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Greetings From The Booth!
With so much happening this week in sports, locally and regionally, I thought I would try to cover all the bases with some Friday tidbits, so here goes:
First, CONGRATS to the Rappahannock High Girls Basketball team, who captured the VHSL Class 1 State Championship this week with a win over Eastside at the Siegel Center at VCU. Winning a state title is a huge accomplishment, so thanks ladies, for bringing the hardware back to the Shenandoah Valley! Tomorrow (Saturday 3-11) the Clarke County Girls will try to duplicate that feat as they take on perennial power Central-Wise in the Class 2 Championship Game.
Meanwhile, the Skyline HS Boys team saw it’s season end at the hands of Hopewell (again) in the Class 3 semifinals on Monday. With the loss, the Hawks suffered their first loss of the season and finished at 26-1. If you’ve never played sports, it’s hard to convey the feeling of emptiness when you get so close to a championship and an undefeated season, only to see it end just 2 wins from the finish line. When the sting of that lone loss wears off, Skyline will look back with pride at a season that will live forever in the school’s annals. The Hawks were a gritty, scrappy bunch, and should have no doubt about being “legit.” They were. Sometimes, you just run up against a better team…
Which makes a nice segue into a pet peeve of mine: bad fan behavior. The optics were not good following Skyline’s loss to Hopewell, as law enforcement had to keep members of both fan bases apart. I’m not going to weigh in on who started what. That’s usually a “we said-they said” kind of thing. But, we live in a trash talking, phone wielding culture, with little emphasis on sportsmanship, and that reared it’s ugly head after Monday’s game. Nothing major erupted, thank goodness, but it was not a good luck. Win with class, lose with class, and always remember that kids take their cues from adults.
This is the time of year that I start paying attention to college basketball. The conference tournaments are fun to watch, although with multiple teams from the power leagues getting into the NCAA Tournament, those affairs don’t have the urgency that they had back in the day. I love Selection Sunday, when teams anxiously await their fate. This year, my WVU Mounties look to be safely in, despite a loss to Kansas in the Big 12 Tournament. But, until your team is announced, there is always some anxiety.
Finally, let’s switch gears and talk some football. Folks, I may just be getting on the bandwagon of your DC Defenders of the XFL. The Defenders play their home games at Audi Field, near Nationals Park. It’s a nice Euro-feeling venue, and apparently home of one of the most enjoyable fan experiences in sports. The fans are enthusiastic, sometimes raucous, and love their team (which is currently 3-0). The now-legendary beer cup snake is back, not to mention the anti-Dan Snyder chants. All this in sharp contrast to the dismal game-day experience at Fed-Ex Field with the Washington Commanders. Which points out one thing: DC fans will turn out for winning, fun football.
Those are your Friday Tidbits from The Booth! Have a great “Selection Sunday!”
Greetings from The Booth!
Last Friday, I got to do something I hadn’t done in probably 20 years–broadcast a basketball game. At the same time, I did something I maybe have never done–reverse roles and provide color analysis. For over 40 years I have been a play-by-play man, and that is my comfort zone. But for this season’s high school basketball coverage, the very capable Ryan (The Duke) Rutherford has been handling both roles up until now, as we move into the VHSL State Tournament and follow the fortunes of the undefeated Skyline Hawks.
Friday’s game took me back to my first play-by-play gig doing Alderson-Broaddus College (now University) women’s basketball while attending that school back in 1977-78. You gotta start somewhere, and that is where I started learning my craft, soaking up knowledge from anyone who was willing to give me tips. At some point, I will hang up the headphones as a new generation of sports broadcasters like Ryan take over the Booth. I just hope he’s learned a few things from me, as I learned from others.
Anyway, I wanted to talk about my West (By-God) Virginia Mountaineers basketball team. It’s been a tough year to be a Mountie. Football coach Neal Brown told us a few years ago to “trust the climb,” but after another year with no bowl game, we couldn’t wait for basketball season. Surely, Bob Huggins’ charges would give us our Mountaineer Mojo back. And, after a 10-2 start, folks were already starting to talk about NCAA seeding.
Then came the Big-12 part of the schedule. Playing in arguably the toughest conference in college basketball, WVU lost it’s first 5 league games, and their record started to drift back toward .500. Since then, West Virginia has righted the ship somewhat and has gone 6-6 in their last 12 games in a conference where you’re playing a ranked team just about every time you take the floor. The ‘Eers are as of this writing 17-13 with one league game and the conference tournament remaining before the Big Dance. Bracket King Joe Lunardi has WVU a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament. If the Mounties can knock off number-11 Kansas State this Saturday in Morgantown, they are probably in.
It’s said that a team takes on the personality of it’s coach, and after some rough patches, I think that’s happening now with the Mountaineers. Hall-Of-Famer Huggins has had some challenges dealing with the brave new world of college athletics, but has brought together a group of strangers and turned them into a team that is tougher than a weekend at your in-laws. In the mold of Huggins (and his beloved state), WVU is gritty, and capable of hanging with anyone in the country. After a season of more ups and downs than a ride along Corridor H, the best could be yet to come for this team. So, grab a pepperoni roll and a jar of shine, and CUE COUNTRTY ROADS!
Until the next visit from The Booth…GO HAWKS, GO EERS!