Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Scape Crusaders? Nah, don't blame them

I got an e-mail today from a reader who took exception to a comment by North County Christian basketball player Kirk Sheplay in the latest Athlete of the Week story.

Sheplay said it was one of the Crusaders' team goals to score 100 points in a game this season, and after scoring in the 80s and 90s no fewer than six previous times, they did it in a 103-18 win over Shandon last week.

To at least one reader, this perceived idea of beating a team and "rubbing their noses in it" was a knock on NCC's sportsmanship, or a lack thereof.

Blowout wins. It's a topic always ripe for discussion, and the timeliness of the Crusaders' recent dominance brings it to the forefront.

Here's my basic opinion: It's usually parents who feel the sting of an embarrassing score. The coaches don't come away grumbling about having the score run up on them. And the only thing about blowout losses that humiliates players is not playing — or, even worse, being subbed in the game with less than 1 minute left.

The score in blowouts is just some theoretical thing up on the scoreboard. A win's a win. A loss is a loss. When the difference is more than 20, it might as well be 100.

If the kids and coaches from the losing team aren't worrying about it, then neither should anyone else.

But in the case of NCC, I have to admit that even I allowed the thought of running up the score to creep into my mind while interviewing Kirk. Yet, when I thought about it a little more, I realized that it's just an unfortunate situation for both teams.

The Crusaders, a strong and experienced team, had to play the Outlaws, a young squad rebuilding with a new coach. It's on the schedule. They're in the same league. There's nothing either school can do at this point.

But does NCC have to play with ruthless aggression, go as hard as it possibly can within the rules and squash an overmatched opponent?

Yes, and here's why.

The Crusaders have a good team with high expectations, not only for this year but for next, since so many starters on the team are juniors. They want to go as far as they can in the playoffs. And to do that, they have to be prepared and experienced in playing their hardest — playing their pressing and trapping style — for an entire game.

Unfortunately for them, their league schedule is littered with games against teams that can't be competitive with them, at least not this year.

If they let up, play lazily and perform below their potential to keep scores closer and, therefore, less humiliating for the opposing teams, they only hurt their own chances against other good teams, the kind they'll see in the playoffs.

If there weren't so many gimmes for NCC in the Coast Valley League, you could make an argument for going easy on a Shandon here or there, but you can't blame the NCC coaches for feeling the need to keep their team as sharp as possible when they are winning league games by an average of 50 points.

They've only had a couple close games all year, and you have to simulate intensity somehow.

That's not to say "anything goes." No team should get away with things like calling a timeout with a few seconds left in a blowout to set up an alley-oop dunk. And You don't leave your starters in the whole game.

There are unwritten rules just like in every sport, and as long as teams abide by them, it's OK. By all reports we've received at The Tribune, it seems NCC is doing just that.

If the 100 point thing is still bothersome, read this: I was a spectator in a high school girls game when I was a teenager where the opposing team beat my school 128-25 or something like that. I only remember it because there was a big push by that team to beat my school by 100 points. And my school was trying its hardest not to let the other do it.

Just think, if you were a kid and you had 90-some points, wouldn’t you want to get over the hump and just go for the milestone? It’s human nature, and I don’t think worse of Kirk Sheplay for being honest about it.

And if the Crusaders ever find themselves on the other side of a blowout, they won't have much right to make any hoopla either.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A quick Head's up

OK, gotta get some football news in here.

Hancock College standout and former San Luis Obispo High cornerback Ryan Head has signed on to play at Idaho State next year, one of Head's former coaches reported today.

Head, a former Tribune All-County first-teamer at DB who had a team-high four interceptions and 34 tackles for Hancock this past season, is committing to his second NCAA-FCS, Big-Sky-Conference school since his senior year at SLO High.

After receiving interest from Navy, San Diego, Humboldt State, UC Davis, Eastern Washington, Cal Lutheran and Menlo College during his two-time all-county career with the Tigers, Head originally signed with Sacramento State coming out of high school.

He instead ended up at Hancock, and this was all before my time so I don't really have all the juicy details. In fact, I've never seen Head play. Don't even know what he looks like.

Who knows what goes on down there in Santa Maria? Uh... barbecue. Wine? I heard the real-life Zorro was from around there, but I'm not sure.

Anyway, anybody out there wants to sound off about Head, please do. I'd love to read some anecdotes. His former coach called him the best cornerback he'd ever seen. That's gotta get someone going.

(To the Logan Budd people: Attack!)

Friday, January 18, 2008

The "why" in team

Remember the big Morro Bay-Templeton boys basketball game that had us in a furor a couple weeks ago?

Well, now it's ruined.

Since the storm that knocked some leaky shingles off the Templeton gym, both teams have lost a couple league games and though their game might be a good one, it won't mean near as much as if the two were still undefeated in the Los Padres League.

And that's too bad.

No, I'm not rooting for the Pirates or the Eagles over any other team in San Luis Obispo County. Nor am I playing favorites with Royer and Hattar.

But the fact is basketball is a lot more fun for everyone when the most dynamic scorers are also on the best teams.

Or is it?

Not if you ask the Arroyo Grande girls team, which doesn't have one player averaging more than eight points per game but is dominantly running away with the PAC 7.

