I discussed Lackawanna's 52-44 victory over visiting Alden during last night's live chat, both good and bad, and here's some more.
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We'll start with the great stuff.
It was great, spirited, playoff-type atmosphere, leading to some not-so-pretty play early on and some big plays late.
I had to check Alden's box score after reviewing my notes and seeing that it seemed like points were coming from all over the place -- they were: eight Bulldogs scorers, none in double digits.
Right after I arrived early in the second quarter, big guy Nick Muscarella knocked down shots from around the key area. Matt Schwartz hit a three and later a teardrop in the lane. Anthony Gilbert hit a three. Will Peel scored off on a nice hard cut and a nice hard pass from Gilbert.
In the third, Derek Delzer hit a tough baseline drive. Chris Weber followed a tough fast-break finish with a three-pointer which he knocked down despite his feet not being set. Tall guy Christian Barczykowski had an impact inside with rebounds and post possessions and went 4 for 4 from the line -- including two that put Alden up, 34-32, heading to the fourth quarter. Dan Rohauer, another big guy, hit two free throws in the fourth after a nice move across the lane and later hit a three-pointer.
I just counted 'em up. That's eight guys. Not bad.
In the fourth, the Bulldogs definitely didn't move the ball as well as they had earlier, and Lackawanna's amped-up defense certainly had something to do with that. Alden might not have one go-to player, but if they stop moving the ball they take away that great strength -- their balance.
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As for the Steelers, their defense drove them in the last quarter, including some nice play down low by Dwayne Bennett. On offense, Dwight Barber and Dondre Alexander came up with big plays with the game on the line on what was an off-night shooting for Darren Cleveland (eight total points; but 0 for 6, including 0 for 5 from three-point range in the time I was there).
Barber hit a three to give Lackawanna a lead (36-34) it wouldn't surrender. He also set up the biggest basket of the game by whipping a pass across the court to an open Alexander, who knocked down a three for a 43-34 Lackawanna lead with 4:15 left. Barber cleanly picked the pocket of an Alden guard at midcourt, resulting in a free throw. Barber was 6 of 8 from the line in the fourth.
Big guys Bennett, Cleveland and Jerrold Williams all grabbed key rebounds in the fourth and Williams had a great block.
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I mentioned this enough during the chat, but Alexander spoiled a great performance during a great win with his conduct after the game.
I am very hesitant to criticize a high school player for anything. This is high school sports, after all. I certainly realize we're dealing with young people, who certainly can make mistakes. It's very easy to forget that Alexander is still a very young player -- it's his third season on varsity, but he's a sophomore. Also, I know Alexander was taunted by Alden fans during the game (more on that later). But his behavior at the end of the game was intolerable.
Lackawanna coach Tim Foley seemed to agree, and he deserves credit for running over and grabbing Alexander as soon as he could, verbally dressing him down and leading him to an assistant who escorted Alexander to the locker room before he could participate in the postgame handshake (as regrettable an action as that is, it was probably a good idea).
He's a very good player who had a very big game in a very big spot. Let's hope this young player has learned a very big lesson.
Alden fans were fired up throughout the game, as well they should have been, as they supported their talented team big-time for a huge game in enemy territory. They showed great spirit as a whole and what I'm about to write is certainly not an indictment of their entire crowd.
I certainly can't hear everything that is said from the bleachers during a game. But when I hear or see reprehensible conduct, I'm going to try to do what I can to bring a stop to it by calling it out. Usually that means bringing to light outrageous behavior by loss-of-perspective parents or adults.
When it comes to students, kids will be kids, so I'm not in the habit of critiquing things that are yelled from the stands by teenagers.
However, the things I heard from the Alden bleachers need to be addressed. Actually, I would have liked to think that the things were so off-color that someone on the Alden side -- an adult, coach, anyone -- would have addressed them but that didn't happen.
It was clearly in violation of the sportsmanship pledge that is read at many area schools.
And it's not as if this garbage was not heard by a lot of people. I was standing behind the scorer's table so I was among many subjected to it. The comments were accompanied by giggles by a group of students (note to students: friends don't let friends embarrass their school).
In the second quarter, during wild scramble, a Lackawanna player went to the floor in a collision with an Alden player. While the Alden player offered a hand to help him up, an Alden fan yelled "stay down, [expletive]." In the third quarter, during another scramble, this encouraging comment: "Trip him!"
There was profanity, including three terms not fit for a family newspaper (or a blog) within one minute of game action in the fourth quarter. Some of it was veiled racism, some of it not-so-veiled, including someone yelling the N-bomb at the close of the game in response to Alexander's taunting.
Now, the voice embarrassing himself, his school and his community sounded similar on several of the inane comments. It very well may have been one young man (using the term loosely).
To those in Alden who care about how their school is represented: Find out who it was (I can't imagine that would be too difficult), and put a stop to it.
I know it is not a representation of your school and your community, but this is a case where one wrong-headed person is tainting both.