Sports Editor’s Playbook, Monday, Dec. 5, 2011

Patrick Newell

From time to time this season, we’ll have the opportunity to preview some basketball games. Norwich first-year head coach, Tom Collier, is well known among the local coaching brethren for his detailed scouting reports. He shared some of his thoughts on Wednesday’s opponent, Susquehanna Valley. “You can call this ‘David versus Goliath,” Collier said. The Sabers have four players at least 6-foot-6, and that includes three-year starting center, Trenton Benton at 6-foot-6, and 6-foot-7 skywalker Brendan Normile. Also on the SV roster are Nick Coddington, who is 6-foot-8, and Aaron Cornish, a 6-foot-7 center. Norwich, meanwhile, lists its tallest starter, Dennis Oralls, at 6-foot-3. “They have Colin Manchester, who is one of the top three-point shooting guards in the league,” Collier said. “Benton is deadly around the basket, and Normile is one of most agile big man around who can leap out of the gym. All three are college-bound recruits. The combination of outside shooting and size makes Susquehanna Valley the odds-on favorite to win the Central Division (our division) in STAC.” One advantage the Tornado may have is the two games it played last weekend, while Wednesday’s game at Norwich will be the Sabers’ season-opener.

The 49th Clyde Cole team title was easily won by Pennsylvania prep school, Wyoming Seminary last weekend in Oxford. The Blue Raiders brought 10 wrestlers last year, and claimed the team title racking up 280.5 point to outdistance runner-up Queensbury by 75 1/2 points. This year, with a full lineup in tow, WS piled up eight individual titles and 366 team points. Check out this statistic: If you added together the point totals of second-place Queensbury and third-place Greene, “Sem” would still maintain a 13-point advantage. Sem is off to the prestigious Ironman tournament this weekend, and later on, the Beast of the East.

I am not a fan of the Schwan basketball tournament schedule, hosted by Norwich. This coming weekend is the annual Norwich Pennysaver girls’ basketball tournament, and the girls’ schedule mimics that of the boys. Until the last three years or so, Norwich’s annual boys tip-off basketball tournament had varsity games scheduled at 6 and 7:45 p.m. Running concurrently were the JV games at the Norwich Middle School gym. Games were scheduled so that the JV time was opposite the respective boys’ varsity team. It allowed fans of their school to move from one gym to the next upon completion of the first game. The new and “not improved” version of the tournament invokes the quadruple-header-at-one-gym schedule. Four straight games are played with the capper beginning in the 9 p.m. range (and last year it was closer to 9:15 p.m.). Back-track about one hour and 45 minutes for each game to the opener – around 4 p.m. Remember, this schedule follows a school day in which kids are up early in the morning and taking classes all day. I ask, how many JV games on school days start at 4 p.m.? None. How many varsity games start at 9 p.m. or later? None, unless the JV prelim has a wild four- or five-overtime finish. Those aren’t even my strongest arguments against the schedule. Visiting schools in the JV games are needlessly delayed an hour and a half to two hours while they wait for their varsity team to play. Also, based on my observations the past two years – at the boys’ and girls’ tournaments – basketball games that start at 9 p.m. or later do not draw as many fans as games that start in the 7:45 p.m. range. For some people, a basketball game starting after 9 p.m. is just too late! A Friday night basketball game at Norwich High School used to be a can’t-miss event for sports fans. Not only was this the season opener for a solid Norwich team, but the Tornado were playing longtime local rival, Oxford, who brought a fan base of its own. With the stage set for a capacity crowd ready the rock the building’s pillars, seats were readily available in every section aside from the Norwich student section. Something seems amiss to me. Before the Norwich gymnasium was remodeled to bring it up to date with building safety codes, the Norwich gym’s seating capacity was in the neighborhood of 1,000. Now, a full house at Norwich is about one-third less the previous maximum occupancy, and Norwich still cannot fill the stands. For Saturday’s consolation and championship games, I would make just one adjustment: Flip the order so that the JV championship game precedes the varsity consolation game. Saturday, Greene’s varsity team played Oxford in the varsity consolation game. That contest served as a warmup for the Greene JV team’s title game against Norwich. It just doesn’t sit right with me when a JV team is higher on the marquee than its varsity squad. Isn’t it the aspiration of a junior varsity player to ascend to varsity? I ask that the Norwich school consider a schedule change for next year. Friday’s original schedule allowed for a seamless, time-efficient transition from a respective school’s junior varsity to varsity game. For Saturdays, I consider it a lack of respect for a varsity program – and the varsity players and coaches – by having it play second fiddle to the junior varsity. A varsity sports team, regardless of the sport, is that sport’s preeminent team. It is the best combination of players to represent a school in interscholastic sports at the highest level of competitive varsity sports. I think some people have lost sight of that.

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