Dawgs topple Eagles in “upset,” 49-47

February 1, 2009

Yes, folks, I do understand that today is Super Bowl Sunday, the one day of the year where all Americans are fixated on the pigskin.  But, as a basketball fan first and foremost, I couldn’t help but find some time today to reflect on what could potentially turn out to be a season-defining victory for RFH against Middletown South.  So amidst all of the wing-eating, chip-dipping, and soda-drinking (for the under 21 crowd) that makes today special, here are some thoughts on Saturday’s contest:

1) As basketball goes, it’d be hard to ask for a more exciting game than the one we got.  Lead changes, scoring runs, back door passes, and controversial fouls galore throughout the first 3 quarters and 7 minutes.  And then, a final minute of regulation that was one of the most riveting I’ve seen in all my years of watching basketball.  A flagrant foul.  An incredible performance at the free throw line by Jordan Iarussi.  Middletown South having a chance to tie it, or win it, with 9 seconds to go, down 2, with the ball.  A foul with 0.0 seconds left on the clock.  And to cap it all off, a missed free throw to end the game at 49-47.  Could it have been any more drama filled than that?

2) Before I get to individual performances, I’d like to give major kudos to the entire team for their effort yesterday.  That game was a real litmus test in my eyes as far as where the Dawgs are compared to other Shore Conference teams, and what this team cbe capable of in the postseason.  Middletown South is no slouch of an opponent; coming into the game, they were ranked No. 5 in the  most recent www.AllShoreMedia.com Top 10 rankings.  Granted, the Eagles were without star forward Kyle Cancillieri (who was out after suffering an injury in Friday night’s game against CBA), but in sports, that stuff happens, and you play with who you got.  The fact that the Dawgs were able to withstand several scoring runs by South, including a few during the fourth quarter, is a major indication to me that this team is starting to play like pre-season No. 6 team in the conference.  It doesn’t matter to me that it took them this long to click, because if you ask any coach, they’d rather have their team clicking in late-January and February than early December.

3) Matt Blumel against the Eagles.  Wow.  Amazing.  Maybe another “wow,” just for emphasis.  To put it bluntly, he absolutely carried RFH on Saturday.  Overall, Blumel tallied 24 points on 9-17 shooting from the field (53%).  I was most impressed with the pump fake clinic that he put on.  There were countless times when Matt would jump stop into the lane, pump fake, and then go under a flying defender to get an easy floater.  If Blumel can build off that game yesterday and continue to play like that, this team will be scary going forward.

4) As an aside, how good was the Middletown South pep band?  They were AWESOME! Really added to the atmosphere of the game.

Alright, enjoy the Super Bowl everyone.  I’ll go out on a limb and take the Cardinals. Larry Fizgerald is just a sick receiver, and I think he will be the difference for Arizona.


RFH repels RBC in rivalry re-match

January 30, 2009

Just sat down to watch the Big East Battle of the Basement (Rutgers v Seton Hall).  There is really nothing more exciting than watching a team with an 0-7 record in conference play (Rutgers) take on a team with a 1-6 record in conference play (Seton Hall).  Yet I do it anyway; if that’s not dedication, I don’t know what is.

Anyways, onto what was an absolutely crucial 64-54 win over Red Bank Catholic for Rumson-Fair Haven tonight.  As I understand it, the state playoff cutoff is February the 7th, and in order to qualify for the playoffs, a team has to have a record that is .500 or above.  Coming into the game against the Caseys, the Dawgs were 8-7, meaning that they needed to win two of the next four (RBC, Middletown South, Manasquan, and St. John Vianney) to make it in.  Tonight’s win means that this team will receive a state playoff berth if it wins one of the next three; I think that needing to win two of the next three would have put a lot of pressure on James Young’s squad and beating RBC lifts some of that weight off.  By no means I am suggesting that they take these next couple of games lightly, but I think this team will be a lot less uptight over the next three games.

With that being said, let’s take a look at some RBC game specifics:

1) I loved, I repeat, loved the game plan early on.  It was very obvious that this team had a clear-cut strategy: give it to big men Justin Hook and Dean Wise and let them take advantage of a smaller Casey team.  For those that have read this blog throughout the season, you know that I have always called for those two to get the ball more.  This team is blessed with both great guards and forwards, and at times during the season, I thought there was not enough balance between the inside and outside game.  Seeing Hook get 7 points in the first quarter alone was great, and I think it speaks volumes as to what RFH is capable if they utilize all of their weapons.

