SUMMER HOOPS: June 2021

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company. 

As promised last month, here is an update on the status of the Lehigh Valley tournament and summer leagues, which frequently includes teams from our viewing area in the Delaware Valley and even from the DMV from time to time.

The summer league schedule did start earlier this month (one month later than “normal”) and kicked off with some soggy weather.

A number of games the first week were pushed inside due to rain and unplayable outdoor conditions.

However, a few local leagues that are in play this summer have had good weather of late and played a number of competitive games over the past two weeks.

Among those that have shone so far are Notre Dame – Green Pond, Allen, Whitehall, Northampton, Parkland and a few others.  All of these teams have been part of the Allentown recreational scholastic league.  The Forks Township league starts this week in full swing (although their first day for games was postponed due to rain) and they feature a complete lineup of teams rounding out a busy schedule.

However, there is also a number of local leagues that are struggling to get on the courts this summer and a few are not fielding teams nor are holding their annual tournaments.

At least, not at this time.

This past weekend the Cedar Beach Showcase was played. While there were some competitive games, the number of schools participating in this annual event was down dramatically from any previous year.  Less than a third of the number of boys teams that traditionally participate attended this weekend’s events. Also, there were too few girls teams participating to even have their tournament conducted.

Even as we approach the July 4th weekend, there’s still many things up in the air for the next two months for local summertime basketball action.

Keep checking back for more updates and pictures!

 

SPRING 2021 WINNERS

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company. 

There were a number of great stories for the District XI spring tournament champions this year!

The Central Catholic lacrosse team became the first Lehigh Valley team ever to reach the semifinal round of the PIAA state playoffs…then went two steps further and brought home the school’s second state title so far here in 2021.

After many years of reaching both the league and district finals but failing to win any titles, the Easton girls lacrosse team finally got over the hump and captured the first league and district championships in school history.

In softball, Northampton and Whitehall — two teams that have long histories of successes but haven’t won a title in the last few years — met for the 6A District XI championship.

I had an opportunity to take in the game and it was one of the most competitive finals I ever saw!

After trading one-run leads early, Northampton built a three-run lead late, before Whitehall stormed back to tie the game in the top of the seventh inning.  The K-Kids responded in the bottom of the seventh with a timely hit to capture the title.
 

 Northampton head coach Kristy Henritzy knew exactly what that moment felt like as she shared a similar experience when she won the district title as a player back in 1996 (that same team would go on to win a state championship).  It was the school’s first championship since 2013. 

Tune into “RCN SportsTalk” over the next few weeks to hear the thoughts of our district winning teams and other local success stories from schools in the RCN-TV viewing area.  There were some tremendous accomplishments by student-athletes in Eastern Pennsylvania and I know there’s some very interesting interviews that you’ll want to hear.

If you’re not home to watch any of the district winning teams on our show when they air, be sure to set your DVRs or watch the program “on demand” … these episodes are free to watch for RCN customers for up to two months from their initial air dates.

One other local sports news note…

The 2021 District XI Wrestling Coaches Association Scholar Athlete Information was announced this past week.  The district winners are: 

2A Scholar Athlete Winner

Brett Ungar- Notre Dame Green Pond High School

3A Scholar Athlete Winner

Dominic Falcone- Easton Area High School

2A Essay Winner

Danny Grigas- North Schuylkill High School

3A Essay Winner

Evan Gleason- Bethlehem Catholic High School

Congratulations to all of these winners and check back to “The Shop” as more postseason awards and honors become available!!

Let the Games Begin –  or Not

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

To be honest, I do not get very excited about the Olympics.  I must admit, however, that, for me, the excitement does build as the games progress.  I’m sure part of the reason is that there is not much to watch in the way of sports when the Olympics roll around.  With all the hours of Olympic programming, that void is certainly filled.

