The Sports Talk Shop: Summer Hoops – July 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.

We continue to keep you posted on the local summer high school basketball leagues in the RCN viewing area.

On the one hand, a few of the regular league and tournaments have been held–some with the same number of teams as usual, others with dramatically lower turnouts.

The Holy Name girls tourney was held recently (a month later than “normal”) and Jim Thorpe came into the Lehigh Valley and surprised some very good teams by bringing home the championship.  Nazareth, Easton and hosting Allentown Central Catholic were the local contributors that played very well.

The Nazareth boys basketball team has come on strong of late and captured the “JamFest” title in Allentown the previous weekend.  The Blue Eagles had a very young team last winter and those underclassmen might just be hitting their stride.  Keep an eye on Nazareth this winter — they should be fun to watch once this upcoming season gets underway.

Also, the summer league in Forks Township had a good month.  Notre-Dame, Wilson, Lehigh Christian Academy and Bangor have been some of the top teams that I have seen so far.

Meanwhile, areas like Catasauqua, the Slate Belt, Stiles and other regions continue to struggle this summer–either having issues fielding teams and/or conducting their regular tournaments.

TOC Director Eric Snyder was just on RCN SportsTalk last week to provide an update on the struggles many squads are having this summer.  Eric, the longtime head basketball coach at Catasauqua High School, chose our program to announce some significant breaking and exclusive news concerning his career — along with sharing some controversial opinions on some key local basketball and baseball topics.

If you missed last week’s show, be sure to check it out (free for RCN customers) through our On-Demand services!

Also, checking back next month for our final update on the scholastic summer basketball scene!

Behind the Mic: You Are Cordially Invited…

 

You Are Cordially Invited..

It was announced this past Friday that the Lehigh Valley Conference invited the Mountain Valley Conference (except for Lehighton) to join them in the creation of an 18-team super conference, tentatively maintaining the LVC name. And to do it by next season!

With Lehighton moving to the Anthracite League in football and the Schuylkill League in most other sports, the MVC was looking at the scheduling nightmare that goes along with just a 6-team league. Ironically, just a few months ago, the MVC invited the LVC to merge with them, but the request was not made to Central Catholic or Bethlehem Catholic. By omitting those two schools in the initial invitation, it gave the LVC the opportunity to “remind” both schools (particularly Beca) that there could be consequences to very overt recruiting. The message was delivered and the invitation was not accepted.

So now, the MVC has been “cordially invited” to join the LVC, bringing all the schools together. In terms of football and basketball, there are certainly plusses and minuses.

On the “plus” side, the super conference will now include all the AAAA schools in District XI. The merger would bring Allen and Dieruff back into the Lehigh Valley football picture and I certainly like that. By merging, all teams would battle for their spots in the District and State playoffs. This eliminates the complaint that some MVC teams got better seeding or easier qualifying because they played a much weaker schedule. Certainly, with 18 teams, the scheduling still may slightly favor one team over another, but that happens now. Also, the MVC will have no trouble filling their schedule.

On the “minus” side, an 18 team conference can certainly look a bit unwieldy when it does come to scheduling. In football, do you create two 9-team divisions and play for a championship? That sounds like a reasonable idea. In basketball, 3 divisions seem to be the best approach, but, if you play your division foes twice and the other teams once, you have the allotted 22 games filled. From there, a championship tournament could certainly be created. Even the “minuses” do not seem so bad.

Although I argued a few months ago, that the LVC was just fine the way it was and did not need to accept the MVC invitation, I do believe the “return to sender” invitation makes sense. I am quite certain the RSVP from the MVC will include acceptance. The nightmare will be for the AD’s to figure out the scheduling for all the other sports. And for a Sports Director at RCN to choose which League games to schedule for our viewers!!

 

The Sports Talk Shop – January 22nd

“SportsTalk Shop: HS Basketball Parody vs. Mediocrity”

Every few years, we have a high school basketball season like the one we have this year – lots of teams with similar records and “common opponents” knocking each other off with seemingly no single team, or even a couple squads, distancing themselves from the rest of the pack. Inevitably, we, as local sports fans, start to debate. Do we have a lot of really good teams this year, or are most teams merely average?

I actually feel we have more of the former. Here are some of the reasons why: field goal percentage, defensive points allowed, average, and turnovers.

First, field goal percentage. I don’t recall so many teams in recent memory that were shooting near 50-percent as a unit (no, I’m not going to bring up the woeful free-throw shooting percentage—that’s a whole other issue). The solid “FG” numbers indicate a good deal of high percentage shots being taken, which is a direct result of good execution. We’re seeing quite a bit of quality passes, good pick & rolls (yes, it’s back in style again), solid picks and some all-around good play. You could argue that this is a result of shoddy defense, but when you look at the points allowed, most teams’ numbers are down from a year ago, indicating an improvement in defensive performance. As for teams that are giving up more points than normal, like Easton, the Rovers have played in four overtime games, including two that went into double overtime. With the extra periods, it inflates their per game averages. However, if you look at quarter by quarter numbers, you’ll find nearly every team is playing better defense.

Secondly, the turnover numbers. Local teams are bucking the trend of actually cutting down on the number of turnovers per game. This despite a few teams trying to play a more up-tempo style of basketball. Most teams over the last few years averaged in the mid-teens, but I’ve seen quite a few teams averaging ten or 11 turnovers per game, which also supports the theory that teams are taking better control of the basketball, and, therefore, the quality is up from recent years.

One other point that supports more quality basketball in both the boys and the girls basketball teams, is that of depth. We’re seeing quite a few teams, shall we say “missing” players for various reasons (let’s just say I’ve heard a number of stories why players are not available to play this winter). Injuries or otherwise, teams are having to use their bench quite a bit more. In fact, both the Bangor girls and boys teams were without key players last weekend. Yet they got outstanding efforts from their reserves & younger players, and even members of their JV squad, that stepped up and battled some very strong teams last week. With more and more teams going deeper to their bench and getting quality efforts, it’s clear that there is an upswing right now in the level of play here in the Lehigh Valley. (Bangor, by the way, will be guests on “SportsTalk” this Thursday at 6pm to talk about their season).

Do I see any one Lehigh Valley team knocking off the powerhouse programs from the Philadelphia area, or even some of the top teams from the western part of the state? Probably not. But it has made for an entertaining season thus far. Do you think high school basketball is improving, or are we continuing down a trend of playing more of a ‘playground’ style that a number of long-time local sports fans have been lamenting the last several years? Send your comments to us at rcnsportstalk@rcn.com & we’ll discuss on our upcoming shows.