I returned to the Sacred Heart campus this past Saturday, in order to watch a mediocre match-up between the Sacred Heart Pioneers (10-12, 4-5 NEC) and the Mount St. Mary's Mountaineers (4-16, 2-7 NEC). To document my 20th blog post and this special occasion, I decided to write a running diary, Bill Simmons style. Let's get right to it, shall we?
3:15 - I arrive on campus with my good buddy and fellow SHU alum, Bricker. I love talking sports with him, but he can get a tad negative at times about Sacred Heart's play. In fact, his bickering can get quite annoying, but I can't hold it against him - after all, Bricker is a lifelong Cleveland sports fan.
3:20 - We make our way into the Pitt Center. And what's this, Justin Swidowski is warming up with the team! You can understand my surprise since Swidowski's status from a shoulder injury was classified just days ago as "no timetable for his return." That is the problem with following NEC basketball – really vague injury reports.
3:24 - There's longtime SHU head coach Dave Bike standing on the sideline, sporting the predictable black turtleneck with a gray jacket. Seriously, would it kill the man to put on a shirt and tie for the game?
GAME-TIME - 1ST HALF
19:35 - After securing the opening tip, NEC Player of the Year candidate Shane Gibson hits the side of the rim on an uncontested three. Hmm, that's not the start we were looking for.
18:37 - Mount St. Mary's leading scorer, Julian Norfleet, hits two outside shots within a minute to give the Mount an early 5-0 lead. It's so nice to see SHU's pathetic perimeter defense live in person.
15:47 - We are four minutes into the game, so it’s safe to say that the “Heart Attack” student section is disappointingly empty. I guess the students had much better things to do on a cold Saturday afternoon in January.
12:45 - OK, Gibson is just fine. He has scored 10 of the Pioneer's first 12 points. Mount St. Mary's 13, Shane Gibson 10.
9:45 - While both teams make my head hurt with their sloppy play, now is an excellent time to bring up my disappointment in Louis Montes. As in, I wish he didn’t shave his neck beard so soon. That thing was legendary! We were witnessing perhaps the greatest neck beard of any 20 year old, and he shaves the damn thing before I get to see it live. Oh well, at least transfer Mostafa Abdel Latif still has his afro. Keep it up big man!
7:24 - Media timeout with the score, Mount St. Mary's 21, SHU 17. Looking through the box score, I suddenly realize that Chris Evans, SHU's third leading scoring, is in street clothes on the bench. What happened with him?
3:59 - Because of Chris Evan's absence, the fans get to see more of red-shirt freshman guard Steve Glowiak and his botched three-point attempts! I hate to be hard on the kid, but he is shooting a miserable 20% from behind the arc this season. Please. Stop. Shooting.
1:26 - After trailing for the first time in the game, the Mount's Raven Barber and Norfleet combine to score the next eight points, giving Mount St. Mary's a 34-29 lead.
1:05 - Stan Dulaire was ready to end the Mount’s run, but he fails to execute an easy layup. I can’t get mad at him though, since he seems like a good teammate who studies hard in class. How do I know this? Because I follow Stan on Twitter, along with four other Pioneer players. Is it creepy that I follow these players, ages 18-22, on Twitter? Wait, don’t answer that…
0:00 - I decided it’s only partially creepy and since I’m doing it for the blog, I can continue following my favorite Pioneers! I hope Chris Evans continues to tweet about the lousy cafeteria food and needing a little love in his life.
0:00 - Oh yeah, Mount St. Mary's ends the half on a 10-2 run to pull out to a 36-29 halftime lead. SHU seems like they aren't playing with any urgency whatsoever.
Warmups – OK, I’m pretty sure our starting center Nick Greenbacker just tripped over the ball rack when he led the Pioneers out to the court for the second half. I wish this was a joke.
(Special announcement: Former Editor-in-Chief of the Spectrum and SHU alum, Newsie is in the house! Great, another pessimistic personality to watch the game with.)
20:00 – Before play resumes, let’s review the ugly stats of the first half; SHU was outrebounded 20-11, committed eight turnovers, attempted four free throws, and is now trailing by seven points to a 4-16 team at home. I hope Bike had some motivating words for his players in the locker room.
