On a quiet Sunday in New Jersey, another small pilgrimage was made. When I arrived, the chapel was already quite full, the congregation fervent. A torrent of warm humid air hit me as I opened the door. There was really no other place I'd rather be than here with the other zealots.
Pilgrimage would be an apropos term because I foolishly took public transportation. This left me with a just under a four-mile walk both ways to and from Hamilton train station. In addition, I had to cross a body of water, pass through a nature preserve, run along the side of a highway and scale a concrete divider into oncoming traffic. Great journeys often teach us more about ourselves. I learned that I'm not in as good shape as I thought.
Another man was making a journey home of sorts this afternoon. Former Princeton coach Sydney Johnson was making his first and only appearance in South Jersey this year. With Princeton University only a few miles up the road I wondered what kind of reception he would receive, if any. When I last saw Sydney, he was busy cutting down nets at the "Ivy League One-Game Conference Tournament That Happens Once a Decade."
Despite not much acknowledgement from the crowd, Sydney's team performed eerily similar to to his squad on that fateful day. His team had fallen behind early but continued to stay within striking distance. As halftime came, the lead had been cut to six at 33-27. The second half saw a lot of back and forth action, with Fairfield pulling even closer. With 1:15 left in the game, the Stags trailed by one point. The end came when Rakim Sanders missed not one, but two three-point attempts and failed to force overtime. There would be no Douglas Davis-like heroics tonight.
There is often an adage in sports that goes something like two evenly matched opponents will produce a great contest. That's clearly what's happened here tonight in a game that was a preview of the rematch on Conference Tournament Eve. Tomorrow begins what, to me, is one of the greatest things in all of sport, a four-week smorgasbord of nonstop basketball. A high holy month of hoops. And if you are heading to a basketball game at Rider University...DRIVE!
at RIDER 65, FAIRFIELD 62 02/26/2012
FAIRFIELD 17-13 (12-6) -- M. Barrow 6-9 3-6 15; R. Sanders 8-19 1-1 17; D. Wade 1-5 0-0 2; C. Nickerson 0-3 0-2 0; R. Olander 0-4 0-0 0; S. Crawford 3-10 1-1 10; K. Matthews 4-5 1-2 9; J. Fields 4-6 0-1 9. Totals 26-61 6-13 62. RIDER 13-18 (10-8) -- J. Thompson 5-10 1-2 13; B. Penn 2-4 2-2 8; J. Jones 4-5 5-7 14; N. Gadson 5-15 8-9 19; D. Stewart 1-1 3-4 5; E. Mitchell 1-4 1-2 4; J. Fortunat 1-3 0-2 2; K. Noon 0-0 0-0 0; T. Pereira 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 19-42 20-28 65.
Three-point goals: FAIR 4-23 (R. Sanders 0-7; D. Wade 0-3; S. Crawford 3-9; R. Olander 0-2; J. Fields 1-2), RID 7-14 (J. Jones 1-1; B. Penn 2-4; N. Gadson 1-3; J. Thompson 2-4; E. Mitchell 1-2); Rebounds: FAIR 37 (M. Barrow 16), RID 22 (N. Gadson 7); Assists: FAIR 14 (R. Sanders 5), RID 7 (J. Jones 3); Total Fouls -- FAIR 21, RID 19; Fouled Out: FAIR-None; RID-D. Stewart.