With less than 50 days to go before the opening ceremonies (July 23), there are serious considerations about whether the Games should be held or not:

  • Japan has actually seen four Covid surges, with the fourth now declining. May saw 7,000 cases per day; that number is now down to 3,000.
  • Much like here, until the past week or two, restaurants and bars have been closed and outdoor spectator sporting events limited to 5,000.
  • The citizens of Japan do not want the Games to happen now. Eighty-percent want the games postponed or canceled.  A petition to cancel the games garnered over 400,000 signatures.
  • There will only be local spectators if they are allowed at all. Overseas foreign travelers will not be allowed to attend.  It is estimated Japan could lose $23 billion in consumer and business spending.
  • The number of athletes, media, officials, coaches, and administrative personnel are expected to near 60,000 in number.
  • Only North Korea has withdrawn from the competition claiming they want to protect their athletes – many believe it is more about the political environment between the two countries. This withdrawal has not led to other countries following suit.
  • Only 5% of Japan’s population has been vaccinated. That number should increase dramatically with the donation of vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech.
  • Athletes must have two negative Covid tests prior to arriving in Japan.
  • The athletes will live in “bubbles” that are “sterile and secure”. They cannot arrive more than five days before their competition and must leave no longer than two after their competition is completed.
  • NBC paid $7.75 billion to air the games through 2032. The company lost as much as $1 billion when the Games were postponed last year.  They claim to already have at least $1.25 billion already booked this year for advertising.  Insurance would cover their losses, but not the potential profit.  A huge void would be created in their programming schedule.

Suffice it to say, there is too much money to be made for the Games to be canceled.  They will go on and it will garner much of my summertime television viewing.  I am certain I am not alone.  “USA!”  “USA!”

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. How much will a “small tear” lead to a giant collapse is the question the 76ers will answer in the next week or so. Joel Embiid may or may not be available in the NBA series against the Atlanta Hawks because of a tear in his meniscus.  They will win with him, but not without him.
  1. If you watch professional golf, you realize just how difficult it is to win. The competition is extraordinary, the courses are so difficult, and the mental aspect is so challenging.  Imagine having a 6- stroke lead going into the final round of a PGA tour event and finding out you tested positive for Covid.  That happened to Jon Rahm this past weekend.  He had to withdraw from the tournament.
  1. The Phillies are certainly having an up and down season so far, but, thankfully, that could be said for the entire NL East. One Phillie who is not is Rhys Hoskins.  As I write this, he is in the midst of a 12-game hitting streak with 12 home runs and 35 RBIs.  He needs some help, though.
  1. I congratulated Emmaus for winning the EPC baseball championship, their first league title since 2005. Now, I must congratulate them again – this time for winning the District XI 6A baseball championship and heading to the PIAA state playoffs.  Their last District title was also in 2005.  They will be joined by the District runner-up Parkland Trojans.
  1. The McDonald’s All-Star Football Classic will be played on June 17 at Nazareth’s Andrew Leh Stadium. We will have the game on a tape-delayed basis at 10:00pm.  Support a great cause and get out to the game.

 

The “Executive” Conundrum

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company. 

In the pre-coronavirus era, the hottest sports debate over the last couple years in the Lehigh Valley swirled around the new school, Executive Education Academy Charter School.

The Raptors were accused of allegedly taking top-tier players from other Lehigh Valley school districts…a charge that resulted in a public hearing.

While EEACS was not found guilty nor made any formal retributions, the local governing sports body (District XI) did recommend that some changes needed to be made by the academy to their “recruiting” practices, with a warning that penalties might be issued if they chose not to follow the suggestions.

This did not sit well with many surrounding school districts, who felt there was clearly enough evidence to warrant formal sanctions.

The result?

Not one Lehigh Valley basketball team had ever scheduled the school for any regular-season game the last few school years (prior to this current COVID-filled school year).

In fact, in its first year, the Raptors won the District XI 2A title without playing a single team from the Valley until the championship game.  Ironically, Executive Education Academy’s championship victory came over another “non-boundary” school, Moravian Academy.