2) Clutch free throw shooting was a topic in my last entry, but it’d be downright wrong if I did not mention it again after tonight’s performance.  Once again, RFH came up huge from the charity stripe during the 4th quarter.  James LeCardi was 6-6, Hook was 2-2, Wise was 2-3, Jordan Iarussi was 2-2, Christian Puma was 2-2, and Matt Blumel was 5-6 for a grand total of 19-21.  A phenomenal number.  Major props to this group for shooting so well from the line.  It kills me to watch teams lose games because they can’t make their free throws when they count.

3) Another thing I am extremely happy with is the establishment of a consistent lineup.  The starters have been the same  throughout the season, but over the past 5-6 games (give or take a few), we’ve seen some a consistent substitution pattern develop.  Puma usually checks in somewhere during the 1st quarter as the defensive stopper; then, at the start of the second quarter, opposing teams get a real change of pace when Kevin Alter, Lucas Glass, Jimmy Cranwell, and Jack Wise get serious minutes.  This lineup change at the start of the second quarter is a huge luxury for Coach Young for more than a few reasons: 1) the starters get valuable rest, 2) the subs get rewarded for their work in practice with actual playing time, 3) the subs get valuable varsity experience, which will give them a leg up next season, 4) the starters get to look at the sets of the opponent from the sideline, meaning they don’t have to worry about running their own sets.  I know that we’ve seen this lineup a lot over the course of the season, but I wanted to give it some mention tonight.

Alright, I’m going to focus my attention back on the Toilet Bowl (Rutgers v Seton Hall).  See everyone at Middletown South on Saturday.

Devils downed by Dawgs

January 28, 2009

Alright, before I get to some random musings about a magnificent 49-42 win for the boys team on the road at Shore Regional, I’d like to apologize for not updating this blog more often.  It has been a busy week with midterm exams (yes, in addition to running the Dawg Report, I am a full-time student), but with all that out of the way, its time to get back to basketball.  It certainly is nice for me to get to see some winning basketball out of this team for two reasons: 1) I get to watch plenty of losses when I turn on the Rutgers mens basketball games, and 2) This team has had potential to play like they have the past 2 games since the start of the season, and it appears they are finally putting together.

Here are some key themes that I saw in the wins against Holmdel and Shore Regional.

1) The re-emergence of James LeCardi as an offensive threat. For those that followed this team last year, you’ll remember that Matt Blumel and James LeCardi shouldered much of the load offensively.  This year, we’ve seen big men Justin Hook and Dean Wise get much more involved, with Blumel still being the leader on offense, and LeCardi being more of a distributor.  However, the past two games we saw James start to establish himself a bit more on the offensive side of the ball, with 14 points against Holmdel and 9 against Shore Regional.  What does this mean for  Coach James Young’s squad?  LeCardi as an offensive threat is nothing but good, as you can never have too many offensive weapons.

2) Response to adversity.  This is probably the most important thing I noticed about this team in their games against the Hornets and Blue Devils.  Early in the season, when a team would make a run, it was obvious that RFH went into panic mode.  Whether it was the coaches or the players, it was very clear that at the first sign of adversity, this team really didn’t know how to respond, which resulted in a lot of those losses early on.  Anyone notice how this team has dealt with adversity during the past two games?  Down 21-6 early on against Holmdel, and Coach Young puts in the subs, who proceed to close the gap by halftime.  Vito Merla of Shore hits a three late in the 4th quarter to cut the RFH lead to 1; no biggie, the Dawgs go on a mini-run, capped by a Hook throw down, and they win the game going away.  It has been night and day these past 2 games as far as how this team responds to runs by their opponent.

3) Late game foul shooting. Couch Young harps on this in all of my interviews with him.  Fourth quarter foul shooting has plagued this team and cost them several games over the course of the season.  Anyone have any guess on the Dawg’s free throw percentages during the fourth quarters of the games against Holmdel and Shore.  8-8 against Holmdel and 6-6 against Shore, making it 14-14 over the past two fourth quarters.  If RFH continues to shoot free throws like that down the stretch, it will bode very well for this group.

