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!

The SportsTalk Shop: Summer Hoops 2016 – Part 1

A

B

C

Summertime basketball has really exploded in the RCN viewing area over recent years, with rules expanding to make it more “coach friendly” (most of the time) and to increase the exposure of young athletes in both the Washington and Eastern Pennsylvania regions.

Some of the best teams in the country come into the Lehigh Valley, Philadelphia and the DMV area, and many players in these areas get to showcase their talents.  As we’ve seen over the last few years, players (Victor Oladipo, Darrun Hilliard, and others) pave ways for themselves that could lead to one day playing in the NBA.

Over the next couple weeks we’ll take a look at some of the tournament action in the RCN viewing area, along with news on the players and teams that we cover on ‘RCN SportsTalk.’

Goodman Basketball
In the DMV region, Goodman Basketball has been a long-standing tradition that was in danger of dying out a few years ago, but has come back with a vengeance and bigger than ever before.  A number of talented athletes each year both participate (and later return for) this event each summer.

Here’s a video detailing more of this year’s event and the history of the Goodman tourney…

Bonner Prendergast
The team looked very solid with double-digit wins over Phillipsburg and Berks Catholic recently, while playing without its best player.  Lane Christian and Mike Perralta were key players in several games this past weekend, but they have a very well balanced team and could be a player in this winter’s district playoffs.

BP 1

BP 2

Bonner Prendergast was one of just eight teams this weekend at Cedar Beach (Allentown) that made it to the final day of the tournament with an undefeated record.

Lincoln Leadership
This summer was actually my first chance to see this team in person—and they did not disappoint.  Although they did not make it to the later rounds of some of the Lehigh Valley’s tournament so far (they have been one of the smallest schools in the summer leagues), they have a nice team with good numbers and played very scrappy basketball each time I saw them.

Lincoln 1

Lincoln 2

Liberty
Last year around this time I remarked how impressed I was with gritty Hurricane players like Cam Hoffman, Alex Serrano and company.  They had an impressive showing in their games this past weekend, making it through to the morning of the final day without suffering a loss.  With several weeks remaining in different summer leagues and tournaments, Liberty should be a fun team to watch the rest of the summer, not to mention be fierce competition for Allen and Parkland for top spots in the EPC this winter.

Liberty 1

LIberty 2

Liberty 3

Nazareth
While Nazareth will be going through a retooling effort—at least this summer—after losing so many key parts of their team, an under-the-radar player to keep an eye on might be Mayo Raman.  In a game versus Saucon Valley he came up big in pressure situations—scoring 12 points in the second half of that game and hitting a clutch “3” to send the game to overtime.

D

E

We’ll have more high school summer basketball talk and insights on this Thursday’s “RCN SportsTalk” program (live, 7pm on RCN-TV) and next week here at the “SportsTalk Shop.”

The RCN SportsTalk Shop: More District XI Playoff Coverage


There are some great high school match-ups over the next few days that I’m very excited about–especially on the girls basketball side.  Here are some observations and notes about District XI teams in the RCN coverage area to get you ready for this week’s playoff coverage on RCN-TV.

The 4A Girls Bracket
It was a coming-out party for Northampton freshman Victoria Keenan, who made her RCN debut last Friday with a spectacular performance en route to a big win over the second-seeded Parkland Trojans.  Despite her (and her frontcourt mates) getting in some early foul trouble, Keenan showcased her ball-handling and shooting abilities from different spots on the floor all game long.  I immediately noticed her poise and confidence in the pre-game warm-ups and she did not seemed fazed in the least about the win-or-go-home contest in front of her.

She finished with a game-high 23 points (no one else on either side finished in double figures) and set up her team to face their area rivals, Nazareth, in the semifinal matchup (7:30pm LIVE, Tuesday, RCN-TV).

I don’t often make predictions about players, and even more rarely do I single out a freshman, but after seeing Keenan play last week I feel confident in saying she’ll become one of the top girls basketball players in the area, if she’s not almost there already.