While a few schools did play Executive this past basketball season, the common reason was, because of all the limitations placed on a number of school districts due to COVID, opponents were sometimes few and far between.  Most administrators and coaches have remained mum about the possibility of adding or resuming games with EEACS in the future.

In a completely separate news story, Allen High School anointed Randy Atiyeh as the school’s new athletic director a few months back.  A long-time assistant basketball coach and a tireless worker in the community, Randy was an obvious choice to take over the position and, so far this year, has done a tremendous job in that role.

But this hiring set up an intriguing decision for local sports fans now to ponder.

One of Atiyeh’s closest friends is former Parkland High School basketball standout player, Toomey Anderson, who is officially the assistant athletic director and a key figure at Executive Education Academy’s basketball program.  Both Atiyeh and Anderson have been co-directors of one of the annual summer basketball tournaments at Cedar Beach in Allentown–the same event that has seen most local schools drop out of competition because of Anderson’s involvement with the Raptors.

Furthermore, Allen’s new boys’ basketball Head Coach is Darnell Braswell, who is good friends with another former Canary great, Ray Barbosa – the boys’ basketball Head Coach at, you guessed it … Executive Education Academy.

The immediate question surrounding the Allen High School sports program now becomes, will Atiyeh break the unanimous, yet unofficial union of the local schools by putting the Raptors on the Canaries’ schedule in future seasons?

We asked Randy and Darnell that very question on a recent edition of “SportsTalk.”

Here is a portion of Atiyeh’s answer.

RCN customers can get more of Randy’s response, plus Darnell’s reaction and more of their opinions by watching the entire interview though RCN’s Video-on-Demand.  And keep checking back to our “SportsTalk” show for news and analysis as this story continues to evolve for future seasons.

DISTRICT BASEBALL & MUCH MORE!

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

I love high school baseball.

It’s a great sport with so many inside nuances if you are really into it…cat-and-mouse games between pitchers and hitters…or pitchers and baserunners…where to position your outfielders.  If you understand the game (and little patience is needed at times) and you have teams that play the game the right way, it’s really a lot of fun.

Fortunately in our viewing area, we have an abundance of teams that play fundamentally-smart baseball programs that makes for some very enjoyable viewing.  With the district playoffs upon us, it’s time to delve headlong into our discussion of teams and games in our viewing area.  In addition to recapping the regular season and the EPC championship game (which is now available on RCN On-Demand), we’ll be looking at the district baseball playoffs.

The brackets are out and we’re looking forward to all the matchups over the next 9 days, culminating with the District XI 6A title contest, which you will be able to watch live on RCN-TV (bookmark our broadcast schedule and keep checking back to our website for specific game information and “first pitch” time.

Meanwhile on this week’s “RCN SportsTalk,” RCN Sports Director Gary Laubach will join us to break down all the elements and preview the next week-and-a-half worth of games with Co-Host Keith Groller and myself.

We have some great storylines already in place:

Liberty’s dominating run through the regular season, only to be tripped up in the semifinal by Pocono Mountain East. Can the Hurricanes bounce back?

Emmaus won the EPC championship but it has been decades since the same team has won both the big schools’ league and district titles in the same season.  Can the Hornets break the curse?

Perennial power Parkland was also upset in the league playoffs and a few other schools who traditionally do well have been struggling of late.  Will one of those teams get hot in time to contend for a championship?

Plus, on the girls side, there’s some very intriguing matchups coming up after a very entertaining league playoffs in both the EPC and Colonial League.  We’ll talk about those storylines as well.

But baseball is not the only thing we are working on for our upcoming “SportsTalk” programs.  Here’s just a sample of the guests we are lining up over the next several weeks:

  • PIAA Assistant Executive Director Melissa Mertz talks Pennsylvania state sports issues including the spring state playoff format, current rule and procedure adjustments in the works and possible changes for the fall and winter sports seasons

  • Maret HS (DC) Head Football Coach Mike Engelberg talks about his undefeated spring sports season in the DMV after missing out on the entire fall campaign after his team won the DC state title in 2019.

