Friday, December 30, 2011

Where's Juan Rankin When You Need Him?

When Gannon loses a double-overtime game on a half-court heave like they did Friday night vs. Seton Hill, you'd think I'd feel awful. Surprisingly, I actually feel tremendous -- I witnessed one of the greatest games in the history of the legendary Porreco Cup. In the grand scheme of things, so what if Gannon came out on the short end, 103-100? Don't get me wrong. If this would have been an NCAA playoff game to end Gannon's season, I'd have jumped off Dobbins Landing into the bay before the teams made it back to their locker rooms.

Here's what I witnessed last night that I've never seen before and probably won't ever see again:
* A buzzer beater from just beyond midcourt (watch it here at the 1-minute mark) to win a tournament championship. It was awful for us Gannon fans, but incredible for SHU's Oliver McGlade. His Twitter feed shows this is the highlight of his athletic career. Good for him.
* A college tournament championship game where both teams reach the 100-point mark.
* A team rally on the road from 13 down with 5 minutes to play and from 6 down with under a minute to go to force OT.
* A team making 15-of-22 threes (68.2%), and getting hotter from behind the arc as the game wore on. Here's Seton Hill's 3-point shooting chart for the game: 1st half -- 5-of-9, 2nd half -- 5-of-7, OT -- 5-of-6.
* Oh, and they made all 8 of their free throw attempts, making their combined three-point and foul shot percentage a robust 76.7%. And they still needed 2 overtimes to dispose of the resilient Knights! When you shoot like that, you usually win going away.
* Andrew Cressler, Seton Hill's #3 scorer, played out of his mind for an incredible 46 minutes, scoring 27 points on 11-for-14 shooting. Through 8 games prior to the Porreco finals, he averaged just 11 ppg was 8-for-19 on threes. He made all 5 of his treys against the Knights, most of them in the clutch.
* The final play of a game at the Hammermill hitting #2 on ESPN SportsCenter's top plays the next day. Kudos to Gannon SID Dan Teliski for the link.

I'm looking at the Gannon media guide right now, and I can't think of a better Porreco final I've witnessed. Michael Hammond ripped Gannon's hearts out in 1986 with a 37-point performance including a game-winner at the horn. Gannon's loss to Northern Kentucky in 2000 when Craig Conley went wild from every spot on the floor is also one for the ages.

The Porreco championship that might compete with Friday's classic was Gannon's 54-51 upset of eventual national champion Virginia Union in 1991. Highlights included a 270-degree dunk by Derrick Price to open the game, two last-second baskets to close the first half and give Gannon a halftime lead, a clutch jumper by VUU All-American guard Walter Hurd to tie the game at 51, and Juan Rankin's heave at the buzzer to send the capacity crowd into a frenzy.

I still get chills thinking about that game even though it was -- gulp! -- exactly 20 years ago. Maybe it was fate that McGlade wins the tournament on the same hoop as Rankin did two decades apart. Yes, part of me would have preferred Gannon cruise to an unremarkable 10-point victory and sport a 7-3 record instead of an unimpressive 6-4 mark. The wiser part of me realizes that I had the privilege to witness an incredible game that will never be forgotten by those lucky enough to attend.


  1. just some thoughts/opinions:
    1) for whomever was booing Seton Hill as they accepted Championship trophy and when their players accepted All-Tourney and MOP awards, shame on you! "Can't win it by yourselves, gotta have the refs win it for you". Despite numerous questionable calls (made both ways), what did the refs have to do with our inbound player throwing the ball nowhere near the 6'9 target who has some difficulty catching normal passes and Seton Hill wisely scooping it and shooting the ball. Nothing? Actually, the ref gave us the ball because it was debatable who had possession when ball went out-of-bounds. Seton Hill won it. Period. When you shoot 70% from behind the arc you are lucky, yes extremely lucky, but you are also on fire. And it's not like their 3's were all luck, even their misses were good looking shots!
    2) With the way the game went, I say eat it and inbounds to Darrell. Let him heave it 3/4 court, least that way there's no chance of Seton Hill getting a shot off anywhere near mid (although with the way they shot I think Seton Hill could've netted a straight inbounds pass).
    3) Blanton and Blazek were definitely deserving of all-tourney team (heck, even Battle made a case... if they would've won he easily could've gotten it. 20-9-8.. seriously? ridiculous!). However, no one player on Gannon, in my opinion, was deserving of outstanding player. No one excelled, no one stood out... and I'm not bad mouthing them. Gannon plays as a team. Despite the outcome and from watching seeing all 4 teams, Gannon was by FAR the BEST TEAM in the tournament. They lost to some talent mixed with some luck.

    Looking forward to the rest of the season!!

    Hope everyone has a wonderful and safe New Year's eve and may your 2012 bring only the best!


  2. Tough loss. Thank you, Darrell, for the reverse two hand slam from a near standstill position. I think he took the whole building through the rim with him on that one.

