Pat's Reporter Blog

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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Sports Editor’s Playbook – girls’ basketball edition

Monday, February 4th, 2013
Patrick Newell

For the time being, a girls’ basketball team is the highest scoring team in Chenango County. Bainbridge-Guilford’s boys held that spot until a 45-point outing against Windsor last weekend. Sherburne-Earlville’s girls are about one-tenth of a point below the 60 points per game mark after beating Clinton Monday, and now own the top spot. The Marauders play a pressure defense that generates easy hoops, they have a 6-foot-2 center, Lilly Berg, who rebounds well on both ends of the floor, and the Marauders average about five three-pointers per game. Savannah Irwin, Jordan Van Althuis, and Mattie Dowdall all have over 20 three-pointers this season, and S-E is the only girls team that I cover that has as many as “two” girls with at least 15 threes.

Unadilla Valley seniors Amanda Off and Jordan Anderson have gone through their bad times. The four-year varsity basketball players were on teams that went a combined 8-28 their first two seasons. The losing shifted — big time — the other way ever since. Coming off a 15-6 season in which it reached the Section IV Class C semifinals, the UV is 13-1 this year, and recently completed a perfect 11-0 run through Midstate Athletic Conference play. Off and Anderson are each about to cross the 900-point marks for their careers, and are enjoying the spoils of their long climb up the ladder. UV hosts Bainbridge-Guilford Thursday in the league semifinals with the winner meeting Unatego or Harpursville the following weekend.

Norwich girls’ basketball coach, Josh Bennett, thinks he has a player deserving of all-state recognition. In last Saturday’s win over Chenango Forks, the Tornado held Forks’ Mikala Transue to four points. Transue, Bennett pointed out, was an all-state pick last year. Bennett agreed that Transue is an excellent player, but felt she was outplayed by Norwich junior guard Jennifer Borfitz. “Transue had her jersey retired this year and is the first girl in her program to score over 1,000 points,” Bennett said. “Jenni has played great for us the last two seasons, and she didn’t even get a sniff at (all-state),” the NHS coach said. Perhaps that omission will be rectified at the close of this season.

I was way off with my Super Bowl prediction, but I kind of saw it coming. Just like the Giants’ run last year, the Ravens had that “team of destiny” look.

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Sports Editor’s Playbook, Jan. 31, 2013

Thursday, January 31st, 2013
Patrick Newell

Bainbridge-Guilford’s teams often fly under the radar in our paper. Over in Bobcat land, there is reason to sit up and take notice. For years, Bob Conway has put a winning girls basketball team on the floor. Conway’s club recently had an eight-game winning streak snapped, but is well on its way to another winning season. The past two seasons, prodigal son Greg Warren has guided the boys to some well deserved prosperity on the basketball court. Injuries and illnesses have hampered Warren’s Bobcats the past month, and they are currently mired in a bit of losing streak. In the midst of that losing streak, senior fourth-year player Austin Bauerle is playing the best basketball of his career. Bauerle has topped 20 points in six of the last eight games, and has reached double figures rebounding in every game reported. He has raised his scoring averaged to 18.3 per game, second in the area, while pulling down 15.2 rebounds and adding over three steals and three assists a game. Teammate Corbin Palmer has been just as effective for B-G, and is one of the few players in the area to have reached double figures scoring in every game played. Bauerle’s excellent play is particularly impressive since he has played with a sprained MCL since the football season. “Thank goodness for Austin and Corbin staying relatively healthy this season,” Warren said. “We would not be in good shape without them.”

I don’t care what varsity boys basketball league you play in, consistently holding teams under 40 points – with a shot clock and a three-point line – is impressive. Norwich, under head boys coach Tom Collier, has won five straight games, and none of NHS’s opponents has reached 40 points. The Tornado, who clinched the STAC East division title Wednesday night, have held the opposition under 40 points in eight of 10 victories. While Norwich is averaging around 55 points on offense – not its best, for sure – i will bet the 42.3 points allowed per game is easily the lowest total surrendered by a Norwich team since the institution of the shot clock. “We play great team defense, and we play with great effort every night,” Collier said in his remarks after Wednesday’s victory over Chenango Valley. “When you put forth that much effort on defense every night, you’re going to be in ballgames.”

