Tag Archives: Columns

View from the Bleachers: VHSL needs to rethink basketball

As the Edison girls’ basketball game against Highland Springs wound to a close Wednesday, a colleague of mine from The Richmond Times Dispatch tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to the stands at the far end of the court. Woodson High’s renowned Cavalry was pouring into the gym, their white T­-shirts and face paint creating a formidable sea of uniformity in preparation for the next game.

“Can you believe how many they brought?”

I shook my head in amazement, but then I looked to the other end of the court, where casual spectators of varying ages scattered the bleachers.

“You should have seen the place last week,” I replied.

That’s when the irony of the situation hit me. Wasn’t this supposed to be the state tournament? The Final Four, even? Why was I ribbing my fellow reporter about last week’s regional competition?

Nothing about last Saturday’s state semifinal action at Robinson Secondary had the makings of high school basketball’s biggest stage. Boys and girls games were alternating back and forth, mixing various classifications and confusing spectators to the point where even one of the reporters next to me kept needing to clarify which teams were playing where and when.

Even the stage itself seemed odd. Rather than unfold in a college arena — as the state final four has traditionally done — Saturday’s games were held in Robinson’s gym, same as last week’s 6A North Region semifinals. It was my fourth time covering Woodson at that gym this season, and it wasn’t even the best attended of the four, not even close.

For all Woodson’s hard work, for all the obstacles they had to overcome and tragedies they needed to reconcile, this is what they ended up with: a veritable home defeat in the state final four. Despite making it just as far as they did last year, the Cavaliers never even got out of the county. Continue reading View from the Bleachers: VHSL needs to rethink basketball

View from the Bleachers: Beyond the buzzer beater

The Metress family simply can’t catch a break lately. Just when everyone thought all the hullabaloo over the Jan. 10 Annandale buzzer beater was over, it happened again. Except this time the victim wasn’t Lake Braddock coach Brian Metress — it was his brother, Darren “Dip” Metress, the head coach of the Georgia Regents University Augusta men’s basketball team.

Dip’s Division II squad found itself leading Georgia College on Monday night 55­-54 with 0.3 left on the clock. Just as his brother had done a week and a half earlier, Dip sent his boys onto the floor to defend an inbound pass that would decide the game’s outcome. Seemingly all they needed to do was protect the rim to prevent a tap­-in.

Sure enough, a Georgia College player got free off a screen, caught the lob near the rim and scored to give his team a dramatic 56­-55 victory. Dip Metress was irate, and he had every right to be. Video replay shows the player briefly gaining possession of the ball in the air before releasing it into the basket. And as the Metress family knows all too well, basketball rules dictate that a player can’t gain possession of the ball and get off a shot with 0.3 or less on the clock — it’s tap­-in or bust.

Chapter two of the Metress inbound debacle wasn’t fair, but it also wasn’t the same as the original sequence that played out on Annandale High’s home court earlier this month. The fate of Dip’s team hinged on a judgment call by the officials. The game­-winning shot was a close call, so close that it’s difficult to decipher whether the player gains possession unless you scrutinize it carefully in the replay clip. Right or wrong, the officials determined he had indeed executed a legal tap­-in.

Continue reading View from the Bleachers: Beyond the buzzer beater

Absurdity is reality for Virginia basketball

[READ COLUMN IN THE CAVALIER DAILY]

In the world of sports, some things just aren’t supposed to happen.

Lionel Messi is not supposed to miss an open shot on goal. Teams from Cleveland are not supposed to hoist trophies. Virginia Tech is not supposed to make the NCAA Tournament. And basketball players are not supposed to morph into arthritic invertebrates upon touching a ball in the waning seconds of a game.

Virginia’s late-game collapse against Miami on Thursday was no mere choke job; it was a meltdown of epic proportions. It was the stuff of legends. Down by 10 with 40 seconds to play? That would require a comeback beyond the capacity of the Chicago Bulls playing against Charlottesville High’s JV squad.

But somehow, some way, it was not out of the question for a Miami team that seemed to have completely forgotten how to put the ball in the basket. The ice cold ‘Canes missed 17 of their first 19 shots in the second half and had accumulated only 12 points in 19 minutes of play.

Then they scored 10 points in a span of 24 seconds.