  3. I agree with Corey on #2. Terrible coaching move in the inbound with two seconds left. You don't try a play like that in a tie game because it brings losing into the equation. I said before the in-bound that if you go for it, the chances of something bad happening are much greater than the chances of something good. It's like an NFL team going for a hail mary with a tie game on their own 20 -- you run a play when you're losing; if you're ahead, take a knee and win it in OT.

    Call a time out to get orgainzed, and then get a pass in, two dribbles and maybe a shot from a little beyond half court. Don't lose the ball. Keep the other TO so that you start the third OT with two time outs (or if you have trouble getting the ball in bounds).

    And give Seton Hill credit -- they hung in there and gave themselves a shot. When they took a 3 in the closing minutes of regulation and the OT's, you expected them to go in.

    And when the ball was in the air at the end, you knew it was in.

    But the bad coaching move at the end was unfortunated -- the game deserved another overtime.

  4. Two other things -- I learned at the end of the game that the Seton Hill coach played for Youngstown State in the legendary six OT game back in the 1960s.

    And did anyone notice that at the end of regulation, about 20-30 people started heading for the exits? Why???? Why did you sit there for almost two hours and you can't hang in there for another 15 minutes or so? Were they worried that they were going to miss the kickoff of the Insight Bowl? Did they have to catch Fox News at 10:00?

  5. A) Who in their right mind draws up any play where Furno will be catching a long inbound pass at half court? Even if that wasn't the first option, clearly that was an option drawn up in the huddle. After 2 timeouts by Reilly (another bad move; why burn those TO's for next OT?) there still wasnt a good plan. Was Furno really going to sink a 40 footer?
    B) Before I dump too much on Furno, we saw in the Malone game that he can be valuable. But lets look at the playing time. Malone game: Furno 17 mins, Martynenko 18 mins. Seton Hill game: Furno 38 minutes, Martynenko 9. Furno plays well in shorter bursts, where he can use his springy step to get to the basket for bankshots. We saw all last season what happens when Furno logged the majority of minutes and it wasnt great. Why Martynenko was not used a single minute in OT or the majority of the second half is a mystery. He would have kept Tanner fresh AND he would have provided muscle inside against the big #54. Instead, a tired Tanner was devoured on the glass, on help defense, etc. I'd love Reilly to explain his logic on this.
    C) Darrell Blanton walked out to the floor for the last play while holding his right elbow and was constantly in pain from cramps throughout the second half and OT. The guy is an awesome player, but please tell me what an injured power forward is going to do in a situation where you need a long shot for the win? Anyone? Why not get the best shooter, Belt, in there?
    D) Macias looked dead down the stretch, which leads to me ask the question noone else has: whats the deal with Shameel Carty never playing? The guy was good at Clarion, heck he's on the GU program cover. If the answer is that coach doesnt feel he's playing well in practice, etc, I counter with another question: how many chances has Reilly given Furno to get better? Why don't certain other guys ever get a chance? Carty would have looked nice as a guy to play even 7-9 minutes to keep Macias fresh. Maybe Macias would not have got blown by on a number of SH drives to the hoop.
    E) Why was Adam Blazek not on the floor alongside Piotrowicz down the stretch when SH was pressuring the ball? Plus, Blazek is incredible at stealing the ball, that sure would have been nice a few times.
    F) Only 9 attempted 3's? A few more attempts in order to keep SH honest down low defensively would be nice.
    I know that some commenters will say that I'm playing armchair quarterback. However, most of what I've noted above comes down to Reilly not playing to the obvious strengths of the team: its talent and depth. I think its fair to note when this constantly gets botched. How he is constantly oblivious to this is maddening. Yes SH shot the ball incredibly well, but how many times were those 3's created by dribble penetration allowed by tired defenders?
    The GU players are very talented and they deserve better player management.

  6. I was trying to think of situations where you'd want to play for the win in a tie game and the ball 90 feet away with two seconds left. I thought of two:

    1. You're in severe foul trouble and / or had players foul out. Nope. SHU lost one of their top players (Giles, who was admittedly having a bad shooting night but still a threat and handles the ball a lot) and had two key players with four fouls. No Gannon player was in foul trouble.

    2. You have a fantastic play that you've practiced a lot and it's guaranteed to work. Nope. Read in the paper this morning that Coach Reilly said that Gannon hasn't had time to practice late game situations since returning from the holiday break.

    So why do it? Why get yourself where the odds of something bad happening are far greater than something good. It was reckless and irresponsible to try that play.

    I am trying to think of a poorer in-game coaching decision that I've seen in 25+ years of watching GU BB. There has probably been one, but I can't think of it. The only one that comes to mind is Chapman's stubbornly not wanting to call time out as Cheyney was rallying fron an 11 point deficit in the 2nd half of the '86 East Regional Final.

  7. A photo gallery from the Gannon/Seton Hill classic is now online. Kudos to Joe Mattis for his fine photo work. I apologize for "photobombing" Chris Giles and Adam Blazek's all-tourney team photos.