  • Allentown Central Catholic’s tennis team did something no other team in our viewing area did this spring and also accomplished another feat that no one in school history had ever done.  First year Head Coach Jared Smith will explain.

  • Multi-sport Wilson HS standout Jeff Breidinger will return to his alma mater as the school’s athletic director after some successful stops as a coach at other schools and has some major changes in store for his new programs.

  • The Morning Call’s Tom Housenick and Dante Terenzio will recap this spring’s track-and-field, tennis and volleyball seasons and also get us up to date on local golf, wrestling and other sports news and issues.

  • First-time new HS football head coaches are taking over at Allen and Liberty high schools. We’ll introduce you to them and their captains — one already is making a guarantee about this fall’s season.
  • Spring sports district champions and state playoff participants

  • … and more!

Make sure you tune in, set your DVR or check out these guests and more over the next several weeks on RCN-TV and RCN On-Demand!

SUMMER HOOPS PREVIEW 2021?

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

No, I did not make a typo and add a question mark by mistake when putting this week’s “SportsTalk Shop” blog title together.

This is normally the time of year when I check in with local spring and summer basketball coordinators to receive their schedules, talk with them about their plans for the next several months and perhaps get some insights (and usually a few juicy rumors) on some local storylines to keep an eye out for.

In doing that this week, there’s been a similar theme to what I heard last year:

Cautious optimism.

Regardless of these leagues and tournaments’ organizers’ background, everyone I’ve talked to is hopeful to get some semblance of summer action in. 

That being said, many were equally optimistic about last Summer, thirteen months ago.

This year some organizers are saying they are hearing positive, aka declining, numbers in terms of COVID cases and feel very strongly that the games can be played just as in previous years.  But the fact that the mask mandate will be lifted in a few weeks hasn’t kept some from getting overly hopeful things will go off as planned.

The “spring games” have already been postponed and, quite likely, games will not go regularly like they would in a “normal” year.  However, as of this moment, there is a schedule for local summer league games and tournaments in place for June and July within the RCN-Lehigh Valley footprint.

Last year, in lieu of bringing you pictures of the summer’s local basketball action, I uncovered many “never before seen” shots of the special people participating in summer games and tournaments in our viewing area.  Until we have games being played, and because I received some very nice comments about posting these images a year ago, I am bringing you more previously unpublished pictures from the prior summer’s basketball action.

Also, like in 2020, I’ll be checking in with local representatives as we get closer to the bigger summer tourneys in June and will present an update–one way or the other–on the status of this year’s local activities on the courts.

 

Stay tuned!!

 

Winter Hoops All-Stars #3

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Recently, we highlighted the different all area teams for the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference.

The Colonial League did away with their “all star teams” a few years ago — at least, those listings that were provided from the participating schools’ athletic directors and administrators.

However, that hasn’t stopped the “CLGBBA!”

The Colonial League Girls Basketball Coaches Association was formed in 2019-20 when the Colonial League decided not to recognize its student-athletes through the selection of All-League teams.  The GBB coaches have gotten together to continue the tradition of honoring the league’s best players by selecting, 1st and 2nd Team All-League Players as well as Honorable Mention Athletes. The Association consists of the head coaches from the Colonial League’s 13 member schools. 

So, here are their listings of top performers during this past season…

Colonial League Girls Basketball Coaches Association  ALL-LEAGUE Honorees 2020-21  

(All Selections Listed Alphabetically) 

FIRST TEAM 

NAME  SCHOOL  YEAR
ANTONIA BATES  NOTRE DAME GP  JR
ALEXANDER LISTER  NORTHWESTERN LEHIGH  SR
BRIANNA MOORE  PALMERTON  JR
BRIELLE REIDINGER  WILSON  JR
PAIGE SEVRAIN  NORTHWESTERN LEHIGH  SO
TRINITY WILLIAMS  PALISADES  SR

PLAYER OF THE YEAR: 