Even Jerry Ratcliffe, a reporter for The Daily Progress who has been covering Virginia basketball for decades, admitted he had never seen anything like it. Continue reading Absurdity is reality for Virginia basketball

Lessons from Cameron Indoor

[READ COLUMN IN THE CAVALIER DAILY]

DURHAM, N.C. – About 45 minutes prior to Saturday’s tip-off against Duke, I was doubled over on the side of the highway, ceaselessly puking out what appeared to be the remnants of several vital organs.

If you hadn’t seen what I had so desperately consumed an hour earlier at Subway — some pre-cooked egg whites slapped between a pair of time-worn, brick-hard bread imitators — you might have guessed I was just unreasonably nervous about the daunting task lying before my school’s youthful basketball team.

The Cavaliers had to face Duke that day. Not the Duke of the Greg Paulus/Josh McRoberts variety, mind you, but the one with guys like Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith taking the court. This Duke team was ranked No. 1 in the country. Even worse, this Duke team — along with all its self-righteous fans who view winning as their special right rather than a happy outcome — was pretty angry. Following a bitter road loss to unranked Florida State, the Blue Devils were ready to unleash their anger before thousands of blue-and-white-painted crazies on their home court, where they had won their last 29 games.

Indeed, beating Duke Saturday would be about as easy as convincing Dickie V that Coach K is a mere mortal. Continue reading Lessons from Cameron Indoor

A step backward for Virginia football

[READ COLUMN IN THE CAVALIER DAILY]

Everything was going great. Thousands of white-clad fans yelled happily at their beloved Cavaliers, who were zipping from one end of the field to the other with the ease of fleet-footed cheetahs bounding across the African savannah. Players in navy and orange high-fived each other left and right, reveling in their God-given athletic talents on display against a displaced band of Floridian football players. Under the gentle glare of the October sun, the Cavaliers’ confidence was sky high.

Then the game started.

The Seminoles stormed into Scott Stadium and unleashed a ruthless assault on the ill-prepared Cavaliers, whose shell-shocked fans promptly fled for the exits as their team discovered the searing brutality of a unit speared by desire and self-belief. On this Saturday, the grass between the goal posts ceased being a football field and welcomed its new identity as a bloodbath. Warriors in golden helmets tore through their enemy’s gossamer lines of defense like cannon balls piercing glass walls, effortlessly pummeling them into the earth if they ever impeded their warpath.

Florida State was a team on a mission. Virginia was but a team on a field. Continue reading A step backward for Virginia football

Mike London’s fevered dream sequence springs to life

[READ COLUMN IN THE CAVALIER DAILY]

It’s late on a Saturday night, and Mike London sits quietly at home, trying to wake himself from a dream.

His weary mind bristles with the image of himself galloping down the Virginia sideline, inching ever closer to the end zone as the deafening noise around him washes away any trace of fatigue in his 49-year-old legs. Running stride-for-stride alongside him is Chase Minnifield, whose unlikely odyssey across the field, at least from his point of view, has taken up the better part of 10 minutes.

When Minnifield’s gutsy 65-yard interception return is finally brought to a halt, London stops to gaze up at a scoreboard that reflects his team’s sizable fourth-quarter lead. His frenzied players can’t stop jumping up and down; orange-clad men and women in the stands brace themselves for yet another rendition of the Good Ole Song; the Hill remains chock-full of bright ties and sundresses; and perhaps most amazingly of all, the Cavaliers are going to win their first football game of the season.

But no matter how many times he pinches himself, London can’t seem to wake up. Could this be real after all? Continue reading Mike London’s fevered dream sequence springs to life

Thanksgiving story

[READ COLUMN IN THE CAVALIER DAILY]

The thought of Thanksgiving always makes me smile because it reminds me of my senile old uncle, Col. Shelton Haybasket. At every Thanksgiving when I was growing up, Uncle Shelton would gather all the children in the family together and tell us the captivating story of how Thanksgiving came about. He would always begin the story the same way:

“Go get me a beer, dag nabbit!”

But Uncle Shelton is currently off in an infirmary somewhere, so allow me to relay the classic tale in his stead.

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the Pilgrims, tired of Europe’s annoying tolerance for chain smokers and French people, set sail for America. According to history buffs, they arrived sometime between the 12th and 18th centuries, the “Age of Not Knowing Where America, or Even Asia for God’s Sake, Is.” Continue reading Thanksgiving story