That’s all for now, folks.  See you on Thursday night for the re-match with Red Bank Catholic.

Dawgs top Rockets, 58-53

January 17, 2009

Just back from a good win for the boys team over the Raritan Rockets.  By no means is Raritan a Top 10 team, but according to Coach Young, they have already equaled their win total from last year, meaning that they are much improved.  I’m glad to see the boys back above .500; after watching Rutgers choke away a double-digit lead at Cincinnati the other night, I am desperate to root for a winner.  With that in mind, here are some thoughts from the game.

– At this point, I am most interested to see if this team can build off of its victories.  After the Manasquan game last week, players and coaches alike cited a pivotal team meeting and great practices as the reasons they were able to rebound so quickly from an awful loss to Red Bank Catholic to beat the then No. 4 Warriors.  The team played well against St. Anthony’s on Saturday, before falling apart again on Tuesday night, losing by 1 to St. John Vianney.  Back to Square 1.  In our interview with Coach Young after the game (click here to listen to the full version), he said that the team had two more great practices which got them back on track after the loss to the Lancers.  There are only so many times you can regroup, however, and at some point, this team will have to build on its wins and avoid those disappointing losses.  When asked what it will take to sustain success, Young’s answer was rather simple: “The 5 seniors.  It’s really up to them; they have to go out and want to win.”  I am still in wait-and-see mode, but with some of the changes in style that I’ve noticed (see below), I’m optimistic.

– The biggest change that I saw out of this team on Friday night was a new found balance in the offensive attack.  Instead of relying on Matt Blumel’s long range game for large sums of points, I saw everyone on the court getting involved on offense.  The numbers only add to this assertion, the scoring breakdown went like this:

Matt Blumel: 14
Dean Wise: 11
Justin Hook: 10
Lucas Glass: 6
Jack Wise: 4
Jordan Iarussi: 4
Christian Puma: 3
Kevin Alter: 2
James LeCardi: 2
Jimmy Cranwell: 1

Could you ask for a more balanced effort than that? I think not.  It is plainly obvious that this team is at its best when the shots are coming from everywhere, bringing me to my next point.

– I’d like to applaud Coach Young for getting the ball down low more often.  Earlier in the year, I wrote that I thought a big part of the team’s offensive struggles was the under-utilization of one of the top low-post tandems in the Shore Conference.  Against Raritan, I saw a renewed commitment to getting the ball  to big men Justin Hook and Dean Wise.  What’s more, I loved what I saw once those two received the ball.  They hesitated, felt their man, and looked for the post-move opportunity.  If it was there, they executed, and if not, they kicked it out.  Hook and Wise were great against the Rockets, and I hope that they continue to be focal points within the offense.

Alright, that’s enough out of me.  See ya’ll at Convention Hall tomorrow for the Battle on the Boardwalk.  Tip off is at 1:00 PM and the boys will be taking on the Blue Bishops of Asbury Park.

Dawgs dominated by Caseys in rivalry matchup

January 7, 2009

Shore Conference divisional play is now in full swing as the holiday tournaments are over and we have moved into the “heart” of the schedule.  And with college bowl season about to come to a close (I like Tim Tebow and the Florida Gators – Oklahoma’s defense is shaky at best), basketball will be at the top of most sports enthusiast’s priority list.

With that backdrop, we come to Tuesday night’s rough loss for the boys team as they traveled to RBC to take on the rival Casey’s.  With a final score of 55-39, it’s extremely hard for me to try and look at the “moral” victories in this game, as it was simply a downright bad loss.  Here are some things to consider about the game:

1) When you shoot 35% from the field and your opponent shoots 51%, it’s pretty difficult to win basketball games.  I’m not saying that it never happens, because believe me, I’ve seen some strange things happen in various basketball games over the years.  But, as a general rule of thumb, if you tell me a team is going to make more than half of their shots, and their opponent will only make slightly more than a third, I’ll most likely bet on the team shooting 51%.  Why were the Casey’s able to shoot so well from the field?  Likewise, why did RFH struggle to shoot the basketball?  I don’t have the answers, but I am sure it is something that head coach James Young and company will address while watching the film of this game.