TRINITY WILLIAMS, SR, PALISADES 

SECOND TEAM 

NAME  SCHOOL  YEAR
RAEGAN COOPER  NOTRE DAME GP  JR
MAKAYLA DAYS  WILSON  SO
MADISON KLUSKA  BANGOR  SR
BETHIE MORGAN  PALMERTON  SO
AUBREY POLLARD  NORTHERN LEHIGH  FR
QUINN WITTMAN  SALISBURY  SO

HONORABLE MENTION

NAME  SCHOOL  YEAR
CAROLINE BENNETT  SOUTHERN LEHIGH  SR
LAUREN CONRON  SOUTHERN LEHIGH  SR
SYDNEY DEFRANCO  NOTRE DAME GP  SR
BRYNN HOLLAND  BANGOR  SO
GRACE MEDEI  NOTRE DAME GP  SR
KAYA MOBLEY  SOUTHERN LEHIGH  SR
RAEGAN NEMETH  PALMERTON  JR
EMMA NIEBELL  NORTHERN LEHIGH  JR
LEXI RUSHATZ  CATASAUQUA  SR
MADISON SEIER  NORTHERN LEHIGH  SR

Again, a big THANK YOU to those involved and in charge of these organizations for passing those lists along to us, so that we can put them in the spotlight here at RCN’s “SportsTalk Shop!”

Winter Hoops All-Stars #2

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company. 

Last week here at “The Shop,” we started our annual listings of outstanding individual accomplishments by student athletes in the RCN-TV viewing area, but highlighting the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference’s standout girls basketball performers from this past winter season.

Today, it’s the EPC boys turn as we spotlight them with the league’s All-Star selections.

Among the highlights are two firsts–at least, as far back as I can remember.

First, we have “tri-most valuable player awards” given out.  We frequently have seen ties in the voting, precipitating leagues to give out “co-MVP” honors, but I don’t remember a three-way split between three different players in the same league–let alone three students within the same division AND county.

Also, I don’t ever recall any freshman from the EPC-18 ever garnishing first-team accolades.  Nate Ellis from Allen High School got “second team” honors two years ago but I haven’t found anyone to disagree that Parkland’s Nick Coval was the first ninth grader to capture that accomplishment in this league’s history.

Here is the complete rundown of the post-season accolades:

Lehigh County 

1st Team

Mel Copeland – William Allen

Nick Coval – Parkland (Tri-MVP)

Nate Ellis – William Allen (Tri-MVP)

Liam Joyce – Allentown Central Catholic

Tyson Thomas – Allentown Central Catholic (Tri-MVP)

2nd Team

Danny Bohman – Emmaus

Will Meeker – Parkland

Manny Ozuna – William Allen

Daniel Quinones – Dieruff

Trey Rolle – Parkland


Monroe County
 

1st Team

Jahkai Barnes – Stroudsburg

Christian Fermin – Pocono Mountain West (MVP)

Qadir Mitchell – Stroudsburg

Christian Sapp – East Stroudsburg South

Justin Smith – Pocono Mountain West

2nd Team

Matt Campbell – Pocono Mountain West

Colin Castillon – Pocono Mountain West

Joel Contreras – Pleasant Valley

Kyle John – East Stroudsburg North

Tamir Thompson – Pocono Mountain East


Northampton County 

1st Team

Nick Ellis – Freedom

Edixon Gomez – Bethlehem Catholic

Isaac Harris – Northampton

Chris Hewey – Easton (MVP)

Lucas Lesko – Northampton

2nd Team

Joseph Barnes – Liberty

Jalen Fletcher – Freedom

Ryan Glassmacher – Bethlehem Catholic

Ryan Kresge – Nazareth

CJ Santos – Nazareth

Keep checking back to the “SportsTalk Shop” for more pos-tseason awards and accolades for student athletes in the RCN viewing area!

 

 

Winter Hoops All-Stars 2021

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Although the 2020-2021 basketball season had its share of hurdles, the student-athletes, parents, coaches, athletic directors and everyone involved in local high school sports deserve a round of applause for dealing with all the adversity faced during the past four months.