Not to be left out was Aja Blount, who came into the quarterfinal match-up averaging 20 points per game.  The Trojans played stifling defense on her and did not allow Blount her usual amount of touches, but Aja returned the favor by playing her own brand of ‘shut-all-windows-and-doors” defense against a talented Parkland frontcourt in the victory. Devon Saul, Lauren Sterner, Jenna Rogers, Brielle Ringo and (despite some quick fouls called on her) Sophia Eckroth all played well and I’m looking forward to seeing their next game on Tuesday.

I have not seen the Blue Eagles in person this year, but I’m well aware of the high level of play from returning players Tessa Brugler and Jessica Durnin, and the strong defense Head Coach Rick Bickert always cultivates.  This semifinal game should go right down to the wire.

I was very impressed by my first look at this year’s Easton game–a squad I saw last year and knew they would surpass those levels from a year ago.  We’ve spoken quite a bit about the Red Rovers on recent “SportsTalk” shows and podcasts (which you can hear here).  Pottsville has been led by two outstanding scoring threats, Kyra Schenk and Sadie Cresswell (the latter really shoots well from three-point land and will play college ball at East Stroudsburg University).  The Tide have some size and could create some interesting match-up issues for Easton (Tuesday, 6pm Live, RCN-TV).

Was Parkland vs. Allen the best HS game in decades?
I had a number of people answer in the affirmative about the above question between the boys teams from Allen and Parkland.   Emmaus’ Saturday victory over the Canaries will keep area fans from seeing a rematch of this contest (Parkland and Allen did not play each other during the regular season).  While I wouldn’t go as far as saying it was the greatest local game in over ten years, I will say unequivocally that on any given night, the Allen boys team can be as entertaining to watch as any team in the RCN viewing area.

Remember, nearly all of Allen’s key players were juniors or younger this winter and should return in 2017.  With Parkland graduating a number of the area’s top performers, I think you could certainly put the Canaries as one of the two or three best teams heading into the next high school basketball season, and should be a fun team to watch during the summer leagues.

With the Hornets win, we’ll see another great Parkland vs. Emmaus battle on Wednesday night (live, 7:30pm, RCN-TV).

We’ve talked about both teams quite a bit this season, and on paper, it still seems that the Trojans are heavy favorites.  The Hornets have battled through some tough games this season and we’ll see if Emmaus can come up with a new wrinkle or two to try to frustrate top-seeded Parkland.

SHOUT-OUTS
* Pocono Mountain West’s Lance Singh (a junior) had one of the best individual men’s performances I’ve seen in quite some time.  He scored 35 against Allen in the EPC semifinal and owned the first and last quarters, with the ability to score despite sometimes being triple-teamed, but also set up his teammates well down the stretch run.  Jalen Vaughns (also an 11th grader) is also a difficult match-up—a guy who can score from different spots on the floor and is also a beast on the boards, and Isaiah Wiggins (another junior, by the way) also has a very similar skill set.  I think it’s safe to say PMW is clearly the single most talented scoring machine that Bangor has faced all season, and the Slaters will have their hands full in their semifinal match-up.

* Speaking of Bangor, props to last week’s “SportsTalk” panelist Toomey Anderson (from “LV Basketball Rankings”) for stating on the show that the Slaters will have a breakout performance and post a statement-declaring win over Whitehall in Saturday’s quarterfinal game.  We have been touting the great teams in the Colonial League since early December here at the “SportsTalk Shop” (feel free to go back through our past blog entries to see for yourself) and it is no surprise to me that there are two Colonial League teams still alive as we advance to the semifinal round of the District XI playoffs.

* Another correct “lock” prediction made on last week’s program was Andre Williams declaring that Bethlehem Catholic would beat Allentown Central Catholic in the so-called “Lehigh Valley Holy War.”   First-year Head Coach Ray Barbosa has done a remarkable job since taking over the program, even before his big win over the Vikings last Friday.  He has his team playing its best basketball of the season at just the right time.  They face undefeated Pottsville on Tuesday night (9:30pm, tape-delayed, RCN-TV).  The Tide have played some quality opponents and are an athletic team.  If Becahi can play like they did against Parkland in the EPC Quarterfinals, they’ll have a shot.  Regardless of this game’s outcome, the Golden Hawks already have had a tremendous season after winning just three games a year ago.

Send us your high school basketball comments and opinions via email (RCNSportsTalk@rcn.com) and enjoy all the playoff basketball action coming your way on RCN-TV over the next week!