2) Is Danny Calandrillo (RBC senior shooting guard) a player, or what?  The kid shot 7-9 (16 points overall), including a 10 point third quarter.  During the third period, Calandrillo hit 2 crucial 3-pointers that were part of the run that RBC broke the game open with.  The thing that most impressed me with Calandrillo was his shot selection; the kid knows when to shoot and knows when to pass, evidenced by his insane shooting percentage.  He also has an awesome floater, which I believe he nailed twice during the game.

3) Where was the fire and emotion during the 4th quarter?  After being down by  double digits, the Dawgs cut the lead to 5 following a Jordan Iarussi trifecta and a pair of free throws by James LeCardi.  Following that RFH mini-run, RBC went on a 13-2 run to end the game.  Peter Guastella was huge for the Casey’s during that run, as he scored 9 of his 13 points during the 4th quarter.  I really thought that after LeCardi’s free throws, this team would take it to RBC in the final minutes and pull out a hard fought victory.  Alas, I was wrong.

More than anything, I hope that this game can be a learning experience for this team.  With shooters like Matt Blumel, LeCardi, and Iarussi , and big men like Justin Hook and Dean Wise, no lead by an opposing team is safe.  This group of players is too talented to not have a successful season, and I have no doubt that these early season struggles will pay dividends in the latter parts of the season.

We’ll see you on Friday night for the game against Manasquan, and then into Saturday for the game against New Jersey high school basketball powerhouse, St. Anthony.

Warriors top Dawgs in Bayshore finale

December 31, 2008

Hope everyone is having a good holiday season, whether it be spending time with family and friends, or watching the plethora of college football bowl games on ESPN.  Anyone tune into Rutger’s 29-23 win over North Carolina St. in the PapaJohns.com Bowl on Monday afternoon?  Awesome game, and a great way to end a season that appeared to be over after six games as the Scarlet Knights started out 1-5.

Alright, onto the most recent boys basketball game, a rather uninspiring loss to say the least.  In the final game of the Bayshore Holiday Tournament, the Curtis Warriors pummeled the Dawgs by a final score of 59-44.  The deficit would have been in the 20s if it weren’t for a pair of 3s by junior Lucas Glass (who, by the way, was very impressive, scoring 8 points in about 3 minutes of action) in garbage time.

From my vantage point, I saw a team that came out fired up and ready to play, but quickly lost that edge once Curtis went up by 10 points.  In a game like basketball, where points can be put on the board in a hurry, it is so important for the players not to scoreboard watch and simply play the game.  It was clear that RFH got nervous once the Curtis lead went into double-digits, even though they were playing quite well during the first quarter and a half.

There are two very telling stats from this game that I’d like to share.

1) 100%Justin Hook’s shooting percentage in the first quarter.  Hook took 4 shots and drained each one of them, all while being guarded by Curtis’ best player, Halil Kawacevik. He finished the first quarter with 9 points. Over the course of the rest of the game, Hook only took 5 more shots, making two of them.  Why only 5 more shots for the big man, after he was so dominant in the first quarter?  I’d love to see Hook more involved in the flow of the offense, as I think he was underutilized against the Warriors.

2) 7-23 – The combined field goal numbers for starting guards Matt Blumel, James LeCardi, and Jordan Iarussi.  I am sure this group is well aware that they had an off night as far as shooting goes.  Which brings me back to my last point; when the shots aren’t falling from deep, why not get it down low for some easy lay-ups?  I know that’s not as easy as it sounds on paper, but at least give it a shot, right?

Stepping away from boys side of things, a congratulations is due for the girls basketball team for their come from behind victory in the championship game of the WOBM Christmas Classic.  This team has impressed so far, but honestly, is anyone surprised?  After four years at RFH, I take for granted a solid girls basketball team.

That’s enough out of me for now.  Enjoy New Years, and I’ll see you in 2009!

Dawgs fall to Hornets in 1st loss of the season

December 24, 2008

Just got back from Holmdel after witnessing a rather surprising loss.  I figured that after a shaky start against Matawan, this team would come out fired up and ready to blow Holmdel out of the gym.  Alas, this was not the case, and the Hornets came away with a 51-40 victory.

