Tuesday, January 3, 2017

The Cardiac Kids From Peach Street Have Done It Again!

That's one of my favorite lines by Jim Mirabello, the voice of Gannon basketball during the 1989-90 season when the Knights made a magical run to the Elite 8 in Springfield, Mass. That team seemed to play nail-biters every game at the Audi no matter who the competition. Yes, they captured the Mideast Collegiate Conference championship at the Hammermill, holding off coach John Beilein and Le Moyne, 55-53, in the semis, and then Pace in the title game, 54-50. But they also blew a 33-point lead to Allegheny -- yes, Division III Allegheny College from Meadville -- before posting an 80-79 victory, and they lost 84-81 in the Porreco Cup opener to Northern Kentucky, who ended that season with 21 losses.

If Mirabello returned to call Gannon's games for just this week, he could have proclaimed, "The Cardiac Kids from Peach Street have done it again!" again. The Knights wasted a 17-point second half lead Tuesday against California (Pa.) before winning in overtime, 93-88, and one-upped themselves Friday night, blowing a 19-point lead to Seton Hill before rallying to win in double OT, 83-73.

While frittering away big leads isn't fun, I have to say I found both games incredibly entertaining and enjoyable. The Knights give maximum effort every possession -- John Reilly wouldn't have it any other way -- and who doesn't love rooting for that?

I also enjoyed that these games produced situations and results I've never seen before, despite being glued to basketball games every winter for the past three decades:
  • Check out Matthew Dogan's stat line from Friday: 31 points (a career-high), 10 rebounds, 4 assists, 0 turnovers. But the most eye-popping numbers to me were his 25 field goal attempts -- he averaged only 6 FGA per game as a junior -- and a remarkable 48 minutes played.
  • Zay Jackson actually played more than Dogan, never taking a break and logging an Adam Blazek-like 50-minute evening ... after playing 44-of-45 minutes against Cal. Jackson had career highs of 29 points and 10 rebounds against the Vulcans, and for the week he committed only 1 turnover in 94 minutes of action. Have you ever seen a stat line like that before?
  • SHU's Spencer Casson entered the game as the leading shot blocker in Division II play (3.8 bpg), and he nearly doubled his average by swatting away 7 Gannon field goal attempts. But the kindly listed 240-pound junior became so exhausted he was literally walking down the floor in the second overtime as the Griffins set up their offense.
  • Seton Hill started the game a paltry 1-for-12 from the field and finished the first half 1-for-8 on threes. They started the second half burying 5-of-6 threes and finished the period 13-of-24 from the field. The wheels fell off in overtime as a clearly fatigued SHU shot just 2-of-12 including 1-for-5 on threes. Despite Seton Hill using their bench more liberally, Gannon was the fresher team in OT.
  • Maybe that was because Joe Fustine played 10 minutes against SHU, all of them in overtime. 
  • Or that Marcus Jones, listed as a 6-foot-2 guard in the game program, played 9 minutes of overtime at power forward after just 6 minutes of action during regulation. I was joking with folks at the scorer's table asking, "How many times has this unit played together in practice?" I can't picture Coach Reilly saying, "Yeah, were going to go with Joe at the 5, Marcus at the 4 ..." without everyone in the gym scratching their heads.
  • And I haven't even mentioned that against Cal Jimmy Berger played 42 minutes and produced 14 assists, and then followed that with a 48-minute, 8-assist performance against Seton Hill. There's another "never seen that before!"
There's so much more to talk about from this week -- Evan Phoenix's Rec Spec-style goggles that looked like he borrowed from 80s Gannon legend John "Shanghai" Matthews, Cal coach Kent McBride screaming at his team to "give a sh*t visually -- act like you care!", and a crowd of just 466 Friday night -- but I don't have the energy after watching those two marathons.

The Knights better have more spark than me today. They have a three-game week upcoming at Pitt-Johnstown (Mon.), at Edinboro (Wed.), and vs. Clarion (Sat.) which will determine the trajectory of this season.


  1. Well that was unexpectedly exciting.

    A Gannon team that has trouble finishing games versus a Cal team whose string of close losses shows that it can't close games either made for a quite interesting finish. Yeesh ... But a win is a win.

    Cal's leading scorer was out; three other players fouled out and another got hurt. Gannon lost Phoenix to injury early, then the wheels came off when Dogan fouled out with just under nine minutes to go.

  2. Thinking longer ... this game had three things happen that I don't think I've ever seen before.

    1. The Cal coach screaming at whoever would listen during the first media time out of the second half to get a foul changed from Sapp (23) to Richardson (22). Eventually he talked to the right person and the foul was changed. ...

