Pat's Reporter Blog

Sports Editor’s Playbook, June 4, 2013

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Public speaking is not my forte. I will admit that, primarily since it something I rarely do. I have always preferred to remain inconspicuous, and leave the spotlight to the athletes, coaches, and teams that I cover.
Last week, Art Rigas, AD for Norwich High School, phoned me with a request. He asked if I would be available to speak at the senior athletics banquet, sponsored by the NHS Student Athletic Council. After reviewing my schedule to make sure I didn’t have another commitment, I emailed Art back and said my evening was clear. Almost immediately, I started writing my speech. Over the past five days, I wrote and rewrote different passages, and even rehearsed it three or four times. Tonight, (Tuesday, June 4), I delivered my first public speech in 10 years. With the exception of two or three extemporaneous remarks, below is the text of my speech to the NHS Class of 2013:

I want to thank the Norwich athletics department for asking me to speak to the Norwich senior athletes from the class of 2013. I know some of you here have probably sat through at least 10 banquets, and have heard dozens of speeches. I promise (really) to keep this brief.
I did a little math when I thought of the year 2013. Subtracting 18 years, my guess is that most of the senior class was born in 1995. Can I get a little nod from the seniors if I have that right? Interesting parallel, at least to me. Guess when I started writing sports for The Evening Sun… yeah, 1995.
In that respect, the Norwich seniors and I have shared a journey together over the past 18 years, and that is one reason why I have a special affinity for this year’s class. The other reason the seniors are special to me is that my son, Elijah, is part of this graduating class.
My son started out playing youth sports 12 or 13 years ago, and that is when I was introduced to many of you for the first time. Hard to believe now, but “I” actually towered over 6-foot-3 Kyle Edwards, and was more solidly built than 200-pound Grant Brightman. Is Levi Lorimer here? I don’t think I was EVER bigger than you.
When I think of the young men and women in this class who played sports, I have visions of a flashback montage in which I see all you swinging a bat, kicking a soccer ball, shooting a basket on the lowered rim at the Y, or grabbing someone’s flag in flag football at Kurt Beyer Park. I see it as clear as day, yet that was at least 10 years ago. Wow, has it been that long?
Little did I know at that time, this group of seniors would help change the perception of Norwich sports. When you hear people around town discuss Norwich sports, the common remark is, “Norwich is a basketball town” or “Norwich is a football town.”
Yes, we Norwichians love our basketball and we love our football, but Norwich sports is much more than that. The tennis teams, the golf team, the swimming teams – all had winning seasons. In just about every sport, you can point to a bright spot, one in which, YOU, the seniors, have made a difference.
In 18 days, your job at Norwich High School will be complete. To many of you, moving on from Norwich cannot happen soon enough. Speaking for the parents and adults here tonight, it feels like time has passed far too quickly.
When you get to my age, you have the benefit of hindsight, and I’d like to share a couple of things I learned after high school and college. First, listen to your mom and dad.
I went to college, got degrees in accounting and business management, and was following that career path. I was working at a local insurance company when my mom passed on a job listing Wanted: Evening Sun Sports Editor. It gave the details of the job and how to apply. At that point, I was in my mid 20s, and although I had been reading the paper for years and years, I NEVER looked at the ads. I was skeptical about the job listing, but my mom encouraged me to give it a shot. She knew sports had always been my passion, and this was my chance to get my foot in the door. If it wasn’t for my mom, I never would have gotten this job. So thank you mom.
The second point I wanted to make goes back to that word – passion. Now that I’ve been a working adult for 20-plus years, I have learned the key distinction between working a job and pursuing a career. My suggestion to all of you, find a career you are passionate about. Do you want a job where you are looking at the clock? Or do you want a career where you don’t wear a watch? By the way, no watch here.
All of you are here tonight because you played sports, and now that got this far, I presume you weren’t doing it to make someone else happy, you were doing it because it made you happy. You probably didn’t notice it, but along the way, you picked up some valuable life skills such as teamwork, setting and achieving goals, self-discipline, and time management. Just by playing playing sports, you have created a great foundation for future success. I wish all of you here the best of luck in whatever you do. Thank you.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat

Sports Editor’s Playbook, May 17, 2013

Friday, May 17th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Norwich junior Matt Murray may be the most versatile runner in Norwich track and field history. He already has multiple school records in indoor and outdoor track and field. Just this season, his times from 100 meters to 1,600 meters would place him in the top five or six in all of Section IV in every event except the 110-meter hurdles. That is one event he has yet to post a time. What runner can compete on even footing with sprinters and distance runners? I said to myself a couple of years ago – and anyone else within earshot – runners such as Chad Noelle of Greene come around once in a generation. Noelle won state championships in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters, and was also the best 800-meter performer in Section IV. He has the best times in those three events in Chenango County history, and is now competing at the University of Oregon as a standout distance runner. In the distance events, Noelle has no equal, yet Murray is that transcendent athlete with the uncanny tools to excel in any event he enters. Murray, a junior, will be among the favorites to win a state championship next month. Treasure this athlete, folks, as we have never seen a local high school track athlete with his all-around capabilities.

I wanted to publicly bid a fond farewell to one of the classier young coaches and teachers, who is leaving the area at the conclusion of this school year. Rick Mohrein, varsity basketball and baseball coach at G-MU, is headed to Charlotte, N.C. with his wife after accepting a similar job to his current post at G-MU. Rick suffered through a paucity of victories this past year, but he was always upbeat and saw the positives to build on. Rick, who is about 6-foot-4, was a standout basketball and baseball player for Afton during his high school playing days. Although he surely does not remember me, I remember him. Afton had some respectable basketball teams during Rick’s playing days, and Afton’s baseball teams were always competitive, particularly against Class D competition. Best wishes to Rick and his wife in the next phase of their lives.

I was at “Meet the Candidates” night at Stanford J. Gibson Elementary School in Norwich earlier this week as the public had the opportunity to listen to the thoughts of the seven prospective Norwich School Board candidates. One candidate, Bruce Braswell, presented a consistent theme in which he believed we should not cut any programs (read opportunities) for kids. The extracurricular activities are essential to rounding out the character of an individual. Music, sports, and the arts are also about passion, self-motivation, and often, working well with a team. I wholeheartedly agree with keeping opportunities available to kids, so I was dismayed when I learned that Bainbridge-Guilford plans to cut one of its sports programs – tennis. The tennis program’s inherent cost is a relative blip in any school’s overall budget scheme. Tennis is one of the most cost-efficient programs, particularly at B-G. Kids provide and maintain their own equipment; team members bought their own uniforms this year; the kids self-officiate their own matches, and the coach drives the team bus. The tennis courts require little maintenance at this time, and the same nets have been in place for 10 years. The only overhead is the purchase of tennis balls for the season. The tennis program is also coed, and it is not suffering from lack of interest, nor is it non-competitive. The Bobcats finished with a 6-4 record with the majority of the starting lineup returning next year. Unfortunately, there may not be a next year, and this is a disservice to the kids.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat

The golfing gods get the last laugh

Friday, May 10th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Golf stories, like fishing tales, get longer, more dramatic, and heroic with each retelling They also bore the heck out of listeners by the fifth or sixth time they are recounted. Just as a fisherman is wont to exclude those dismal days with nary a bite, the average golfer spends precious little time at the 19th hole regaling his bar mates with the day’s mishaps and foibles. No one really cares, they’ve all been there.
Channeling my inner golf raconteur, here is yet another golf story. If you’re already hitting your mental snooze button, you can bypass the rest of this blog.
A truism of all amateur golfers: You’re never sure what will happen before you tee off. How well – or how poorly – you play is a mystery until you have actually played a few holes. And day to day, the level of play can swing (pun intended) wildly. Another axiom of golf: The higher one’s handicap, the greater (potential) disparity in play from day to day.
So Tuesday night, I was matched in my league against Canasawacta Country Club’s biggest tournament winner, Robert Branham. The two biggest tournaments at C.C.C. are the men’s member-guest and the club championship. Between those two, Bob has between 30 and 35 career wins. No one else is even close to that number of titles. Now in his mid-50s, Bob is still the titular golfer by which all other C.C.C. members measure themselves. This was my opportunity to show Bob that I not only can write a decent game, but also play a fair game of golf. Referring to truism one, my strong tee shot on the first hole was not a precursor of good things to come. In fact, I managed to hack it up pretty good, and Bob took me to the woodshed in a lopsided victory. I think Bob summed it up best late in the round: “This isn’t your best display,” he said.
If Bob could have seen me the next day. Actually, if anyone had seen me play, they would have noted the 180-degree turn. After finishing my morning responsibilities at the newspaper, I had a few hours until I had to return for my afternoon/evening shift. I resolved to make an adjustment in my golf game based on feedback from Bob and my playing partners. For this one day, the fine-tuning worked beautifully. Shots headed in their intended direction, and I even dropped a few putts outside of gimme range. Rain was intermittent on Wednesday morning, and for a portion of my round, the wet stuff held off. Toward the end of my 10-hole exhibition, the misty rain finally took hold. Playing the fourth hole – the number one handicap hole on the course – I resolved to finish up soon, and hoped I could close strong. Teeing off on the 464-yard hole, I hit my best drive of the short round. If you have played C.C.C., you know that if a drive does not reach the 200-yard mark from the green, your second shot is a blind one. Fortunately, I drove it past the 200-yard mark, and could see the flagstick. Pulling a six-iron from the bag, I made solid contact. From that far away, it’s hard to figure the depth of where the ball will land on the green, and my ball hit about 35 feet above the hole. The green slopes heavily downhill from the back to front, and as I walked toward the hole, the ball slowly trickled back down the hill settling 20-25 feet above the pin. A precarious position given the severity of the slope. I didn’t care, it was the first time this season I had hit the green in two shots. I looked around the course as I studied the putt. The skies were heavily overcast and grey, and no one – and I mean no one – was in sight. Later, as I walked back to my car, I would encounter the only other players on the course that day. Those players, however, were on the opposing side of the course.
My next shot was mano–a-mano with my ball and putter up against a fearsome green and a tiny four-inch cup waiting for a ball to eventually drop. Looking at the slope of the putting surface, I estimated a direction to hit the ball, and resolved to just nudge the ball forward, and allow it to trundle downward. I hit the putt softly, and in hindsight, probably had time to pull out my cell phone and videotape the 10-second trip to the hole. Watching my dimpled friend’s travels, it quickly crossed my mind, “hey, I didn’t botch this right off the bat.” The ball was seemingly magnetized to the cup, and into fell into the bottom. As the ball reached the cup, I raised my putter, a la Tiger Woods, and fist-pumped as if I had just holed the winning putt at the Masters. Just as it was 30 seconds earlier, no one saw that putt go in. I hit my two best shots on that hole all year, and capped the hole with my best putt. Fittingly, no one saw it, I’m sure no one reading this really cares, and I promise, I won’t tell this story again.
The golfing gods got the last laugh – again.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat

Sports Editor’s Playbook, May 3, 2013

Friday, May 3rd, 2013
Patrick Newell

Congratulations to Greene varsity baseball coach Steve Burghardt, who won his 300th career game last weekend against Whitney Point. Burghardt is in his second stint with the Trojans. In his first go-around, he won multiple Susquenango Association championships, and to my knowledge, at least three Section IV titles. Burghardt was his typical understated self when asked about his achievement earlier this week. “I’m 60 years old, so what’s that, five wins a year? No big deal,” Burghardt said.

