Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Game Changer

Typically I'm not someone who cares about MVPs, MOPs, all-tourney teams, and other athletic recognition, but thank goodness there was an official "Game Changer" award for the Porreco Pride of Erie game Saturday. Gannon rallied past crosstown rival Mercyhurst, 82-76, mainly because of the aggressiveness of senior Matthew Dogan. I'm not gushing just because of his stat line of 25 points, 10 rebounds, and 5 assists in 38 minutes of action. He literally changed the game on a series of plays when Gannon trailed 62-59 late:
  • 6:02: In transition and early in the shot clock, Dogan catches a pass to the left of the top of the key and sheds his defender with a quick head-and-shoulders fake. With his foot on the line, he gathers himself and zips in a long jumper. Mercyhurst 62, Gannon 61.
  • 5:43: Dogan not only blocks an attempted jumper by the Hurst's DaJuan Dent, he scoops up the defensive rebound and then is fouled by the Laker junior. Dogan makes 1-of-2 free throws. Gannon 62, Mercyhurst 62.
  • 4:48: About 30 feet from the basket near the top of the key, Dogan spots 6-foot-9 Evan Phoenix being fronted by 5-foot-9 H'ian Hale just above the right block. Without hesitating, Dogan lobs a risky pass that leads Phoenix to the basket where he catches, finishes, and is fouled. After the free throw it's now Gannon 65, Mercyhurst still 62. 
  • 4:11: Dogan catches the ball on the right wing and sees he's being guarded by little-used Laker big Kevin Marsh. Again without hesitation, Dogan drives to his right, takes the contact from Marsh, and finishes strong for a chance at another three-point play. After the made free throw, it's Gannon 68, Mercyhurst 62.
Are you noticing a theme here? It's not just that Dogan dominated for a stretch; it was the aggressiveness he showed at a time when many in the Hammermill Center were bracing for the Knights to wither. Dogan doesn't make any of those plays if his mindset is, "Don't screw up. Just move the ball from side-to-side."

I wrote this in December 2014 after Gannon nipped West Chester, 55-54, in a ragged affair at the Audi: I was happy Gannon won Wednesday and absolutely ecstatic for struggling sophomore Matt Dogan that his three-pointer with just over a minute to play held up as the final margin of victory. Before draining that trey, Dogan was just 8-for-38 from the field and 3-for-22 from behind the arc this season. When he first caught the ball, he looked around for a teammate to pass to before deciding to try the wide-open shot. A new local author was recently quoted in the Erie Times saying, "I believe writing chose me." Dogan didn't choose his game-winning shot; it chose him.

Fast forward to Saturday: same guy, different mindset. Dogan chose to win the game for Gannon or die trying. As I mentioned to Gannon Hoops followers a year ago, I'm in the process of writing a book about former walk-ons who were underdogs as athletes but went on to achieve extraordinary accomplishments after graduation. I've conducted nearly 30 inspiring interviews to date, and one of the recurring themes is this: "Try. Go for it. Take a shot. Don't wait for something to happen. Don't be afraid to fail. Don't sell yourself short, and don't doubt yourself. Try."

When Gannon pushes the ball and tries to make plays (instead of just waiting for the opposing defense to break down), they're among the most potent offensive units in the PSAC. If they have that focus next week in the league tournament, here's hoping they can create some March Magic for all of us.

Other thoughts from the PP game. Wait, I mean the Porreco Pride game. (Some things just shouldn't converted to acronyms.):

  • Gannon/Mercyhurst games are usually offensive slogs in part because coaches Gary Manchel and John Reilly know exactly what the other is doing. But during the game's first half, I had to turn on my phone GPS to make sure I was in the right place. Gannon in a full-court press? Reilly giving his bench 18 minutes of action? Gannon with 0 rebounds after eight minutes of play? And 52 combined points just 12 minutes in? It was the most surprised I'd been since November 9th.
  • I've criticized a few opposing coaches on this site -- including one guy just four weeks ago -- but I'm going to heap some praise on Laker boss Manchel here. Yes, he works the officials, but he does it with dry humor instead of with anger and vitriol. After one official made a series of calls that Manchel didn't like, he said this to one of the other officials standing near him during a dead ball: "Wow, that guy's a piece of work, isn't he? Did he graduate from Gannon? I really think he graduated from Gannon." While the stone-faced official averted his eyes away from the Laker bench, Manchel added, "It's okay -- you can smile," which did elicit a grin from the referee.
  • Manchel also knew everything about the Knights -- their personnel, their inbounds plays, their half court sets -- everything. Thank goodness he only had two days to prep his kids for the Knights. If Mercyhurst was the one with a bye on Wednesday, Gannon might be staring at a three-game losing streak entering the postseason.
  • The game's final margin could easily have been double figures, but Gannon's 18-for-32 chart at the free throw line helped keep the game close. Thank goodness Dogan and Gerrell Williams hit the Knights' final four attempts.
  • Williams has had an up-and-down season, not just with his stats but also with playing time. Some games he's played over 20 minutes (four times) and in others he's barely seen action. But the junior transfer came through in the clutch Saturday. With Gannon up just two, he swished a pair of free throws with 35 seconds left to push the margin to 4. On the following defensive possession, Williams picked off a pass and exploded for a two-handed dunk, essentially sealing the game for the Knights. Oh, and what junior college did he transfer in from? Mercyhurst-North East. That's gotta sting! 
  • And here's a special end-of-the-regular-season bonus for you: It's a video clip of Philly Textile at Gannon from 1988 that former WJET-TV broadcast Mike Gallagher recently shared with me. The first 30 seconds may be the pinnacle of Gannon basketball: Crazy Gannon Highlights.

