Sports Editor’s Playbook, Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011

Patrick Newell

• Norwich will play Johnson City at home Wednesday night in contest that could clinch the Tornado boys’ hoopsters third straight STAC Central Division title. Here is a portion of our preview article that will appear in the Wednesday edition of The Evening Sun:
When Norwich won its second Section IV title of the decade two seasons ago, even that team did not have the type of record this deep into the season as the current crop of Tornado ballers. In fact, most people may have figured – after, back-to-back outstanding seasons in which the Tornado won a combined 38 games – that this season the longtime successful program would take a step backward.
Not so.
There are teams in the Southern Tier Athletic Conference that have comparable overall records to the Tornado, but no club has a better overall record. “These guys have put in a lot of time and effort,” said Norwich 25th-year coach Mark Abbott. “If people haven’t had the opportunity to see these guys play, they are missing out on something. These guys epitomize the word team from the number one guy to number 13. It would be great to play in front of a great crowd.”
Abbott’s hope for a big crowd refers to Norwich’s pivotal STAC Central Division showdown with second-place Johnson City. Norwich came back from a slow start against JC in the initial meeting to edge the Wildcats, 66-63. The win is the one-game lead Norwich presently holds over Johnson City, and Norwich can clinch the division outright with a victory. A loss, a each team will head back to the floor later in the week for a one-game playoff to determine the division champion.
“A win Wednesday night, and it would be three straight division titles,” Abbott said. “If you look back at the last 20 years, we’ve won 13 division titles. That doesn’t leave a lot for the other schools in our division to share. We kind of like it that way. From a team-goal perspective, wanting to win a division title every season is a nice time to be selfish.”

• The past several years, G-MU’s varsity boys’ basketball coach, Bill Hartman, has had the opportunity to observe the coaching of his compatriot, G-MU varsity girls coach, Jim Johnson.
Hartman has several years under his belt at G-MU and is working toward his first 100 wins with the Raiders. Meanwhile, Johnson, who started at Gilbertsville before the merger with Mt. Upton, just passed 400 wins. “It’s an amazing total,” Hartman said. “He’s so darn old, he would have to get it sooner or later. All joking aside, he has done a wonderful job with those kids this year. It was the first time I had a chance to see them play this year. I was impressed with their understanding of the game and their balance.”
Hartman added that Johnson has a wealth of knowledge he can impart on his kids, but he has a knack of keeping the game simple for his players. “Clearly Jim knows a lot, but he doesn’t make it too complicated,” Hartman said. “He’s a gracious man, his kids work hard, and they have fun. He brings a nice balance to that side of the athletics program, and we are all happy for him.”

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