I am a big fan of wrestling tournaments, and I attended the MAC finals last Saturday at Unadilla Valley High School. My initial impression was of a tourney that was efficiently and expediently run. From start to finish, the entire league tournament took about seven hours. Where I find fault is how the tourney appears to be devalued by league members. I counted wrestlers in brackets provided for me, and only 95 participated in 15 weight classes – just over six per weight class. The brackets were thin, and a number of wrestlers from the league’s best dual meet team – Greene — used up their regular season eligibility, and were unable to compete. It was explained to me that the coach of Greene, Tim Jenks, sought out tough competition throughout the year in large tournaments. The aim, clearly, is to best prepare his kids for the sectional tournament. While I wished those absent kids were able to compete, I understand Jenks’ goal for his wrestlers. I also heard a number of people bemoan the format for finals matches. Instead of spotlighting each finals match, two finals matches in separate weight classes ran concurrently. I’ve seen that approach for consolation finals (third-fourth, fifth-sixth), but not for the finals in a league tournament that should have a little more prestige. It definitely felt rushed, and I left with the feeling that tournament officials just wanted to “get it over and done.”

On to a non-sports topic…Evening Sun reporter Shawn Magrath wrote a story last month, “City considers four-way stops on Elm Street.” When I saw the word “considers,” the inference to draw is that it wasn’t a done deal. Within a few days, four-way stop signs at every intersection on Elm Street – my home street for the majority of the last 18 years – were installed. Some points were made in favor of the additional traffic signage, among those a five-day traffic study, and a proactive stance for safety. Who isn’t against safety? It’s a residential street, but why now? The traffic study over a five-day period totaled over 700 cars. As a solitary number, 700 does seem high. Doing the math and factoring in other things, it doesn’t. Five days is 120 hours, so that works out to a little less than six cars per hour. How many of those cars are repeat drivers entering and leaving the street? And of course, the residents living on one of the far ends of the street often use Elm Street as a bypass to Broad Street. Is there any type of comparative traffic study from previous years? In my lifetime, Norwich’s population has decreased by more than 20 percent. Many big businesses that operated locally and generated traffic are also long gone. Additionally, school enrollment in Norwich has gone down by at least 20 percent over the last 25-30 years. Does it make sense to increase traffic signage when there are less people, less traffic, and less pedestrians? It’s a case of micromanaging the traffic — or was it BOGO week at the traffic sign supply store? It would have been more appropriate to put those signs up 40 years ago when we had a more bustling community.

Super Bowl Prediction: I am conservative by nature with my football predictions, and I can’t see the Ravens matching San Francisco’s offensive firepower for four quarters: 49ers 31, Ravens 17.

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Sports Editor’s Playbook, Jan. 25, 2013

Friday, January 25th, 2013
Patrick Newell

Unadilla Valley’s wrestling team recently honored longtime pee wee coach and volunteer, Keith Wilcox. Wilcox suffered a stroke in 2010 while umpiring a Little League baseball league. UV varsity wrestling coach Jim DuVall said that Wilcox is mostly recovered from the stroke, but is still unable to coach wrestling. In honor of Wilcox’s volunteer service to Unadilla Valley’s youth, Unadilla renamed its club in Wilcox’s honor, and are now called Wilcox’s Wolverines. In addition to his volunteer duties with wrestling, Wilcox also ran the UV youth outdoor soccer and Little League programs. “He is truly an adult who was in it for the kids,” DuVall said Thursday. Following the renaming of the pee wee team, Wilcox was presented a t-shirt reflecting the new name.

We don’t talk about Otselic Valley girls basketball that often. It had been a number of years since the Lady Vikings qualified for the postseason – until last year’s club – and it’s been too long since the Vikes had a winning season. In the last 10 days, the Vikes have won three of their last four games – the club’s first three wins under first-year coach Carl Hills – and are playing repeat opponents much tougher the second time around. In its first game against Cincinnatus nearly three weeks ago, OV was blown out, 49-18. Two weeks later, that loss was avenged by a 41-35 count. That is a 37-point turnaround, perhaps the largest I have ever seen (particularly in such a short time frame) in nearly 18 years of covering high school basketball. It doesn’t appear OV has any path to a postseason berth this year, but the Vikings seem to be heading down the right road. “Being a first year coach, it has taken some time to for the team break some bad habits and accept some new concepts,” Hills wrote in an email earlier this week. ” We have improved on the defensive end, and that has helped us to be in position to win games.  We have much to work on as we still have our weaknesses.  The most important thing is the girls are believing in themselves.”

