team in the district final, and I’m looking forward to seeing what this team can do in the state playoffs.

Expanded Playoffs = (Some) Weaker Competition
It isn’t enough that 2017 has been widely regarded as a “down year” for a number of the District 12 power house boys’ schools, but by allowing more teams into the PIAA playoffs, it will almost certainly guarantee a weaker-than-normal first (and possibly second) round of states.

With the exception of the 6A boys and girls classifications, there have been quite of bit of complaints by local fans (and less than tremendous turnouts) as many of the district playoff games were less than spectacular, with several blowouts (especially in the 4A boys classification) and frequent sloppy play.  That trend probably won’t change much in the opening round of the PIAAs, with many of Pennsylvania’s top programs squaring off against sub-500 squads and teams that barely qualified for states—even with more spots available—especially outside of the biggest school categories.

Watch the Women’s Teams
While they may not get the attention the boys teams do (but still outnumbered a couple of the routing sections than at the boys’ games), there are a plethora of tremendous girls high school teams in Pennsylvania and several of them are from the Lehigh Valley

Archbishop Carroll is one of the “super teams” across Pennsylvania and are certainly heavy favorites to win a state trophy and, unless your team is playing them, are definitely an entertaining squad to watch.

I predicted on last winter’s “SportsTalk” that the 2016-2017 Lehigh Valley girls basketball teams will combine for are one of the best overall years in terms of the number of talent and competitive teams.  The play of the girls’ games over the last few weeks has only strengthened that contention.  Entering the state playoffs, Bethlehem Catholic, Southern Lehigh, Easton and Nazareth all have strong chances at going deep in the PIAAs and I wouldn’t count out Northampton, Central Catholic, Parkland or Notre Dame-Green Pond from pulling an upset in the opening round.

With the possible exception of the Allen and/or the Becahi boys teams, I think the Lehigh Valley’s best chances of seeing state gold lies with one of the areas girls programs.

Keep An Eye On Allen
Speaking of the Canaries of William Allen high school, Doug Snyder’s team had been ranked number one in the state since early January and, until this week, had not fallen from the top spot, even after their one and only regular season loss to Bethlehem Catholic (also ranked statewide).

Allen was certainly disappointed by its District XI semifinal loss to Parkland (more on them below) last Wednesday, but I still believe that—on paper—the Canaries are one of the best and most complete team in Pennsylvania.

Perhaps the lost to the Trojans will refocus the team as it gears up for the state playoffs and enter what is probably the most competitive of the six boys classifications in this year’s PIAAs.

Notable By Their Absence…”
I feel it appropriate to borrow an often-used term by RCN Basketball Announcer and Former Head College Basketball Coach John Leone to talk about a few teams that will NOT be in the state tournament.

When the new classifications were released and Whitehall was placed in a category away from tradition rivals like Allen, Parkland, Emmaus and others, many basketball fans in the Lehigh Valley practically guaranteed a spot in the PIAAs for the Zephyrs.

A number of fans within the township thought this year’s team was one of the best Whitehall teams they had ever seen—a statement that I never agreed with.  They definitely had many talented players on the roster and owned one of the best records of any team in the Valley through the first two months of the season.  However, their up-tempo style of offense overshadowed a suspect defense, and the team struggled anytime an opponent forced them to play a half court style of play—a fact that haunted them as they couldn’t protect a lead in their final game again East Stroudsburg North in the first round of Districts.

The Zephyrs ended the year by losing 5 of its last 6 games, leaving many fans in the Whitehall community stunned and disappointed.

Bangor was a more underrated team all year long, despite the fact that I was touting them before the season even started.  They graduate four of their five starters, who captured three consecutive Colonial League titles. I was surprised to see the Slaters fall to Pottsville in the district semifinals.  With only two state playoff spots available in the 5A classification, I knew it would be interesting to see which of a number of talented teams (including Whitehall, Allentown Central Catholic, East Stroudsburg North, Southern Lehigh, Pottsville and Blue Mountain) would qualify.  But I have to admit I though Bangor would definitely be one of those two teams, and am disappointed I won’t get to see Dylan Benton and company play one more time.

Both Whitehall and Bangor can be very proud of their season’s overall, but it will be strange to open the state playoff race without a Lehigh Valley representative in one of Pennsylvania’s largest playoff classifications.