The baseball and softball regular seasons are drawing to a close within the next week-plus. And it’s a darn shame as we’re now approaching the best weather of the spring. Thursday was a sunny 80 degrees with a light breeze, and Wednesday was carbon-copy weather. Since the beginning of April, local clubs have taken to the diamond in chilly, windy, and usually inclement weather conditions. One coach told me that his team played half of its season over the previous two weeks, and his regular season will end next week. For schools whose record does not qualify for the postseason, their 2013 baseball/softball season will be over before May 10. Total length of season for those clubs, according to my records: Five weeks.
The first baseball and softball games reported in The Evening Sun this spring were played on April 4. Along the way we have seen numerous postponements and rescheduled games due to poor weather. Figuring in rescheduled games, we’re 28 days removed from those first games, and the season is nearly over. Does that feel like a real varsity sports season? Especially in comparison to the length of the fall and winter sports seasons? The season is shoved down our throats as if it is a sprint to the finish line. Meanwhile, only the best teams get to enjoy some of the better weather that is heading our way the next few weeks. Let’s analyze this year’s spring sports season: Practice began in early March – indoors every day – running nearly four weeks until the start of the regular season. The regular season lasts five weeks, and the postseason (league, sectional, and state playoffs) will last approximately another four weeks. Over those 12 or so weeks, one-third of the time kids are not even practicing outdoors, and in the final third, most of teams are either ineligible to play based on record or are eliminated from the postseason in the first week. In the end, baseball and softball players are getting short-changed in the spring sports season.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat

B-G grad McGinnis playing in Arena Football League

Friday, April 26th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Bainbridge-Guilford graduate Willie McGinnis has reached the next level in his football career. Following his high school graduation, McGinnis was signed by the University of Rhode Island where he played four seasons and earned second-team all-league honors in the Colonial Athletic Association as a defensive lineman. McGinnis had his sights set on the NFL, but injured his knee a week before his pro day workout at URI.
Two seasons removed from his collegiate football career, McGinnis is playing football again on the professional level. No, not the NFL, but the Arena Football League. McGinnis was signed by the Pittsburgh Power, and played in his first game last week, a 64-33 loss to the Utah Blaze. According to the Rhode Island athletics site, 8,390 fans attended the game.
McGinnis told his collegiate alma mater’s website that he was fortunate to have a great support system at home, who watched him rehab his injury and work himself back into playing shape. “One person I am thankful for the most is my brother (Chris),” McGinnis said in the URI website article. “All of it allowed me to push myself beyond where I felt I could go. My understanding of success is that it’s a joint effort. No one person succeeds solely on their own accord, so to them, I say when I rise, we rise.”
The mechanics of Arena Football are similar to every level of football, but the dimensions of the field are about half the size of an NFL field, and teams align with eight players instead of 11. The speed of the game, too, is much faster with an emphasis on the passing game. “There are a number of rules changes that I am adjusting too,” McGinnis said in the article. “But when it comes down to it, it’s just football.”
McGinnis was a star player for B-G/Afton during his high school playing days, and was a two-time Evening Sun All-Star at linebacker. He has played football most of his life, and he said he is thankful to continue his football journey. “I couldn’t imagine myself not playing this game, and not going out on my own terms,” McGinnis said

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat

Sports Editor’s Playbook, April 21, 2013

Sunday, April 21st, 2013
Patrick Newell

Did anyone notice similarities in the Sherburne-Earlville baseball and softball linescores Wednesday? Rarely have I seen two game results so statistically symmetrical. Or, it was one of those unique coincidences that happen in sports way more than one thinks. And the only reason I am mentioning the coincidence is that I am a certified stats geek. The Elias Sports Bureau hires guys like me – times about 10.
If you missed the game results, here is what happened: Sherburne-Earlville’s two teams both built 3-0 leads with one-run inning and a two-run inning, and took 3-0 leads into the fifth. The boys gave up six runs in the bottom of the fifth and lost 6-3. The Marauders’ girls lost their three-run lead giving up all six runs in the sixth inning. They, too, lost 6-3. It’s unusual to have that similar of an outcome between any two teams I cover, much less two teams playing on the same day on adjacent fields. This is just another example among hundreds of why sports are so refreshing and unpredictable. On any given day in any game, you might witness something you’ve never seen before.