B-G girls basketball coach, Bob Conway, has not had a losing season in my 18 seasons covering local basketball. I thought that streak would finally come to an end after watching his club lose to Sherburne-Earlville by 41 points on Dec. 7. The Bobcats started the season with five losses in their opening six games, but have since run off eight straight victories. In those opening six games, B-G topped 35 points just once, and Conway often lamented his team’s offensive struggles. In compiling the win streak, points have come a little easier. I told Conway at Sherburne-Earlville six weeks ago that I expect his team will get better as the season progresses and become more competitive. Did I expect eight wins in a row? Heck no! B-G is now tied for third in the Midstate Athletic Conference, and with another win, will assure at least another .500 season. What else should I have expected from a guy who now has 452 career victories?

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Sports Editor’s Playbook, Jan. 21, 2013

Monday, January 21st, 2013
Patrick Newell

Do you believe Notre Dame’s Manti Te’o is telling the truth? Was he duped in this “fishhook” scam? Drawing upon the experience of someone close to me, I believe Te’o's story. My issue is the length of time he let the farcical relationship continue. He says he wondered if it was a hoax, but chose not to believe it – or follow his gut. This close-to-home connection that I mentioned was similar in that the person on the other end of the phone rebuffed any efforts at meeting in person, and also refused to participate in a video chat. This person I know was trusting of the “unseen caller” until a fallout a few months into the online/telephone relationship. It was all a sham, and knowing my friend’s reaction, I can understand how embarrassed Te’o must be. Still, he allowed this dubious relationship to go on for three years? In the age of webcams and Skype, that’s a difficult one to explain.

Warning: If you know Greene junior Zach Wentlent or you’re a family member, don’t let him read this portion of the blog. I don’t want to responsible for planting any seeds of doubt. How many times have we heard a TV announcer say something great about an athlete, and then see said athlete immediately blow it? Wentlent’s free throw shooting warms this old-school basketball advocate’s heart. I’m sure Wentlent is an excellent student in school, but it’s a pretty good bet his free throw percentage is higher than his school average. How many basketball players can say that? Wentlent is on a phenomenal five-week run for the 9-2 Trojans. He hasn’t missed a free throw since Greene’s second game of the season on Dec. 8 and that miss is his only miscue all season. He has run off 29 straight free throws and is 33-for-34 for the season or an out-of-this-world 97.1 percent!

Local basketball games, on average, are producing less points per game than I can remember. Only one team of the 16 that I cover average 60 points per game. Bainbridge-Guilford’s boys top the sweet 16 with a 60.5 points per game average. Greene’s boys are less than one point per game behind, while a pair of girls teams – Unadilla Valley and Sherburne-Earlville – are third and fourth respectively. UV puts up 58.8 points per game and S-E totals 58.6. I haven’t had a local girls team lead the area in scoring in 17 years, but this season, two local clubs are within striking range of accomplishing that feat.

So, why are points per game down? I’ll give you one reason: Mid-range shooting is dwindling about as fast as America’s middle class. The open jumper from three feet inside the three-point arc does not possess the pizzazz of a driving basket or the sizzle and excitement of a trifecta. I can’t tell you how many times this year I have seen a player pass up an open jump shot from the foul line area, and subsequently drive into a crowd of defenders in the paint, only to kick it back outside to a teammate beyond the three-point arc. I was so frustrated one night I asked a spectator next to me: “Do they have to run laps if they take that (open) 15-footer?” Every basketball offense I ever played in from the time I was in fifth grade was designed to create a high percentage shot; or at least a high-quality look at the basket. Please young cagers, if you get an open look that is inside the three-point arc, take the dang shot.

You know it’s time to set your expectations low for the game officials when they take their glasses “off” before the game starts. Yes, that really happened at a game I attended last week.

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