A Record Setting Appearance
Lastly, the Parkland boys’ basketball team (who’ll open their state playoff run against Archbishop RyanSaturday, 6pm LIVE on RCN-TV) capped off a phenomenal and historic night for high school basketball in the Valley.   In the first of what will probably be many future games at Allentown’s PPL Center Arena, the Trojans win over the state’s previously number-one ranked team Allen (in front of a record setting crowd of over 7,600 attendees) will be something people will be talking about for months, if not years to come.

We’ll talk more about the state playoffs and get in-depth with our previews, insights and predictions involving teams within the RCN-TV viewing area on Thursday’s “SportsTalk” program!  Email your sports opinions and questions to us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com and we’ll read and respond on this week’s show.

Behind the Mic: March 1 Madness

Any true basketball fan is well aware of March Madness – the term that indicates basketball season is coming to an end, but not before the colleges and high schools battle for conference, district, state and national championships.  It normally builds each week until the final games are played.

For Lehigh Valley fans, March Madness began a bit early – on March 1!  That is the night that District XI decided to take their AAAAAA boys’ semifinals to the PPL Center in center city Allentown.  PPL had hosted two college basketball games in the past and a professional exhibition game, but it had NEVER hosted a high school game.  No one was quite sure what to expect.

District XI officials worried that they may have taken on more than they should have in terms of rental costs and expectations.  After all, the place held 8,000 people, but up until game night “only” 3200 tickets had been sold.  PPL cooperated to make the fees more palatable, but the numbers were still risky, for sure.  What both had going for them were the teams themselves and the individual talent.

You see, this was a basketball “perfect storm”.  There were four great teams (17 total losses – eight losses by one team) and many of those losses coming when they played one another.  There was a plethora of great talent (seven 1,000 point scorers) who, by themselves, were well worth the price of admission all year long.  Three of the four teams had their school’s all-time leading scorer and one school had two players who went back and forth for that honor each time they took the floor.  And there was Allen High School; a team that had grabbed a hold of their fan base in December and watched it grow to immense numbers by the end of the season.  These were four teams who were so talented and so successful that no Lehigh Valley gymnasium could hold the crowd.

Fans poured in when the doors were unlocked.  The upper deck seating, originally thought to be unnecessary, started to be occupied by halftime of the first game.  The fans just kept coming.  By the time the first quarter of game two rolled around a “Sold-Out” sign had to be posted at the ticket windows.  The final count was a paid attendance of 7,661 and an estimated final tally of over 8,000 people, the largest crowd to watch a high school game ever in the Lehigh Valley.  It really didn’t matter so much who won the games, because everyone – coaches, players, and fans, won that night.

Congratulations to all who put this together, who had the foresight to give it a chance.  It is hard to imagine that teams this good, with players this talented, and fan interest this high will happen for a long while, but, on this night, in this arena, with these four teams, it was awesome.

PPL Center

 

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. If you were wondering where District XI big basketball games were played in the past, when there were NO really big gyms, I can tell you that it was NOT in District XI. Way back when I was playing at Wilson High School, we played Bethlehem High School in the District semifinal at the Harrisburg State Farm Show Arena.  We won and returned to Harrisburg for the championship against Larry Miller’s Catasauqua team.  There were @ 8,000 people for each of those games.  Only one classification existed back then.  Catty beat us, if you care.
  2. The Lafayette women’s basketball team beat Holy Cross on Saturday. With the win, they became the first Patriot League #10 seed to win a tournament game.  They were getting better as the year progressed and their hard work paid off.
  3. The Northeast Regional Wrestling championships were an absolute showcase for Lehigh Valley wrestlers. Nazareth had six champions; Bethlehem Catholic had four; Northampton two; and Freedom one.  That’s thirteen out of fourteen – amazing results.  And talk about fans – perhaps, this is the next high school event at PPL.
  4. The Bucknell men will face Lehigh on Sunday, March 12, for the Patriot League basketball championship.
  5. Congratulations to Brad Pensyl, the coach of Pocono Mountain West for winning the District XI AAAAAA basketball championship. It was his second and it will be his last.  After 28 years (making the Districts in every one of those years), he has decided to retire.  He will move into administration at Pocono Mountain.  Brad will be very hard to replace and I will miss him on the sidelines.

 

The SportsTalk Shop: District Basketball – Round 2

We are right in the middle of some great District XI playoff basketball action that we hope you are enjoying on RCN-TV.

First of all, I wanted to take a moment to salute our local girls and boys basketball players who were recently named to this year’s Colonial League All-Star team.

2016-17 Colonial League Boys Basketball All-League Team
2016-17 Colonial League Girls Basketball All-League Team

I think it was a great year in both the girls and boys classifications in terms of outstanding individual play (and as I’ve said for some time on our “SportsTalk” programs, this year has featured some of the deepest teams in terms of number of outstanding players on a given squad in quite some time).

