- Ralph Waldo Emerson
NEW BRITAIN, Conn. - I really have no idea where Sacred Heart and Central Connecticut are going to finish this season. Chances are, neither will make it onto the national radar in the next couple of months. I could go into their flaws at length if you wanted me to, the Pioneers will play the whole season without what were going to be their two starting guards, while the Blue Devils' tallest player is just 6-foot-7.
But having seen both of these teams several times this season (I do live here, you know), I will say one thing: they always seem to entertain me. I'm well aware that it's more than likely that if they played (and CCSU has already gone to Indiana and Syracuse) the best teams in the country, they'd probably lose badly.
However, there has to come a point where statistics and analysis take a back seat to just watching the game. Detrick Gym, being an old-school gym and all, got up to its usual 80 or 85 degrees by tipoff, but that didn't seem to slow the pace of either team down. The only thing keeping the score down were the turnovers and missed shots, and the Pioneers happened to be making more shots early, including a Louis Montes #omgdunx
that made its way onto some kind of sports highlight show later in the evening, no doubt helped by the fact that said show is taped just five miles down the road.
Anyway, Central made a run before the half, but somehow, one of the nation's top scorers, Kyle Vinales didn't have a point as the hosts trailed 36-28 at the half.
I've seen Vinales enough to know he wasn't going to let a goose egg sit next to his name for very long, just as I knew the volleyball and tennis balls stuck in the roof of Detrick Gym weren't coming down for a while, either.
It took Vinales just 38 seconds to get on the board, but he was matched by an equally adept scorer on the other side in Shane Gibson. Will Gibson or Vinales ever grace an NBA
court? I'd like to think so, but the reality of the situation is, probably not. But when these guys get going, man can they score. Vinales had 15 points in the first 10 minutes of the second half, and by then, CCSU was down just 52-51 and Gibson was sadly on the bench, having picked up his fourth foul with 13:59 left (stupid basketball rules).
Still, Sacred Heart was able to hang in there thanks to a New Britain native, sophomore Steve Glowiak, who also has some ridiculous range when hot. As the game reached the final minutes, though, it was the Pioneers (even though Central was the one playing only six players) that seemed to run out of gas, and it wasn't Vinales doing the damage down the stretch.
Alas, the CCSU band, in mid-season form, never ran out of steam. Wait, it is mid-season already? Holy crap, when did that happen?
Freshman Brandon Peel - the aforementioned 6-foot-7 kid - had seven points in the final three minutes, including hitting some big free throws, as Central hung on for an 84-78 victory.
While everyone on these teams pretty much qualifies as under-recruited, Peel - from not-so-nearby Forestville, Md. - wasn't a starter for Howie Dickenman at the beginning of the season. As late as last month, he was playing only seven minutes, and going into Thursday's game, his career high in scoring was six. But Peel finished with 17 points in this one to go along with 16 rebounds. A star, at least an NEC star, may have been born.
The most nervous Peel looked was at the game's conclusion where he had to stand with coach Howie Dickenman for a post-game television interview.
Kids like Peel, local story Phil Gaetano of Sacred Heart
, and really if I had time, I could probably go through just about everyone on both rosters, are the reasons why we love Our Game.
Dickenman and Dave Bike exchanged a quick embrace, this was the 33rd time they had been on opposite sides as head coaches in their lengthy careers, with Dickenman now holding a 23-10 edge. They are reasons why we love Our Game, too.
Perhaps I could say they don't get the notoriety they deserve, but at this point, I highly doubt they're in it for that any more.