    2. Possibly the worst offensive lane violation I have ever seen ... when Rashawn Brown ran past the three-point arc just after the officials handed Jay Tucker the ball for his potential game-tying free throw with 29 seconds remaining ...

    3. Browne atoned for his gaffe with game-tying and-one with 11 seconds to go. But he was injured on the play, meaning that Reilly could choose from one of the four remaining players on the floor to shoot the possible go-ahead free throw. For some reason, Riles chooses Tucker, who was 5/5 from the line at the time. But it proved to be a brilliant choice, as Tucker misses the shot. I'd love to see Reilly's reason for choosing Tucker.

    All in all, one of the stranger games in recent memory. Lots of offensive bright spots with Zay Jackson (28 points, 10 rebs, 6 assists and just one turnover) and Jimmy Berger with 14(!) assists. And it was nice to see the bench step up with 34 of our 93 points, particularly Gerrell Williams.

    A crazy game that you had to be there to believe it. And it certainly had to be more entertaining than the 49-46 rock fight at the MAC.

  3. Notes
    - Matey must be injured, in warmups in bench with Naseem Hadrab
    - Kerr not visible, was not on bench (even in warmups) and was not behind bench
    - don't know if they were recruits but a few guys in Gannon attire sitting behind bench in which players were real friendly with. One kid was Hans' height but about 25 more pounds of solid muscle. Another kid was of Asian descent and was taller than Phoenix (skinny though)
    - how many teams can say they had more missed FTs than TOs or that their PG alone had more assists than the teams total TOs
    - seton hill slaughtered Boro by 30
    - Mansfield downed west Chester in 2OT
    - rock win at hurst by
    - UPJ nearly upsets IUP
    - Blooms demolished Cheney by 41
    - Kutz PG tied program record with 13 assists in win over Clarion. I believe Berger has 2 13+ assist games now and a slew over 10. Good for Kutztown though...

  4. Watching the Cal coach, I had visions of Kevin Reynolds (Rock) dancing in my head: They behave, and, look, a bit alike.

    Great win.....the team needed to win a close dogfight like last night.

    1. only real difference is they appear to have a great difference in their ages. No, that is not a knock on Reynolds... the Cal coach looked like he was a grad student!

    2. speaking of the Cal coach... best line I've heard in quite some time from a coach to referee
      (I didn't hear every word as there was much commotion at the time so the _____ blanks are what I didn't hear, not expletives haha)

      "You saw ________ in the air, that had to have been caused by something, right? I mean... I know we're not a good team, but we are NOT that bad!"

  5. I also noticed that Michael Haysbert didn't even smell the floor, injured or "doghouse" ?

  6. I don't think it's against him as much as it is in favor of the other players. They've played well "small" when dogan and Williams are covering inside. Once their help defense picks it up they'll be even better with small ball.

    Also think it goes to the "feeling" - that was Burwitz first minutes in a few games.

    Was very impressed with Fustine. Kid is not afraid to use his body!

  7. Key Performance Indicators out as of the games ending Tuesday (including Cal). Reminder that the KPIs are the same formula used to determine regional rankings and NCAA bids.

    Gannon is ranked 24th in the region (out of 43 teams). The top 8 in order are Wheeling Jesuit, Ship, Fairmont, West Lib, Kutztown, IUP, ND (Ohio), and Slippery Rock.

    Gannon is the "best" local team, with Mercyhurst ranked 34th and Edinboro 36th.

    Gannon's schedule is ranked 29th best of the 43 teams. One note -- games against non-Division II teams are not considered in the records or the schedule strength (just like regional rankings). Regardless, though we've played a couple of quite good teams recently, but overall, our schedule has been far weaker that in the past.

    And the schedule strength won't get any better with a relatively weak PSAC West this year. I don't see this as a year that we can get an at-large bid with 9 losses as in the past. We can afford maybe just two more losses to get an at-large bid. That's unlikely, so our best road to the NCAA's is likely through winning the PSAC tourney, which is a possibility, especially since the west hosts the semis & finals.

  8. Just received an email from a faithful Gannon fan that Sean Flannery, who left the Gannon team before the season began, is now listed on the roster at D3 John Carroll. Thanks for the tip!

    1. Maybe already discussed here, but Jimmy Berger's twin, Ryan, seeing major minutes at John Carroll (my alma mater!) this season.

      He was in attendance with his family Tuesday evening. Their father was a very good player at JCU in late 80's.

