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Monday, January 9, 2012

A Tale Of Two Teams

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

So begins the Charles Dickens classic novel, The Tale of Two Cities. However, these same words, written in 1859, echo the paths of our varsity basketball teams at Heatly in the 2011/12 campaign. Our girls' squad is undefeated in league competition while our boys' team searches for their initial victory of the season.

The girls' varsity basketball team finds itself in a perplexing circumstance.
The team remains unbeaten in the Central Hudson Valley League. That's great!

But, their average margin of victory in these seven contests has been approximately 38 points, which means that the lopsided outcomes could easily be misconstrued as unmercifully "piling on" their opponents. That's hardly the case, especially since our boys' team has been routinely experiencing losses by many points and our girls could find themselves on the other end of the score in the future. Allow me to offer a perspective rooted in objectivity and sportsmanship and free of boasting and gloating about the triumphs of the girls' team.

The dilemma facing the team and coach evolves from the need to prepare the team for the regional playoffs and the desire to not humiliate the opposition and appear to be poor sports. That is, the goal of the team each year is to extend their season as far as they can - ideally the Section II Championship and beyond. Each regular season contest is a step in that direction, with scores serving as a measuring stick on progress.

The imbalanced nature of the games (in one game the score at halftime was 35-0, and their most recent game saw them shut out the other team for two entire periods) makes it difficult for fans of the other teams to digest. It can be embarrassing for both teams. Whispers of discontent surely make their way around the gymnasium, along with accusations of "rubbing it in." However, I feel the coach has diplomatically orchestrated the players and strategy in an attempt to avoid this from happening. He has inserted reserves early in the game and preached a methodical pace of offense and carefully crafted plays to simultaneously promote execution of fundamentals and prevent running up the score.

Yet, this very restraint also poses a problem for the team and coach. For instance, they must prepare for the playoffs, which mean maximizing effort and exercising certain plans, such as pressing their opponents. How can the team press the opposition when they are so far ahead? If they don't get opportunities to perform this strategy and others now, how will they perform when they face the need to do so during the playoffs? Will the five starters on the team be ready for the playoffs with the necessary "real game" stamina and cohesion when significant leads prompt them to exit the game prematurely and make way for the reserves?

The benefit of these leads allows the team to offer valuable experience that further develops the reserves and helps improve the team in the future. But it does leave the squad in a vexing situation - work toward the goal of a championship without appearing indifferent and disrespectful to their opponents.

Returning to the plight of the boys' basketball team, we are on the right path for success in the future. The team's commitment and effort have not waned despite the mounting losses. Instead, they are gaining much needed experience and developing skills. There are no seniors on the team and the starting back-court consists of two freshmen who improve each game. As long as the team persists in their dedication and keeps their heads up they will mature as a unit and demonstrate far different results next season and beyond. I am as proud of the boys' team for their perseverance and resolve as I am of the girls' team for their unblemished CHVL season.

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