17:47 - Apparently he didn’t, because the Mount just drained their fifth three-pointer of the game to extend their lead to the largest of the day, 47-36. An apathetic Bike calls a timeout to stop the bleeding. Bike has the look I have when I find out my wife made plans for us to go pumpkin picking on Football Sunday.
15:33 - Montes drills a three and then completes a layup off a nice Evan Kelley pass. Pioneers back to within double digits. Sadly, Montes still doesn’t have his neck beard.
13:21 – The Shane Gibson show has returned to the Pitt! A 7-0 run, orchestrated all by Gibson, gets the Pioneers back to within two points, 49-47. The Pitt Center has come alive! Well, about as alive as it could, with a half filled Pitt Center awkwardly occupying half of a giant field-house.
9:46 - And Dave Bike has awoken from his slumber! He shot up off the bench after a questionable offensive foul was called on Stan Dulaire. Bricker notes that Bike now looks like a clucking chicken, with his head furiously bobbing up and down as he argues with the ref. I have no comment – look I just report the events. After all, I would like to interview the man in the offseason.
6:16 - Gibson is doing his best to keep SHU in the game. With his 17-footer, Gibson moves the Pioneers back to within two points. Gibson now has 30 of the Pioneer's 54 points. The next closest Pioneer? Louis Montes with eight points. Great balanced scoring attack, guys.
3:53 – With SHU trailing by three and needing a pick-me-up, Stan Dulaire finishes off a layup and is fouled! He completes the three-point play, which deadlocks SHU and Mount St. Mary's at 60-60. This is turning into quite a game, although I’m starting to get really nervous. Newsie, on the other hand, coolly tells me that he doesn’t really care. That's not how I remember it after the 2008 NEC Finals loss to the Mount.
2:56 – Pioneer Pride NEC All-Rookie Team snub Kelvin Parker knocks down a contested three, and then feeds point-guard Josh Castellenos for an easy layup, all in a 25 second span. The Mount now leads by five, with less than three minutes remaining. I can’t believe this is happening.
2:07 – After a Gibson turnover, Parker drains yet another pressurized three to extend the lead to eight. Ok, Kelvin I get it. You feel slighted that I left you off my Midseason All-Rookie Team and now you’re sticking it to me. I’m sorry, OK! Please stop and I’ll promise to lobby @NECSports and @NECRalph on your behalf at the end of the season.
1:56 – It’s officially desperation time for the Pioneers, down eight. Gibson drives into a crowded lane and is hacked by Norfleet. Free throws coming up....but wait, Louis Montes and the Mount's Big Croatian Center get into a scrum. There’s some pushing and shoving when SHU point guard Phil Gaetano is pushed! Where’s the technical?? All of a sudden, it’s getting a little chippy out there.
1:56 – After a 30 second discussion, the refs decide to charge a double technical on Montes and the Croatian Center. I’m not so sure about that. SHU assistant coach Anthony Latina is livid, as he slams his fist into his chair in frustration. It literally looks like his red face may explode at any moment. In spite of Latina’s possible combustion, Gibson calmly sinks both free throws. SHU now trails by six, 68-62.
1:35 – The Croatian Center is fouled on the other end, and does what any tall awkward white guy would do, make one of two free throws. Then coming back down, Swidowski one ups him in whiteness by drilling an open three! Bike immediately calls for a timeout with SHU now down four, 69-65. Big time bucket by the Polish Post-up!
1:11 – The crowd has come to life late in the game, and it inspired SHU to force another Norfleet turnover. It’s the Mount's 16th of the day. You gotta love an offense ranked in the bottom 15% of the nation. Pioneer ball!
0:50 – The Mount wisely doubles Gibson on the perimeter, which forces Gaetano to drive to the hole and draw a foul. He swishes both free throws to get SHU to within two points. I love the poise from this freshman – he carries himself like a grizzled veteran, which is like the exact opposite of Evan Kelley.
