Monday, February 18, 2013

Friday Night Flight Hoops

My house closing is on February 21st. Shortly thereafter, my family will finally join me in South Carolina. It's been exactly six months since I accepted a position at the University of South Carolina School of Law. I've been home at least once a month since I went down to Columbia. But most of my nights were spent at home in Columbia talking to my two sons and my wife via Facetime or Skype.

Last Friday night, I took what should be my last flight from Charlotte to New York with a New York residence. It was my usual gate, Jet Blue terminal at Gate D4 at Charlotte International airport. It's the same 7:14 pm Friday night flight that I have taken for the last six months. But for once the flight was delayed nearly an hour and a half. That allowed me to watch the Vermont - Stony Brook game on my IPad.

Vermont and Stony Brook are easily the two best teams in the America East and they were battling for first place. Unlike most other conference tournaments, the America East holds the Tournament championship game on the highest remaining seed's home court. So Friday night's game was particularly important for both teams. If Stony Brook won, they would home a two game lead on Vermont in the loss column. If the Catamounts won, they would be tied with the Seawolves for first place but would hold the tiebreaker, having swept the season series. Vermont won the earlier game vs. Stony Brook at home.

The Catamounts and Seawolves played a very entertaining first half. Vermont jumped out to an 8-6 lead. But Marcus Rouse came off the bench to spark a Seawolves' 14-5 run with three 3 pointers to put Stony Brook out in front 20-13. Trey Blue would hit two consecutive three pointers to get Vermont back within one 20-19. But the Seawolves would go into the half up six, 35-29.

With a few minutes left before I had to board my flight, I lamented the fact that I wouldn't see what I thought would be a close second half of the game since it was only being shown on ESPN3. But Stony Brook ended that lament by starting out with a 13-5 spurt before I had to get on line for the plane. Jameel Warney, the best freshman in the America East, scored eight points in that spurt. The Seawolves actually extended that spurt to 20-5 over the first eight minutes after Carson Puriefoy's jumper made the score 55-34. Stony Brook eventually would win 65-48.

Before my flight, I put $2 in the Jet Blue headphone bin and grabbed a pair of headphones. The wonderful thing about Jet Blue is the Direct TV on the flights. There was a game on ESPNU (which you can't get on Watch ESPN on your IPad, don't get me started), that I had to see. As I boarded the plane and got my seat, immediately, I plugged in the headphones and switched on the second half of the Iona - Manhattan game.

I had made a wise decision as it turned out to be a terrific game, as Manhattan rallied to force overtime on an Emmy Andujar layup. The game went to a second overtime before the Jaspers' Rhamel Brown grabbed an offensive rebound off a missed free throw by Michael Alvarado and Andujar again burned the Gaels, this time hitting a game ending layup. Manhattan got a hard earned 74-73 win.

The game stood out for three reasons. One, Andujar again was a thorn in Iona's side. It was Andujar who buried the three pointer last season at the buzzer to beat the Gaels at the Hynes Center. Two, Brown was truly dominant against Iona. He had twenty one points, seventeen rebounds, ten of which were offensive rebounds, and seven blocks. It was also Brown who came out and defended against Momo Jones at the end of regulation and at the end of the first overtime, denying Jones both times of game winning shots.

The third and final reason the game stood out, and not for a good reason, was the broadcast crew for the game. The Friday night MAAC broadcasts are usually done by Doug Sherman and Rob Kennedy who have been wonderfully doing MAAC men's basketball telecasts together for years.

Well the wonderful folks at the World Wide Leader decided that Sherman should do the broadcast with the two co hosts of their ESPN UNITE show, Danny Kanell and Reese Waters. Neither Kanell or Waters have a basketball background and this was their first time being analysts for a basketball game. Kanell and Waters ended up making a complete travesty of the broadcast as they showed up on TV dressed in hoodies and did their usual comic routine instead of giving insightful commentary of the game. Rob Kennedy, you were sorely missed.

And with that, my plane landed and I was back on Long Island for one last time as a New York resident. Of course, it was college basketball that helped welcome me home.

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