  8. Big win for Jerry Slocum. Youngstown State goes on the road and upsets Cleveland State, 73-67.

  9. On the post game radio show Reilly said he took the blame for that last play because he either didn't have or didn't practice a set play for that situation. Having never played at the college level, I'm asking. Is it expected that a team would have an out of bounds play to run in a length of the court situation with two seconds to go? Does Mercyhurst, for instance, have one?

    One joyous suprise this year is the rediscovery of the offense. It sure is a lot more enjoyable watching these high scoring games as opposed to too many mind-numbing games in recent years when players looked afraid to shoot the ball and it seemed Gannon was the only team in the NCAA to get a memo about dunking being illegal. The Golden Ones are putting up threes, pounding home thundering jams and still playing fly-around-the-court defense. Don't blink. You might miss a lob to the Gannon Cannon. Which reminds me, love how the court side announcer sings "HELLO!!" into the microphone after every Blanton rim-hanging, rafter ringing deposit into the National Dunk of America, FDIC.

  10. Walter: Yes, teams typically have a last-second inbounds play for both full-court and half-court. I can still draw up the full-court play Dukiet had us practice occasionally.

    I think Gannon was trying to run a version of this play -- Valpo's 1998 upset of Mississippi in the NCAA tournament. Obviously if the guy at midcourt doesn't make this difficult catch, the play won't work.

  11. Comments on The Cup-

    Yeah, that did look like a variation of the Valpo play. Furno waw supposed to hit one of the guards running by (go look at Piotrowicz and Macias on the play)for the long shot. Many coaches have something similar that they have prepared. The problem is that if you spend a lot of time on it in practice, it might be wasted time because that situation comes up so infrequently.

    Have to agree with those that question GU's lineup at the end, although my problem is why Furno was in the there. In that situation, you need someone that can go up and catch a high pass. Now, Tanner can probably go up, but his hands are iffy at best. I would've had Blanton in that spot. I agree that Belt might've been a better choice instead of Tanner.

    On the subject of players being tired, I agree that several of GU's starters were completely out of gas at the end of regulation. Hate being critical of Coach Reilly. but I think some of his decisions had a lot to do with that. First off, I was told that he has been holding long, full speed practices (sometimes twice a day), even on game days. Second, I thought that on the first night, he left his starters in way too long with a huge lead. Friday, he didn't get his starters a rest during the middle of the second half, and it showed at the end with missed FT's and jump shots, which were almost universally short (a sign of tired legs) and blow-by's by opposition players. I know that these are young guys, but driving them hard every day can lead to fatigue and injuries, and if you see the players walking around with ice everywhere after games and practices, you know that a lot of them are nursing injuries.

    Regarding Blanton's dunks, I am as thrilled as anyone when he throws one down, but there's so much more to the game of basketball that are more important in the long run.

    Remember, that was a thrilling game against a very hot-shooting team (I'm sure they don't play that hard EVERY night or they'd have a better record)that got lucky at the end to get the win. But it was NOT a conference loss. Let's see what happens this weekend.

  12. The difference between the Valpo play and the Laettner play (2.1 seconds left), were that Valpo and Duke HAD to run the play because they were LOSING at the time.

    Homer Drew and Coach K would not have run the plays if the game were tied due to the risk involved.

  13. Not debating the wisdom (or lack thereof) of running a play like that (although the possibility of it turning out as badly as it did was a long shot-no pun intended-at best). Just saying it was a variation of the play that Valpo used. Big guy runs to the ball, catches it and passes to one of the guards sprinting downcourt toward the basket for the long jumper.

    If Homer Drew or Coach K were coaching GU, we would've been home already enjoying another win at the time the game actually ended.

    In the Laettner play, he caught the ball at the opposite foul line, not just over half court, then turned and shot it. That was NOT the same play GU tried.

  14. Correct ... The Laettner play was different from GU or Valpo, but my point is that neither Valpo nor Duke would have tried a long pass if the score was tied due to the possibility of it turning out badly.

  15. And our esteemed blogger Jim uses the term "difficult catch" above when discussing the Valpo (and GU) play. Why put yourself in the position of a difficult catch when you don't need to?? Again, this strategy was reckless and unnecessary.

  16. I predict Gannon's next loss will be by a 5-point margin. Their 4 losses this year have been by 1, 2, 3, and 4 points.

  17. Golden-

    I understood your point the first time. Didn't agree with you (it may have been unnecessary, but I wouldn't go to "reckless"), but I understood it.

    IMO, second-guessing the decision to run the play is hindsight. Something remarkable still had to happen for SHU to score after the play was botched. That kid could probably launch 50 shots from that same spot in that same situation and not make another one.

    The problem I have with that play is the choice of Furno as the receiver of the pass. Anyone familiar with current GU hoops knows that Tanner's catching ability and physical strength are not the best on the team. That choice was unwise, IMO, and a bigger error than running the play in the first place.