And here's where I have an internal conflict. My basketball instincts say I want to see the biggest individual stars on the best teams. That's what Derrick Jasper and co. had at Paso Robles a couple years ago, and were there two people in the county who weren't at that last big playoff game?

We love that stuff.

But here's a tough question: Do we love a more successful team without a major stud scorer more than a less successful one with a standout star? Why not?

Your thoughts?

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Atascadero coach update

Those concerned about Greyhounds girls basketball coach Paul Hill and his leave of absence may notice that Wednesday's story in The Tribune mentioned Hill was waiting for test results that would hopefully give him the green light to rejoin the team.

After talking with Hill today, it appeared the tests were positive in the sense that they didn't reveal the scariest of conclusions, but they were still somewhat inconclusive. That means Hill will be off the bench indefinitely while he continues to seek more care.

I'll keep you updated as much as I can. And good luck to Paul.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The storm strikes again

It's Friday night, around 8 p.m., and while I'm posting this blog, The Tribune's offices have been silenced by a power outage.

Mission Prep's gymnasium suffered a similar fate. Games from the Royals' eight-game Division V basketball showcase that didn't start before 6 p.m. have been postponed until Saturday.

As stated in an earlier blog, the Morro Bay-Templeton boys and girls games were also stopped by the storm when Templeton's gym came up with a leak and school administrators feared the near gale-force winds were too much of a travel hazard.

Interestingly, Coast Union's gym leaked during the storm before last, and games were moved midstream to the nearby middle school. But this is the first time this year basketball games have been postponed to a later date by rain.

The San Luis Obispo-Paso Robles game was going off as planned last I checked, and since the power seems OK in the South County, I'm guessing Arroyo Grande and Nipomo were able to stick to their original schedules.

Here's the hitch: Even though there were games played, since the power is out at The Tribune, we will not be able to bring you the usual full edition. I've been informed that if you do receive an issue of Saturday's paper, it won't have a sports section.

What we will do for you is work hard on Saturday to catch up with everything that happened Friday and Saturday and bring it to you in Sunday's paper.

Keep checking back here for updates now and in the future. Luckily, my cell phone has internet.


Hopefully, this gets out in time to reach some people.

Yes, word from Morro Bay is that the Morro Bay-Templeton boys basketball game has been postponed to a later date because of today's storm.

Pirates coach Dave Yamate phoned in with the update. According to him, Templeton made the decision earlier today beause of a problem with its gym. The girls game will also be postponed because of travel concerns.

This means we won't see a face off of two top Los Padres League teams. And we won't see a Michael Hattar-Dylan Royer matchup tonight. The game might be resceduled for Saturday, but nothing is certain at this point.

Stay tuned for any updates. SLO-Paso, here I come.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Rounding up the holidays

Yes, it's been a while since you've seen some blog action from me. It's been a while since The Tribune has been able to give some in-person coverage to SLO County high school sports.

But that doesn't mean we haven't been paying attention. Here are a few random thoughts on what's taken place since the Mission Prep Christmas Classic got underway, since PAC 7 play started and since many of us stuffed ourselves full of holiday fixins.

• Though his Compton team didn't exactly tear up the Mission Prep Christmas Classic, USC-bound Demar DeRozan looked good to me. On the first night of the tournament, I watched the guy decked in full warmups and an mp3 player effortlessly drain 3-pointers that would have put the NBA line to shame. Anybody else have any thoughts on the bigtime players that came to town this year?

• Sticking with boys basketball, Michael Hattar dropped 50 at the Atascadero Tournament. A few of you have weighed in on his talent already, but here's my quick take on Hattar: Though "Best Player Ever" honors still reside with Derrick Jasper, Hattar really is a high school superstar.

Someone made mention of the Eagles' star and his high shooting percentage (at 53 percent last check). Yeah, he makes his share of layouts in Templeton's flex offense, but Hattar shoots 50 percent from beyond the arc, too. And it seems like his favorite shot is a step-back jumper that, for me, conjures a scene from the movie Coming to America where Eddie Murphy yells, "YES! YES! In the face!"

• Some have also began contrasting Hattar to Morro Bay standout Dylan Royer. Well, those interested won't have to wait long for it to be decided on the court. The Pirates travel to Templeton on Friday.

• Honestly, we're still deciding at The Tribune whether to cover that Morro Bay-Templeton game or head over to San Luis Obispo, where the Tigers host Paso Robles in a PAC 7 showdown that could have playoff implications by the end of the season. Though both teams may be fighting for second place behind defending champ Righetti, anything could happen at this point, and San Luis Obispo already has a win over Arroyo Grande in league play.

• Speaking of San Luis Obispo, it could be a magical year on the pitch for the Tigers. Both the boys and girls teams are having banner years. Heck, the girls are still officially undefeated at 16-0-2, though they failed to advance in a holiday tournament after being on the wrong side of a 1-1 shootout.

I'm not really much of a soccer expert, but I know this much: You can't win if you don't score, and both San Luis Obispo teams seem expert at shutting down opposing offenses. That should allow them to be in a game with just about anyone.

I'm on the books to see the SLO High girls in person for the first time this season Wednesday night. Check out Thursday's Tribune for the game report.