Sports Editor’s Playbook, Thursday, Dec. 15, 2011

Patrick Newell

– After nine days to stew on its first loss of the season, Norwich (2-1) entertains Johnson City Friday night at Jack Jones Gymnasium. The Wildcats beat Norwich three out of four times last season, and were more impressive with each ensuing victory. The Wildcats show 6-foot-6 senior Ryan Clark, lanky forward Grant Vicks, and sharp-shooting guard, Cody Arvanitakis as holdovers from last year’s club. “Clark can score inside and out, and he had over 20 against us two years ago,” said Norwich coach Tom Collier. “He shoots the ball well for a 6-foot-6 guy.” Vicks scored 14 in JC’s sectional playoff win over Norwich, and has a nice inside-outside game, Collier said. Arvanitakis, while not the focus of last year’s team, was good in transition, and hit some key buckets. He is now one of the club’s prime scoring threats. Add to the mix a pretty good group of JV newcomers, and Norwich has its hands full with the Wildcats. “Once again, we are undersized in this one,” Collier said. “I have scouted all of the teams in our division, and any team can beat anyone on any given night. We look for all of our division games to be close, and hopefully having the home court advantage in this one will give us the edge. It should be another nail-biter.”

– The past two years, UV’s boys’ basketball team has not performed close to the level that brought it back-to-back MAC titles in the late part of the previous decade. The past two years, I have only witnessed one UV game, and that was Tuesday night against Walton. Let’s be frank: The Storm were a less-than-exceptional team the past two years, but early-season results have led me to believe that fortunes over at UV are changing. Tuesday was also a chance to take a look at junior guard Justin Hofer, our area’s second leading scorer last season and a second team all-Evening Sun selection. Hofer did not disappoint this observer in any way. In fact, his 36-point night was the best scoring performance I have personally witnessed in over a decade. Jon Foulds scored 35 for Norwich last season in a blowout win over Greene. Hofer’s points – every last one – were needed. In the first half, Hofer scored 23 points, 21 of those coming on 7-for-9 shooting behind the three-point arc. In the second half, he found the basket with his ability to penetrate and finish at the rim. A tremendous leaper, Hofer had several easy lay-ins for deuces, and his steal and layup with eight seconds left in regulation sealed UV’s first win over Walton in several seasons.

– Speaking of UV basketball, the girls’ team has a modest two-game winning streak after beating Walton Wednesday evening. A two-game winning streak doesn’t seem like much, but it has been quite a while since the Storm actually won back-to-back games. Head coach Brandi Backus said as much in her phone interview Wednesday, so I back-tracked through my statistics the past few years to locate the last two-game winning streak for UV. It occurred at the end of the 2007-2008 season when UV wound up with a 10-11 record. This year’s Storm group has a nice mix of offensive talent with three players – Amanda Off, Jordan Anderson, and Taylor Davis – that I expect to average 10 or more points per game. With that type of scoring, UV should be in position to win a lot of ballgames.

– For the first time in my tenure, The Evening Sun and The Stadium will sponsor a College Bowl Game Football Contest. Sports contests are pretty popular around here with the Evening Sun Football Contest in the fall, the Super Bowl Contest during the winter, and our March Madness Contest in the spring. Now we are adding one more contest to the list, and I hope it’s a keeper. It’s an opportunity to win $100, so why not give it a shot?

Follow Patrick Newell on Twitter @evesunpat