Secondly, because of the expanded post-season format (and games being played this Thursday night), “SportsTalk” will be off until next week.  In the meantime, we invite you to share your playoff comments/questions/opinions with us via email (rcnsportstalk@rcn.com) at any time, and join us on March 9th as we read and respond to your emails.  Also, tune in for a full recap of all the district playoff games, and previews of the state playoff tournament, which will commence the following day.

Also, be sure to check out our broadcast schedule here on the RCN-TV website for the full rundown of which teams’ games we’ll broadcast, along with airtimes.  Remember, RCN video customers can watch all of our sports productions for free at any time through RCN On-Demand.

Here are just a sample of video highlights from our recent playoff basketball games and wrestling matches, along with interviews featuring one of our local teams in the post-season:

 

Behind the Mic: By the Numbers

With the PIAA and District XI classifications in basketball going from four to six this year, there were a record number 80 teams that qualified for the playoffs in both boys and girls.  Obviously, some of these teams are not in our viewing audience, but most are.  Putting together a broadcast schedule and gathering the information for those broadcasts is a difficult task.

This past season produced some of the best team and individual performances ever.   The Nazareth, Easton, Southern Lehigh, Bethlehem Catholic and Notre Dame girls had outstanding regular seasons.  Losses were few and far between.

On the boys’ side, Allen got to districts as the number one team in the state, but Parkland, Emmaus, Pocono Mountain West, Bangor, and Bethlehem Catholic were all mentioned in the state rankings, also.

Individual players on these teams created, perhaps, the most talented group we have ever seen in one season.  I fear mentioning names because I will forget someone so, suffice it to say, that this week I did a double header that featured seven 1,000 point scorers – seven!!  To have a couple reach this individual milestone each year is the norm.  We have seen fantastic dunks, amazing point productions, and great team play.

This was a special year, for sure, and with it, came the challenge of many more games.  Preparing for this many games in such a short time is a labor of love, but it would be virtually impossible to properly research all of these games without the cooperation of the coaches and the statisticians.  This time of the year there is, often, just one day to get starting lineups, updated stats, officials, background, etc – information necessary to present a quality broadcast.  Add to that the possibility that the RCN crew will be going into gymnasiums that we have not been at previously.  This, too, requires advanced site surveys and logistical decisions to lay all the wire and get the proper camera angles.

It is certainly a time of necessary chaos, but through the cooperation of athletic directors, coaches, stat guys, and school personnel, it gets done.  Basketball is a game of numbers – threes made, foul shooting percentages, rebounds per game, points per game, assists, steals, blocked shots, team shooting percentages, scoring averages, free throw percentages – the list can go on and on.

So before I start to prepare for the next double header, I just want to thank everyone who helps to make our product better.  There is plenty of basketball left to be played and, before I get caught up in the state playoffs, I just wanted to thank those who help along the way.  Those numbers of people are the most important numbers of all.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS) 

  1. Gonzaga lost their last regular season game of the year against BYU. But does it mean anything as we head to March Madness?  Probably not – with Villanova, Kansas, and North Carolina solidified as the top regional seeds, Gonzaga should and will get the other spot.  The only change may be that Kansas or Villanova will probably be ranked #1 this week.
  2. Will Michigan get into the NCAA playoffs? Will Central Catholic’s Muhammad Ali Abdur-Rahkman get a chance to show the hometown fans his skills?  As I write this, he has started 28 of the 29 Michigan games, is the fifth leading scorer (8.9) and is fourth on the team in minutes played.  Michigan is 19-10 and should get a serious look by the committee.
  3. I know that NFL rumors abound this time of the year, but there is talk that DeSean Jackson AND LeSean McCoy might both be back in Eagles’ uniforms this year. Jackson is a free agent and Buffalo may want to get rid of McCoy.  I don’t like acquiring either one.  What do you think?
  4. Tim Tebow went into broadcasting after his NFL failure and, word is, he is very good at analysis on SEC Network and ESPN. But it appears he still wants to compete.  He is trying professional baseball, a sport he has not played since high school.  Remember Michael Jordan? – that didn’t go so well.
  5. First it was Steve Harvey at the Miss Universe contest announcing the wrong name and this past Sunday the wrong Picture of the Year was announced at the Oscars due to some envelope confusion. Embarrassing to say the least. I feel a little better now when I call the wrong player in the heat of a game.  The difference is that I can’t blame anyone else.