    2. Another noteworthy Gannon household name associated with JCU... Papich. Jen's younger brother Brian plays for them.

  9. I knew that Gannon is a quick-starting team, but I was surprised when I looked at the play-by-plays of the game.

    Gannon has been leading after five minute-mark in 10 of the 11 games; the only time down after five minutes was in the season-opener.

    The Knights average 11.5 points in the first five minutes and give up just 6.5 points during the same span. That translates to a 92-53 margin over the course of a full game.

    We should campaign for games being just five minutes long ... we'd be a contender for the national championship!

    1. Heck, even a 10 minute game we should be good!

  10. So I'm guessing Kerr is gone... no 25 again tonight. Also new kid on bench in sweats.

  11. Well it again waant pretty but they pulled it out. Dogan channelled his inner Marshawn Lynch and went into complete Beast Mode, despite his stat line Berger looked like a frosh for really the first time this season (a handful of inexperienced pass attempts), Jackson could hardly hit from the arc but when he did it was when they needed it the most. How about fustine coming in strong for his only playing time in two OTs. Good win. 2 late comeback hard flight 40+ min wins. Slowly they're getting there.

    Also to follow up on a previous comment of mine - Coach Reillys wife informed me that the Asian guy was a doctor, not a recruit. Well he looked promising briefly! :)

    She did not mention however anything about Max. Anyone heard for sure? He's still on roster. Last year they had that roster updated before the player was even out the door haha picture too!

  12. Some notes
    - down by bout 20 at half, Boro rally falls short in loss to UPJ
    - West Chester bears Cal by 2 while Hurst holds off Clarion by
    - nationally ranked: ship by 4 over blooms, IUP over rock by 15 and kutz by 1 over lock haven at the buzzer

  13. Good source: Max Kerr is out for family personal reasons... What that could be
    who knows? Could be a death? Sick parent? drug problem? Focus on studies?
    Any guess is as good as any.

    1. I would suggest we not speculate. People should be able to deal with personal problems privately.

    2. Whilen I agree with Jim as to not speculate, I am glad that Max is at least still on the team!! (Hope everything is okay with his family though). My conxwrn was that he left the team... would've been upsetting. Despite his time last year, he's my current Cory Bailey. (Ie local walk on i want to see)

    3. I do not think that I'm speculating as this "personal family" thing was also mentioned on the radio broadcast. As I tried to say, I have no idea why and offered a myriad of possible causes and left it open to whatever... I don't know. I only wish the best for him wether he returns or not.

    4. Wait Fanman ... just because Kerr's absence was mentioned on the radio doesn't negate the fact that you are speculating here. Saying that Kerr is not with the team is factual; saying that the school is reporting it's a personal issue is factual; speculating that one of his parents are sick or he has a drug problem is unfair and unkind. I'm going to miss a couple Gannon games later this year. Please don't post here or tell others that maybe I have a drug problem.

      "Always be kind, for everyone you meet may be fighting a hard battle.”

  14. Two fantastic wins in the PSAC wild wild west. What stood out to me from last evening is the how aggressive Matt Dogan has been to the basket. Note that such seems to open up his outside game as well. Great for him as his fantastic senior season continues!

    I thought Gannon was in much better game shape that both recent opponents. Credit is due to Coach Viscuso and the conditioning program that has been developed. It pays off.....we saw it in both overtime wins.

    League games every three of four days going forward. The meat of the season is upon us. Go Knights!

  15. I think Michael Haysbert might be in the "doghouse" as he looked OK in warm ups of both games but never seen the floor.
    My other thought is that this stretch of games games were supposed to be very winnable games. Fun to watch, but didn't think they would be this tough.
    Don't know why this team cant finish games with big leads. Seems like all year they get out strong only to let teams back in games. Obviously they had problems with the zone last night but other games they have seemed to let teams back in one way or another.

  16. Agree, Beerman. Happy with winning, but I find it hard to get super excited by beating two mediocre to bad teams at home after blowing big leads. My take is that we would be in way better shape if our. Ench players saw a little more action in the second half. Starters are getting fatigued and opposition takes advantage. Dogan had a good game, but was something like 1/8 in second half. No way should three players be playing 48+ minutes.

    There is too much depth on this talented team to not be using it in the second half.

    1. When all that talent sits on the bench it has to be discouraging to them who sit.

    2. Those who are sitting are rooting for those who are playing on the floor. (INCLUDING IAN GARDENER)

  17. If the players are truly team oriented then as long as the team wins, they should be happy regardless of what they did or did not do.