Thursday, January 22, 2009

Friar For (Another) Night

My Providence alum friend put me on to the reception/game tickets package offered through the New York Chapter. While a business commitment kept him out of the festivities he encouraged me to give it a try. My father (a pg at Bayonne HS back in the 1930s) was game, so I booked the reception/game, and at the appointed time, off we went. We parked at the Rock again and walked over to the Newark Club at 1 Prudential Center. It was a fantastic variety of well prepared food (Nova NJ Alum Chapter take note -- this is where you want to book the next time the 'Cats travel to the Rock...). The hostesses were gracious, even though I walked in with my block V cap on. In deference I checked it at the door. Thanks to Peter of Colts Neck and his son Brendon who, after inquiring of our affiliations (mine Villanova of course, and Pop I assured him, was of St. Peter's and Fordham -- we of course pledged to root vigorously for the Friars tonight...) enthusiastically offered us space at his table. After some conversation about location and the Friar's prospects, Pop and I finished our meal and headed back over to the Rock.

After we located our seats in Section 12, I shot a quick text off to my son's soccer coach (a Seton Hall fan, this is a frustrating season for his clan), settled Pop in and went off to try and catch up with Ray Floriani. Missed again, one of these days Ray and I will get our coordinates right (I am thinking about catching the Rutgers/Seton Hall game Ray). I headed back to my seat for the tip off and watched one of the most entertaining halves of basketball I have seen this season. The Friars were in complete control, racing out to a 41-27 lead with just under 5:00 left in the half. And then the Pirates began their comeback. Sharaud Curry picked up his second foul and had to sit. That seemed to stall the Friar's offense. He is getting back to that jet quick point guard (only with better judgment) that impressed me so much 3 seasons ago. In the space of about 3 minutes Jeremy Hazell dropped 3 3FGMs & 2 free throws on the Friars, while Stix Mitchell chipped in 2. And suddenly it was 41-40 Friars. Providence managed to close out the half with a 5-2 run and take a 46-42 lead into the locker room.

The key to Seton Hall I have decided, is to give Hazell his shots (sure you have to put a hand in his face when he launches a 3, but he is not going to put 60 points on the board), and clamp down on Gauss and Harvey's ability to penetrate. Oh, and have someone guard Stix. When you have the ball, punch it inside every chance you get. Take it at Garcia (and Davis), get them to sit, forcing the shorter Mitchell, Walters and Cajuste, to guard your bigs. The Pirates want to run very badly, so wear them out with a punishing inside game. Jeremy Hazell managed to get his 30 (9-18, 7-12, 5-7), but it was Gauss and Mitchell who, before they both fouled out managed to pick up 19 and 20 respectively. Where Paul Gauss found that 3 point shot of his I don't know, but when he hits it consistently it makes the Pirates a far more dangerous team. Unfortunately despite Jon Kale's 13 well earned points, Randell Hanke only got 3 touches, went 1-3 and scored 7 points. That's 20 points total from the low blocks. It seemed that the Friar wings could not decide whether to slow it down and punch it inside, or take the quick shot from the 3 point line. The shooter side seemed to win a lot in the second half, and the game seemed to be slipping away. They did manage to rally, down 84-83 with about :22 seconds left to force it in one last time to Geoff McDermott. He was duly fouled and though he had a chance to win at the line, he hit 1-2 and tied the game.

I don't know what it is between the Rock and me this season, but every game I have seen has gone to overtime. The Pirates, who had to be exhausted at that point (and down to Brandon Walters and Matt Cajuste to man the paint) finally succumbed. This time by a 95-91 score. The Friars could have folded, but they didn't. The Friars displayed some heart and determination tonight. And tonight they brought it home. Many thanks to Brian and Tom from Holmdel, who shared a good deal of insight about the Friars and put up with my, at times over boisterous, cheering. Hope you all got home safely. And thanks for letting me be a Friar.

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