Couple of quick hits from the game:

1) Rumson-FH is struggling on offense right now.  Lots of good dribble penetration followed by poor finishing.  I’d love to see some more dribble-drives followed by kick-outs to an open shooter for a 3.

2) I liked what I saw out of Justin Hook tonight.  He didn’t do anything flashy, but quietly scored 11 points, in addition to the rebounds and blocks that he’s always consistent with.  Hook could definitely be that third option on offense behind Matt Blumel and James LeCardi.

3) Defensively, the Dawgs had no answer for Eric Shirvanian of Holmdel.  The kid shot 9-16 from the field, with 5 out of those 9 being 3-pointers.  He was hitting from everywhere, including a buzzer beater just before halftime.  Every time RFH came up with a big bucket, it seemed like it was Shirvanian that answered for Holmdel.

4) Moving into the next few games, I am most interested in seeing how this team responds.  This next 3-5 game stretch is an opportunity for players, coaches, and fans alike to see the character of this team.  How will they respond? The upcoming tournament will be a great test for this squad.

Off to the races

December 23, 2008

Well, for better or for worse, I have officially entered the world of blogging.  What does that mean for you, the avid RFH basketball fan?  It means that in addition to the more formal game articles and interviews that we post on the Dawg Report, I’ll be blogging from time to time.  Sometimes the blog will feature analysis and thoughts on the boys and girls basketball teams; other times, I’ll throw in a ‘You Wouldn’t Have Known This From Sitting In The Stands’ type story; you might even get a rant here and there about the state of the Rutgers men’s basketball team, depending on how frustrated I get once my Scarlet Knights start getting clobbered during the Big East schedule.  The point is, this blog will be a more informal place for me to get the fans even more coverage of RFH basketball.

I’m sure some of you are already wondering, what’s with the name of the blog?  Back when I was a freshman, Joe Murphy (RFH physical education teacher and offensive line coach) gave me the nickname Scoop, because, as the resident reporter at school, I usually have the “scoop” on RFH sports.  But enough about me; let’s talk basketball.

We’ll start with the girls, simply because after the first two games, I really don’t have that much to say.  So far, the girls have participated in a 77-15 beatdown of Matawan  and a 75-26 pounding of Monsignor Donovan.   Obviously, those two scores are real eye-catchers, simply because of the gigantic margin of victory.   Yes, blowouts like that are great. But I am even more impressed that the girls have put 152 points on the scoreboard through two games.  We all know what to expect on defense from a Sourlis-coached team.  Holding teams to 15 points and 26 points in the first two games of the season is phenomenal.  But point totals in the 70s are really uncommon for a high school team.  Getting off to such a solid start on offense definitely bodes well for the girls.

Moving on to the boys, I think there is a bit more to talk about, considering they found themselves down 17-5 early in their season opener.  I truly believe that the abrupt change of game location due to a leak in the gym at RFH had a role in the team coming out flat.  One of the most exciting things for a high school athlete is playing your opener in front of a jacked up home crowd, and having to head out to Matawan must have been a dissappointment.  I know the traditionalists will argue that you do what you have to do, regardless of the circumstances, and there’s no excuse for such a poor start.  But as a fellow athlete, I can attest to the fact that when you’re preparing to play under one set of conditions, and then suddenly, you have to prepare for another, it can shake you mentally.

Ultimately, the boys pulled out the 48-37 win, which is the most important thing.  I am excited by the way it happened, with sophomore Kevin Alter knocking down three big 3-pointers to spur the team towards a victory.  Alter stepping in and making such an impact is huge for the long term prospects for this team.  Matt Blumel and James LeCardi both scoring in single digits is simply an anomaly; they will both be consistent double digit scorers throughout the season.  But after that, where is the rest of the offense going to come from?  The jury is still out on who the complimentary third and fourth options are going to be.  Could it be Alter? At this point, who knows.  Nonetheless, Alter’s performance shows that this team has depth, which is always a positive.

Anyways, that’s enough out of me.  Good luck to both the boys and girls tonight at Holmdel.  Happy Holidays to all!