Through the pandemic, snow/weather-related events, limitations/restrictions imposed by the Pennsylvania Department of Health and other happenings that took place, it was an accomplishment to have as much of a season as we did.  Some areas in the RCN viewing area outside of the Lehigh Valley would have been thrilled to get in as many games as most of the teams within the Valley were able to play this past year.

When the student-athletes did get on the court (albeit with a drastically reduced amount of practice time–something I’ve heard more than one coach lament this winter), we saw some exceptional play and great individual and team performances.

The Colonial and Schuylkill Leagues both conducted their conference playoffs as close to “normal” as they usually do.  The revamped — and some would argue, improved — district tourney format was also a success with some great games that you saw on RCN-TV.

As part of our return to normalcy, the Eastern Pennsylvania Conference recently released their annual “All-Star” listings for the girls and boys teams.  We spotlight the girls teams this week and hope to have the boys listings coming up next week here at “The Shop.” 

Lehigh County 

1st Team

Lindsay Berger – Parkland (EPC League MVP)

Jaydalise Cartagena – Dieruff

Shanaiya Ellis – William Allen

Julia Roth – Allentown Central Catholic

Emily Vaughan – Allentown Central Catholic

 2nd Team

Molly Driscoll – Allentown Central Catholic

Ella Laky – Whitehall

Joey Madison Shaul – Whitehall

Sonya Shivok – Parkland

Talia Zurinskas – Parkland 


Monroe County
 

1st Team

Kendel Card – Stroudsburg

Vatijah Davis – PM West

Isabella Horvath – PM East

Azahni Simmons – PM West

Emily Strunk – Stroudsburg (MVP) 

2nd Team

Chanel Davis – ES North

Kania Day – ES South

Layla Hernandez – ES South

Samantha Merklin – Pleasant Valley

Ella Muir – Pleasant Valley 


Northampton County
 

1st Team

Talya Brugler – Nazareth (MVP)

Morgan Sterner – Northampton

Sara Tamoun – Easton

Kailey Turpening – Freedom

Kourtney Wilson – Bethlehem Catholic

 2nd Team

Jessica Farrell – Liberty

Grace Lesko – Northampton

Kelly Leszcynski – Nazareth

Brenna Ortwein – Freedom

Emily Violante – Easton

PROGRAMMING NOTE:

We will continue our exclusive interviews with spring sports coaches and players to talk about their return to the playing fields on this Thursday’s “RCN Sports Talk” program, featuring teams from Easton and Bethlehem Catholic high schools this week. Tune in this Thursday at 7pm to RCN-TV, set your DVRs or look us up through RCN On Demand (free for RCN subscribers)!

Winter Highlights 2021 (Part II)

The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of RCN or any other agency, organization, employer or company.

Last week we looked back at some of the highlights from this past winter sports season.

This week, we continue our glance back at the last several weeks of wrestling and basketball sports action that we brought you on RCN-TV.

RCN Sports: District XI Individual Wrestling Championship (3/21)    



RCN Sports: Nazareth vs. Archbishop Carroll (3/21)
 

RCN Sports: Parkland vs. Nazareth (3/21)

 RCN Sports: Parkland vs. Northampton (3/21)

 RCN Sports: Pocono Mountain West vs. Allen (3/21)

RCN Sports: Allentown Central Catholic vs Jim Thorpe (3/21)

RCN Sports: Allentown Central Catholic vs. Middletown (3/21)

 RCN Sports: East Stroudsburg South vs. Bangor (3/21)

 RCN Sports: Notre Dame Green Pond vs. Executive Education (3/21)

Remember, RCN viewers can see all of our sports programming for free at any time through RCN On-Demand for shows and sports events for up to two months from the day their first air on RCN-TV.

Also, we’ll continue our look ahead to the spring sports season on this Thursday’s “RCN SportsTalk” show with more interviews from players and coaches currently participating in the season that just got underway.  This week’s guests include members of the Freedom girls softball team.