Game 050: at Central Connecticut State 78, St. Francis (PA) 60Thursday, February 4, 2005
Detrick Gymnasium - New Britain, CT
Our game is played in two halves, each lasting twenty minutes. As soon as time slips away in the first half, there is a traditional break in the action. The game clock is reset to 15 minutes and begins an uninterrupted march back towards zero. It's halftime.
With one second remaining in this game's first half, St. Francis (PA)'s
star guard Darshan Luckey drained a trey from the far right corner, giving the Red Flash a 39-35 lead. As soon as the ball left his hands, he turned around and walked away. He knew it was going in. The goal counted for his 14th, 15th and 16th points of the night.
Once inside the locker room, Central Connecticut
head coach Howie Dickenman - a former Jim Calhoun top-assistant at Connecticut
and a man who loves his alma mater too much to move up the coaching ladder - goes to his chalkboard. He gathers his assistants and players and formulates a X-and-O battle plan for the second half, one engineered to contain the all-conference junior guard. (The plan would end up working brilliantly. The Blue Devils would outscore their opponents 43-21 in the second half, and hold Luckey to just four points.)
Several seconds after the horn's blast, P.A. announcer Jasper "Joe" Arnone shuffles the papers on his twin podiums and switches on his mike. His rich, folksy baritone fills every corner of the shoebox-like confines of Detrick Gym. "Don't forget that the concession stand is open,"
he intones. Arnone is like a friend who sits beside you and thoughtfully provides you key game information at all the right times; he is likely the greatest P.A. announcer in all of Division I. "There's popcorn, Coca-Cola... lots of great food and drinks."
Soon thereafter, there's a special presentation. Teenage siblings Brittany and Robbie Berquist, the sister-and-brother pair behind Cell Phones For Soldiers
, are on hand to pick up a box full of old Nokias and LG's (you could bring one to get free admission to the game), as well as a nice support check from the CCSU athletics department. They receive a standing ovation, as they usually do. I imagine that nobody could turn these two angel-faces down. I mean, they're the type of undeniable All-American adorable that proves irresistible to even the hardest-hearted cynic. If they came to my door selling Grit
magazine with those big, round innocent eyes... well, each and every one of my relatives would be getting a subscription as a late Christmas present, let's put it that way.
The 100 Games Project
began as a gimmick. In truth, I believed that I would attend a hundred games in the Philadelphia area (it's possible, I drew up an itinerary), I'd post recaps, and that would be it. There was never supposed to be anything voyage-like about it. Three months ago, I had no clue that getting to game number 50 would involve driving 110 miles in each direction just to watch a second-division Northeast Conference game - fighting a fever and three inches of snow, no less. I guess I didn't figure that I was the type of person who would do something like that. Now I guess that I am.
The voice of the Project has evolved over this first half. There were times when I've tried to capture every single you-are-there detail with a wide-angle panoramic sweep. Some entries include in-the-moment details that were rendered irrelevant just days later. Occasionally, I've assumed the voice of the smartass punk, trying to stick it to the power-conference "Man." Some experiments have worked and some haven't, and nobody can agree as to where that division line is. As my credibility and access slowly increase and I make contact with more folks, I realize that most people who get themselves involved in mid-major basketball are a lot like me. They're not out for glory or fame, they're just trying to break even doing something they love.
And so this is it, the halfway mark - we'll make our adjustments, and play hard until the ringing of the final buzzer. There are two months left now - the final regular season stretch, including a southern swing
; a mad one-week, 25-game dash through the heartland at conference tourney time; and finally, the greatest sporting spectacle our country has to offer, the NCAA Tournament. I have no preconceived notions as to what this flawed 100-chapter document will look like when it's completed, or whether its final gestalt will provide significant conclusions or insight about the state of American small-college basketball. I only know that it will be finished.
But that's more than enough of my chairback philosophizing. The halftime show's about to start."And now, ladies and gentlemen,"
says the friendly old announcer. "The youngsters of the West District schools will entertain you."QuickTime, 5.5 MB, 2:33Photo Gallery