Archive for January, 2009

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.

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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.