Like the best of A.M. radio's DJ's of the sixties and seventies, JeffB. rolled out a new album of the Panther BBall vinyl last weekend in Lancaster. Those that opted for the maiden ride on The Panther Express were treated to dazzling debut performances (guaranteed to set the nescac world on its ear) by Matt Daley, and Matt St. Amour. Playing back-up to those dazzlers were the solid duo of Conor Hough and 'Jerry' Nidenberg, who impressed with solid play and contributions. Three of the four hardly played a minute under Jeff's tutelage last year, but all appeared to have flourished for the experience. As a small aside it was noted here, that in the last minute of the North Central loss these three sophs were on the floor and looked like they understood what it was all about. Their performances against Alvernia and Baruch, individually and collectively, have at least partially validated what we thought we saw that night. Matt St. Amour, Vermont-grown, and a true frosh, hardly looked a kid who won't handle the bright lights and big-time pressure of Midd's schedule. To a certain extent he's learning on the job because of the speed of the college game. He's the best pure shooter seen around these parts in years- which covers some considerable ground- so there's plenty of expectations that the faithful will be treated to some special performances over the next four seasons (no pun intended).
Not lost on anyone was the comeback performance of Dylan Sinnickson. Slightly out of sync in the Alvernia game, probably due to an accumulation of game-speed rust, 'The Smoothie' got his hands on some WD-40 overnight and came back with a well-oiled performance against Baruch. Hopefully his absence against Green Mountain will not be a concern because his high level of play will be needed this weekend at The Hoopsville Classic. The Lancaster W's were orchestrated by Joey, who had the game in control and in his hands down the stretch of both battles, and when everyone's tired legs were yelling for no O.T. against Baruch, he calmly knocked in the final nails from the free throw line to get TheBoys on the bus at two and zero.
LongJack played his best game at Midd against Alvernia. It was a very physical game and he responded well, as seniors are supposed to do. Other contributors over the weekend were Hunter, who continues to progress, and NateB. who defended well. In the home opener, the 810 fans (by far the biggest crowd at a d3 game in the country so far this year) were treated to the Jake Brown debut. Apparently he did not disappoint any of those who had seen him in the preseason. Like his running mate St. Amour, it is certain, barring bad luck, that there is only upside to his game. Brian Jones and Chris Churchill also got into the swing of things showcasing the depth of Jeff's troops.
All of the above are going to be necessary to make this weekend successful. Although James Jensen was finally cleared to play, that clearance came too late (yesterday) for him to play against Stevenson. Whether there is a practice Saturday that will allow him to be ready for St. Mary's on Sunday is in the to-be-decided category. First things first. Stevenson, at home, will be primed, and have their crowd. Primed or not, it says here that TheBoys will not be looking past Stevenson. There's not a chance that TheBoys will be intimidated by any 'city-game' tactics. For those with any doubts, play the Alvernia video back. Not only was it a physical test, the local zebras kept a long length of hose unrolled in the second half so Midd was tested to the limit. From 66-64, The Boys pulled away to win by ten. My take is we've had two tougher games already, than we face tonight. We've got more size and depth inside, solid outside shooters (Hunter, Dylan, 'The Saint', and Nate), overall depth behind Joey, in JakeB., and Henry, and in the end, 'The Maestro' to run this game in the closing moments, so that everybody delivers their best on cue. That is a great place to be. It is immeasurable. For those who have a life, and actually may not keep track of such facts- consider this: with the exception of the North Central game last year, all the Middlebury L's of the past three (there were just nine) seasons were all in games that either came down to the last possession, or were in overtime. If you're going to succeed in games where the possessions count like they always seem to do for us, then you need a Jake, a Nolan and/or a Joey. That is hopefully what Henry and JakeB. are learning.
St. Mary's on Sunday is a different animal. It is probably the headline game of this tournament and will go a long way to help us determine where TheBoys are in the national rankings. Talented and tough, they are now one of the premier programs in the country. They're at #10 in the polls and are loaded with kids from the Baltimore area so it's almost a home game for them. James would be a nice addition defensively for us against their three-ballers. Both sides get to scout each other tonight. Call me old-fashioned but there is nothing like seeing what is going on with a team when you see it live. To me that measurement has always been invaluable. Although TheBoys are at #18 on the charts, my take is that our inside size and depth is going to be a big factor, particularly if LongJack wakes up aggravated on Sunday. Add in our overall team speed, and veteran ncaa-poise, and the fact that Joey is at his best in high intensity games, and my take is that if we are close to evenly matched, TheBoys will find a way to pull out a giant road 'W' and send us north in the polls. It may take a couple of extra lamaze sessions to regulate everyone's breathing so they survive St. Mary's, but our counselors are used to it, so hope you are along for the ride on ThePantherExpress.
And remember: 'down The Alibi stairs; out of the bus's luggage compartment; over the scorer's table, and off the cannons at Ft. McHenry, nothin' but net!' Be well. Clubbo.