29 comments:

  1. 76-47. Let's hope we do a tad better than last year's debacle.

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  2. Can anyone tell me how the H you can shoot a 1&1 with 4 team fouls ?!?!?!?!?!

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    1. At what point did this happen? I don't remember such an instance today.

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    2. 2nd half...big discussion between officials but one insisted other official just rolled his eyes.

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    3. It wasn't about a 1-1. It was about whether a foul was on the floor or shooting. Somehow, foul was ruled to be a two-shot shooting foul, but the MU shot that went through the hoop did not count, which ticked off Manchel. And the Gannon bench thought the Laker player travelled, so both benches were yelling.

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    4. From what I could overhear, the referee believed that the player was fouled while attempting his shot, then traveled, then regathered himself and made the shot. He got bumped more obviously again after the travel, which I think caused the confusion. So Gannon fans wanted a travel and Mercyhurst fans wanted the and-one. I think the official who made the call was the only one in the building who saw it as a two-shot foul.

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    5. I thought I seen him signal 1&1 ..players looked like they were playing it as a 1&1 as well. my bad.

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  3. Sure it wasn't a technical or something? Is NCAA experimenting with rules for D2?

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  4. Mansfield upsets Strouds and UPJ demolishes Rock.

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  5. What a game by Dogan ... fitting that he received the game-changer award in his last home game. He assertively led the comeback, something that we would have never expected in his first three seasons.

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  6. The CIAA starts the conference tournament bid-stealing.

    Bowie State (16-14) takes the CIAA with a win over fellow Cinderella Fayeteville State.

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  7. Love the 1988 video. Mitch Smith is the most exciting pre-Darrell Blanton player not named Gen Summors (now there's a cool name for an award). The crowd. What can you say.

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  8. I'm happy to see Matt Dogan succeed in his senior year; he's nearly a brand new player compared to his past years. He's been able to play much more aggressive and attack the hoop on offense. I hope that Ian Gardener has been watching closely, as I can see him turning into a similar style player.

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  9. PSAC charges $10 general admission.... holy cow!

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  10. Kudos to Josh Wise of UPJ on being named the Jimmy Berger of the week!

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  11. UPJ up 43-14 vs. Seton Hill 15 minutes in. Gannon Hoops is projecting the Mountain Cats are coming to town Wednesday for the PSAC quarters.

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    1. Score at the half is 61-26. The Knights better D up from the opening tip Wednesday or their playoff run will be brief.

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    2. UPJ now up 40, 68-28. Did someone say the Knights better D up from the opening tip Wednesday or their playoff run will be brief?

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    3. It's now 85-33 ... UPJ by 52! -- with 12:26 to play.

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    4. 43 points in 5 minutes? Are they stealing the ball and shooting breakaway 3 pointers? Geesh!

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  12. 96-35 ... WITH OVER 9 MINUTES TO PLAY!
    In regulation.

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    1. FINAL: Pitt-Johnstown 112, Seton Hill 53. SHU's starters combined for 11 points on 5-for-24 shooting over 84 combined minutes. UPJ's starters combined for 71 points over 114 minutes.

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    2. I'm not really surprised.

      Close followers know, deep down, that UPJ with their excellent coaching and veteran team, can explode very fast with the complicated sets they run. Playing like this, they are as good as any team in the PSAC.

      I think we'll be ready for them.

      ------------

      Repeated kudos to Matt Dogan and his special senior season. He took the team on his shoulders in Saturday's game.

      --------

      Erie Times-News in Sunday's edition did not paint a pretty picture for the future of PSAC schools Cheney, Clarion, and, Edinboro (citing enrollment declines of 15-25% this school season.)

      Disconcerting.

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    3. Goodness gracious. UPJ got out to a halftime lead that even Gannon would be hard-pressed to let slip away. :-)

      Seriously, it's hard to be that explosive offensively two games in a row. Hopefully they got all their scoring out of the way today and they'll go cold.

      453 -- Maybe the PSAC saw the writing on the wall and that's why they expanded from 14 to 18 schools.

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  13. FINAL: Mercyhurst 88, Slippery Rock 73. Wednesday's matchups are:
    * UPJ at Gannon
    * Mercyhurst at IUP
    * Stroud at Shippensburg
    * West Chester at Kutztown

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  14. Does the West host the championship this year? If so, and this is the only time I'll ever say this, Let's go Hurst!

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