0:25 – After the Mount makes a free throw to extend their lead to three, Gaetano races down the court, hands off to Gibson, who dribbles around before nailing a three-pointer to tie the game! Big Shot Shane Gibson, now with 35 points! I don’t care if SHU finishes with a 7-11 NEC record, give this guy the NEC Player of the Year right now!
0:00 – Rather than calling timeout to set up a play, Norfleet races down the court, drives the lane, and misses a makeable layup. Danny Thompson then grabs the offensive rebound (nice box-out Swidowski) but bricks the put-back as the buzzer sounds. We are going to OVERTIME!! Wow, the Pioneers dodged a bullet there.
3:00 – This is the first time I ever live tweeted a game in person. It’s exhausting. Between watching the game, tweeting the latest news, and playing the optimistic fan to Bricker and Newsie's negativity and apathy, I’m tired! I didn’t even have a chance to check out the SHU Dance Team’s performance. It’s probably better that way. Remember, I’m trying to be less creepy.
1:59 – Only eight total points have been scored in the overtime, as Swidowski ties the game at 74 all with a layup. It was Gaetano’s 7th assist of the game. Have I mentioned how much I like his poise?
0:36 – We are back to a tie game, after Montes swishes two free throws. He’s another Pioneer that I trust late in the game. Nothing seems to bother the sophomore. Timeout Mount St. Mary’s. They’ll probably hold for the last shot.
0:00 – It's time for overtime #2! Norfleet, after dribbling around the perimeter for 30 seconds, had no choice but to hoist up a contested three-pointer at the top of the key. Luckily, he back-rimmed it. I doubt that was the play called in the huddle.
4:53 – Someone please help me, I can’t take this anymore. Luckily, Shane Gibson isn’t phased by the moment. He scores his 38th and 39th points seven seconds into overtime #2. SHU 78, Mount St. Mary’s 76.
1:46 – After some excellent defensive sequences (or lousy offense, I’ll let you decide), Gibson manages to slide underneath the Mount’s zone defense. Gaetano finds him with a long pass for the easy layup. With the bucket, Gibson has officially broken SHU's Division one record for most points in a game with 41 points! I'm not sure if Mehmet “the Turkish Nightmare” Sahan scored 41 points for his entire senior season.
1:25 – Castellanos attempts a 25 footer at the top of the key. Terrible shot. Fortunately for SHU, the rebound lands in Gibson’s hands. SHU now has the ball up four, 80-76. Things are looking good!
0:50 – OK, time for me to shut up. Gibson, whose usage rate for the game has to be 99.4%, gets stripped by Castellanos, leading to a fast break dunk by Danny Thompson. And to pour salt on the wound, Montes commits the silly foul and has now fouled out. Ugh…
0:16 - After holding the ball for most of the shot clock, Gibson actually gets a good look. The shot goes up and ..... rims out. Rebound to the Mount. They are down one, 80-79.
0:06 - With no hesitation, Castellanos beats Gaetano off the dribble and is fouled attempting a shot in the lane. Two free throws coming up, and SHU's lead is a measly one point. I'm about to throw up on my cell phone during this live tweet.
0:06 - Castellanos, of course, hits both free throws, leading to a timeout. Six seconds remain and the Pioneers must bring the ball the length of the floor, down one.
0:00 - Gaetano pushes the ball up the floor, passes to Gibson in the corner who quickly squares up to attempt a three. His three however, is partially blocked by Thompson, but lands in the hands of Swidowski. Swidowski has one last chance in traffic.....and it rims out. There was a whole lot of contact there, but no call. Bike is now verbally assaulting the officials as they run off the floor. The game is over - Mount St. Marys 81, SHU 80.
After squeezing in my last live tweets and leaving the Pitt Center with Bricker and Newsie, I had few words. I sat in my parked car for ten minutes trying to figure out what went wrong. A four point lead with the ball and less than one minute left and we lost the game? This despite Shane Gibson scoring 41 points on 16 of 28 shooting? This is a tough one to swallow. I haven’t been this depressed since I witnessed Dick Clark slurring his way through ABC’s New Year’s Rocking Eve.
Maybe it’s a good thing I live in Maryland and don’t have season tickets, both for my marriage and my sanity. Until next time...