I haven’t targeted Norwich varsity softball in my blog, well…not too often. Thursday’s victory at Susquehanna Valley was a milestone I wish I saw. Of course, I had 17 other games to report on, and SV’s home site is a 75-minute drive on a good day. In 2011 and 2012, Norwich won exactly won Southern Tier Athletic Conference league game. Neither of those two victories compares to this one, especially considering the opposition. For most of my 18 seasons covering area sports, Susquehanna Valley softball has taken a spot at or near the top of our section winning multiple Section IV titles along the way. This year’s Sabers may not have the makings of a state title contender, but when has that mattered? Norwich has not beaten Sus Valley in at least 20 years. The Norwich team that ended the drought starts three and sometimes four freshman among the six infield spots. Norwich softball, long the doormat in STAC, is no longer anyone’s patsy. Just ask Sus Valley.

Friday’s sports edition paid tribute to George Echentile, one of this year’s Norwich Sports Hall of Fame inductees. Echentile was long retired before this generation of students were born, but for generations before that, he was as dignified and classy a teacher as there ever was at Norwich High School. He was one of my physical education teachers at NHS in the 1980s, and was, simply put, the finest teacher I ever had. That is no disrespect to the many good teachers I had in high school and college. Some people just set the bar incredibly high. He was named teacher of the year in Norwich multiple times, and in my opinion, they should have just renamed the award in his honor. They just don’t make ‘em like George Echentile anymore.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat

Goodbye old friend

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Get him to the Greek…yogurt that is.
Our newspaper made it official today: “Longtime Evening Sun editor leaving,” the headline read. Ironically, it was that longtime editor, Jeff Genung, who probably wrote that headline. We knew about Jeff’s decision a week ago this past Monday. Shocked doesn’t really quantify my reaction. Richard Snyder, our publisher, gave me a call late that Monday morning to break some news that would not make the papers for at least nine more days. For my 17 1/2 years here, Jeff sat in his office, and I sat in my cubicle. The reporting staff has turned over completely at least five or six times during our time together, and we’re in turnover again. I always thought “I” would be the one to cry uncle and depart The Evening Sun first. Chobani Yogurt, though, saw Jeff’s value and made him a tremendous offer, one none of us remaining on staff can begrudge.
Jeff came to The Evening Sun fresh out of Oswego State, hired in 1990. On Nov. 4 1991 – nearly half a lifetime ago for Jeff – he was announced as the newspaper’s new news editor. He assembled the paper for many years using archaic technology, and seamlessly transitioned to our current desktop publishing program in late 1994. Jeff brought The Evening Sun into the 21st century, and has embraced the social media phenomenon as a means to promote our product. He was/is damn good at his job, and I’m sure he’ll excel in Chobani’s communications department. On a personal note, I will clue in some readers on some truths about our outgoing editor: Those witty and “occasionally” sarcastic remarks he adds to “30 seconds” entries, he is even more witty and sarcastic (in a humorous way) in real life. As co-workers, he and I could not be more different. He was the Felix to my Oscar. (And yes, his work area would pass the white-glove test.) Despite his distaste for the orderly chaos that is my desk, he let me be me, and would step up and support me at a moment’s notice, if needed. That despite his admitted lack of knowledge (or interest) in sports. Jeff has always understood the importance of my part of the newspaper, even though, in reality, sports is as much entertainment as it is news. I cannot count the number of times Jeff has fixed or patched up my computer’s ails. Jeff was not only our boss and editor, he was a mentor, our computer IT department, and our friend. He ran The Evening Sun with professionalism and class for 21-plus years, and his presence will be sorely missed.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat

