Behind the Mic: Wait and (Not) See

On Thursday, March 5, the PIAA suspended all athletic events for a two-week period.  Since then, every major and minor sporting event has been cancelled and placed in limbo for an indefinite amount of time.  Not only does it appear that there will not be any more basketball this year, it is becoming very likely that no spring sports will be played either.

I am certainly not complaining about the decisions made – they were and continue to be necessary until we get a handle on this grave situation.  Sports are part of the fabric of our lives proven by the void created by their complete absence right now.  But, it pales in comparison to achieving our ultimate goal – overcoming Covid-19 (coronavirus).

Since it appears that only a miracle would finish the state basketball playoffs, some mention of our three teams that were still alive is necessary.  Bethlehem Catholic, Nazareth, and Freedom were still advancing.  All three teams had moved to the quarterfinals.  Only seven teams stood between them and a state championship.  It was quite possible that Nazareth and Freedom could have met one another in the state championship on March 20.  Therefore, all three teams need a bit more ink.

Freedom was 24-5 this year losing three times to Bethlehem Catholic and in double overtime to Nazareth in the District XI championship.  They were one shy of the most girls’ basketball wins in school history.  They won both state games by double-digit margins.  Their seniors had a combined record of 82-29 and won a District Championship in 2018.  They had already advanced farther than any team in their history.  They will never know how this season would have ended.

Nazareth was continuing a great season (26-4).  Twenty-six wins is the most in a single season and they, too, had never advanced to the state quarterfinals. They managed to win the District championship after losing the EPC title to Bethlehem Catholic.  Their two state wins were by margins of 28 and 11 points.  They overcame being placed in the bottom half of the bracket and having to travel great distances for their games.  That did not matter – they won anyway.  Their team has no seniors, so, at least, they will all return next year.

Beca is in a category all their own.  Their season ended with a 29-0 record.  In the last four years, they have amassed a 112-8 record, last losing on January 31, 2019, to Freedom.  They have won 42 straight games and two of the last three state titles.  What made the end so disappointing this year was that their next opponent was Scranton Prep.  Their record was 27-0.  So without the shutdown, these two teams would have faced one another with a combined 56-0 record.  Scranton Prep had already gone farther than any team in their history.

So the only defeats in state playoffs to these teams came from Covid-19.  I would be shocked if another game is played this year.  So, disappointment will always exist, “what-ifs” will always be asked, and outcomes will never be answered.

One thing we do know with certainty – Freedom, Nazareth, Bethlehem Catholic (and Scranton Prep) all had great seasons and, for that, they should be extremely proud.

ABOVE THE EARS (SOME MUSINGS)

  1. There was certainly more bad news this past week concerning high school basketball in the Lehigh Valley. First, was the announcement by Doug Snyder that he was resigning as the head basketball coach at Allen High School.  This was his 23rd year at the helm and he had an incredible record of 364 wins and 263 losses.  They finished this season 23-6 and won the EPC.  Allen is not an easy place to coach with all the inner city problems, but Doug was the right person for the job.  He never wavered on the values that he taught and never let winning get in the way of doing the right thing.  He will be sorely missed.
  2. Within the same week, Liberty head coach Chad Landis decided it was time to spend more time with his wife and four daughters (certainly another huge challenge for him). Chad coached Liberty for 12 years and won 198 games.  His team was 20-6 this past year.  Much like Snyder, Landis made his players better people amid similar challenges.  Two outstanding teachers of life and the game of basketball will now have to be replaced.  No easy task, for sure.
  3. At least with NFL free agency occurring right now, there will be some sports news to report. What will Tom Brady, Dak Prescott, Drew Brees do?  There are over 100 free agents so there should be something to talk about in the next month.
  4. Thank you to all the stat people, the athletic directors, the coaches, the administrative assistants, and to the fans for another great, yet somewhat unsatisfying year.
  5. Much like the rest of the month – TBD

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: 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.