Sports Editor’s Playbook, March 8, 2013

Friday, March 8th, 2013
Patrick Newell

A lot, check that, just about all of our focus on local sports these days is Norwich basketball. The Purple Tornado are the only game in town as we rapidly approach spring sports: Baseball, softball, track and field, et al.
Norwich won its sixth Section IV boys’ basketball championship last weekend, and its fourth since back-to-back sectional championships led to state titles in 1993-1994. The last three visits to intersectional play have led to first-round losses. Could this year be different? Yeah, it’s a good possibility. In those three previous visits outside of Section IV play, two of the teams that beat Norwich went on to win state titles, and the third advanced to the state championship game. Clearly, that first-round draw has not worked out well for Norwich. Tomorrow night’s opponent, Westhill, has flown at or near the top of Section III basketball for several years, and won its third Class B title in four years last Sunday. If you have Time Warner Cable, perhaps you caught a glimpse of the Warriors, who beat Skaneateles 63-51. The Warriors play great defense, and have a sensational scorer in Jordan Roland. But…there are no intimidating shot blockers or future NBA prospects such as Hilton Armstrong, who helped Peekskill demolish Norwich over a decade ago. Roland is a heck of a prospect, so maybe he will, indeed make his mark on the next level.
What has impressed me the most about this Norwich team – as opposed to previous good NHS teams – is that the coaching staff utilizes the talents of every player on the roster. All 10 players have made their mark in games this season, and the talent gap between the best player and the tenth is not as wide as you might think. This is a team with no dead weight sitting on the bench; if you’re playing for Norwich, you’re a darn good player.

As mentioned above, Norwich recently won its sixth sectional basketball championship, and fourth in my 18 seasons covering local sports. I began to make a mental checklist of Chenango County schools tat have advanced to the state basketball tournament. Here is that list: Boys–Afton, Oxford, Norwich. Girls–Afton, Bainbridge-Guilford, Greene, and Oxford. Since 1995-1996, no boys team has made it past the first round of sectional play, while all four girls teams have advanced to the state final four at least once. B-G, in 1999, reached the Class C state championship game only to lose to Bloomfield. Leading that Bobcats club was Chenango County’s all-time leading scorer, Courtney Mattingly. The Bobcats lost four games that year – three to Class B state champion Oneonta, and one to the the Class C state titleist.

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat

Norwich meets M-E in STAC final Sunday

Saturday, February 16th, 2013
Patrick Newell

The way Norwich coach Tom Collier sees it, all of the presure is on Maine-Endwell.
Collier’s Purple Tornado play the Spartans tomorrow at 2 p.m. at Binghamton University’s Events Center for the STAC title. Norwich is 19 years removed from its last conference championship, while M-E is in the midst of a nine-year dearth of league titles.
“They’re the number one team in STAC this year. That is a given, and they’ve proven it all season,” Collier said of his opponent. It’s the big guy versus the little guy. We’re playing with house money as far as I’m concerned. I hope our guys come out and play loose, and this is a great opportunity for us to prepare for sectionals.”
These two clubs know one another quite well. Collier said the two teams met three times in offseason AAU or spring tourneys, and in-season, M-E authored a 57-45 win over Norwich at the Stop DWI tournament this past December.
Norwich was far from full health at the time, and was also missing starting point guard Michael Sutton. Sutton, on a recent tear, is the Tornado’s second leading scorer at around 10 points a game, while top scorer, Kyle Edwards, is putting up just over 11 points a tilt.
Maine-Endwell is similarly balanced with its scoring, Junior Kyle Gallagher scores 13 a game and shooting guard Alex Wisniewski chips in with just under 13.
Ticking off the pros and cons of each club, Collier identified a number of similarities: Work ethic, tough defense, and maximum effort. The two clubs are near mirror images with the stark difference in the larger image cast by the Spartans.
“They have three guys 6-foot-5 or more who start, and that’s three guys taller than anyone we have,” Collier said. “We’re playing on a bigger court, so I think it gives their big guys more space. By the same token, we have more space to run our dribble-drive offense.
“It ought to be a fun, and we’re expecting a very good game.”
Neither team has lost since the calendar flipped six weeks ago. One of those perfect marks will suffer a blemish, say around 3:45 p.m. Sunday afternoon.

Follow me on Twitter for in-game updates @evesunpat

Norwich’s Sutton playing at a high level

Saturday, February 9th, 2013
Patrick Newell

I was pleased to come up with an extra story for Thursday, Feb, 7 on the Norwich basketball team. The story’s substance came from an abundance of extra quotes that head coach Tom Collier gave me following the Tornado’s win over Susquehanna Valley on Feb. 5. I didn’t have a place for the quotes in the game write-up, so my thought was to include them as tidbits in an upcoming blog. After composing 600 words, I thought, “this is too long for a single blog item.” So I included the feature as an extra story in our print edition.
The substance and the theme of the story were fine, but post-printing, I realized I made a glaring omission: I left out a trio of junior basketball players who played on last year’s sectional championship club.
I had tunnel vision, and in reviewing the returning players, I focused solely on the three returning seniors: Kyle Edwards, Grant Brightman, and Danny Carson. I left out juniors Michael Sutton, Michael D’Abbraccio, and Storm Cook. Sutton, as a sophomore, started more than half of Norwich’s games a season ago, and served as the primary ballhandler on a pretty darn good team. Cook and D’Abbraccio were key reserves at forward, and occupy the same roles this year.
Sutton, though, became a full-time starter midway through last year, and is in his second year as a starter. How could I forget him?
As a contributing player a season ago, he deferred to seniors Seth Thomsen and Dennis Oralls along with Edwards. That trio combined for 43 points a game last year, or around 70 percent of Norwich’s scoring. Sutton tossed in 6.3 points per game, and I estimated he would likely double that average this year as a second-year player.
Through the first 14 games this year had reached double figures scoring just three times, and he missed three games during the Christmas break after sustaining a nasty ankle sprain. Michael’s dad, Tom, showed me a picture of the ankle, and I swear it was swollen to the size of a ripe Florida orange.
“I think he was on the cusp of taking that next step forward when he got hurt,” Collier said. “When he came back, he still wasn’t himself. But if you think about it, we haven’t lost a game with Michael Sutton in the lineup.”
A veteran of many ankle sprains, my personal experience told me it would be a few weeks before Sutton would again be on solid footing. I forgot that Sutton had youth on his side, and he was back to practice within two weeks. As Collier said, Sutton was not himself in his return, and it would be another three weeks before Sutton started to score in a manner I had expected.
A week from this past Friday, Sutton had 13 points against Chenango Forks, he followed that with a career-high 25 points against previously-unbeaten Sus Valley, and then added 17 points against Windsor on Thursday. In those three games he shot a combined 70 percent from the field (21-for-30), and that includes six three-pointers on 12 attempts. His field percentage inside the three-point arc? A remarkable 83.3 percent. Mind you, not every shot attempt is a layup for Sutton, and he’s doing a laudable job in every other facet of the game. He had zero turnovers against Sus Valley, and he played nearly every minute. Over the past three games, he has 13 assists and four turnovers, while picking up nearly three steals a game.
“‘Sutty’ is kind of that guy who goes unnoticed,” Collier said. “He’s not flashy, but he’s smooth. He really has a complete game. He’s an excellent defender, and he can cover anyone. He’s a great rebounder and he gets his teammates involved. Now he’s starting to score.”
Collier said that Sutton has beating eating everyone’s lunch during Norwich’s practice, and now he’s dominating in games. His performance in recent games proves that point. “No one has been able to stop him,” Collier said. “He came out in the Susquehanna Valley game and hit a couple of shots. His confidence just rose.”
For the first year and a half of his varsity career, Sutton remained content to get his teammates involved and not look for his own scoring. He’s still finding his teammates, but he’s also become a weapon on offense. With so many other viable scoring options on Norwich, Sutton has made Norwich an even more difficult team to defend as we head into the homestretch of the season. “Other than the sectional championship game against Chenango Valley last year, the game against Susquehanna Valley was probably the second biggest game of Michael’s career,” Collier said. “He was the best player on the court that night, and it wasn’t even close.”

Follow me on Twitter @evesunpat