Shenandoah vr. New Castle 2-4-2021
Today was a difficult day for varies reasons so I reminded myself that by being an American I needed to remember the last four letters from American spell out …I can… so I pressed on. Just like the Greatest Generation, my Dad and others, taught me to do. When it really gets difficult, I think of the day I was complaining at work. My friend, Jimmy P. asked me point blank if I had a problem and I said yes. He proceeded to tell me when he was fighting in Vietnam, he and his buddies were getting bombed, shot at and were hunkered down as low as they could get in their foxholes as a firefight raged on, not knowing who would live another minute…not all lived. Now that is a problem, he told me, what you have is an inconvenience. Thanks Jimmy P. for the wonderful lesson you taught me. Shenandoah’s first half and most of the third quarter was an inconvenience. As the hard-fought battle pressed on, Shenandoah listened to General McCollough, they tightened up their defense and put a lot of pressure on the ball which in turn, turned the tide of the game.
After three minutes of play in the first quarter the score was tied 3-3 as Michael Howard accounted for Shenandoah’s only bucket with a three. Kameron Graddy knocked a rebound back to Andrew Bennett who just had his foot inside the arc for a 5-3 lead. Soon after Jakeb Kinsey found Bennett open in the corner who zeroed in another three and the Raiders were clicking on all cylinders pushing the lead to 8-3. On defense Graddy went up to block a shot and was called for his second personal and left the game at the 3:30 mark. From this point on the Blue and Gold were outscored three to fifteen. It did not help on one offensive set New Castle got five consecutive rebounds and shots before they scored. Howard registered the last Raider bucket of the quarter after missing his previous two three-point attempts. Down by seven, 11-18 the Raiders went to their bench to talk things over.
To start the second frame the Trojans scored to increase their lead 11-20 and Shenandoah promptly turned the ball over. Fortunately, New Castle did not capitalize but Bennett who led all scorers this cold, wet night with twenty, hit one free throw to make it 12-20. After a quick thirty second timeout Shenandoah came out pressing, however; they fell behind by ten, but Kinsey nailed a three to draw our beloved Blue and Gold to seven 15-22. Before the Raiders could score again New Castle added five points to go ahead twelve. With 3:44 on the clock Bennett was fouled after he made a layup but missed a chance to drop the lead into single digits when he missed his free throw. Down ten, 17-27, Shenandoah’s Howard fed the ball to McCollough who sank a jumper from nine feet. I thought Campbell was fouled underneath and so did those fans behind me, but the referees saw it differently, so the game marched on. Now down by eleven Howard squared up at the top of the key and drill his third three of the half which surprisingly closed out his offensive output at nine points for the rest of the game as he was held scoreless moving forward. Having cut the lead to eight, after another Raider timeout, Shenandoah’s pressure bothered New Castle who was held to one point for slightly over two minutes, but the Raiders failed to score as well and was in the negative 22-31. What appeared to be a three or four step traveling no call which would have given the ball back to Shenandoah for a last shot, New Castle instead went to the line with .08 seconds left. Cole McDaniel, who’s father donned the Raider uniform years ago, dropped the first of two for a ten-point margin for New Castle. When McDaniel missed his second freebie, Campbell garnered the rebound, turned immediately and heaved the ball about seventy-seven feet for a three pointer…Boom Baby! Leaping from the bench his teammates surrounded him, but Campbell seem to take it all in stride, knowing there were adjustments and more work to do in the second half. Shenandoah walked off the court down seven 25-32.
While I was walking around, my little eyes spied, Kameron Graddy’s youngest fan, his niece Croslee Humphrey, who reached out and gave me a tiny fist bump. Also, I met junior varsity’s player A.J. Demick’s brother Eric. When I subbed years ago, Eric, who is studying radiology, was one of those students I never forgot but in a good way. Good crowd and good people everywhere.
The start of the third was less then stellar for Shenandoah. On their first three possessions the Raiders turned the ball over, shot an airball, missed a three and found themselves down 25-36. Alas, Howard left the game after being whistled for his third personal foul. Talk about an inconvenience! Graddy finally got the Raiders on the board with a layup after he took a pass from Bennett. Moments later while positioning himself underneath Graddy blocked off two Trojans which Kinsey exploited in an instant as he drove the baseline to net two more of his nine points for this evening which drew the Raiders to with nine 29-38. Whether or not McCollough heard the fans behind me prompting him to apply defensive pressure remains a mystery but he did just that and, in an instant, picked the pockets of who he was guarding which led to two more of his seven total points cutting the lead to seven.
On the proceeding offensive set, Campbell tipped the ball out to Kinsey who instantly took the ball to the hoop and was fouled. Uncharacteristically, Kinsey airballed and front ended his two freebies which would later bring a chorus of “airball” comments from the New Castle faithful. Moving forward, Graddy again connected low in the post to cut the lead back to seven 33-40. Apparently after being called for two iffy fouls in the first half Graddy decided his next foul would be felt and it was as he flattened his opponent as he attempted to drive to the bucket. This attention getter seems to have spurred Shenandoah to apply more pressure on defense for the remainder of the game. Kinsey determined as ever, drove in for a layup to recut the lead to seven 35-42. Campbell, who tallied four points this evening, made the game a two-possession game when he sank one freebie. Bennet, taking a pass from Campbell, then drilled a trey and followed with two more from the line to bring the Raiders to within one 41-42. With six straight points the Raiders were showing life. New Castle briefly snuffed out Ole Mo by hitting a three to end the scoring in the third which re-booted their lead 41-45.
In the south west corner, smack dab in front of Coach McCollough, the bench and the world to see Howard was knocked to the floor on a shot attempt but no fouled was called. Obviously, Coach saw it differently and let it be known with his mask lowered, as the battle moved back up court. As the actioned moved forward Graddy again worked low in the post for a hard-earned layup, which added to this evenings eight point output, to draw within two. No buckets were coming easy for either team. Finally, after Bennett again nailed two freebies the score was tied forty-five all with 6:31 left to play. New Castle countered but Bennett calmly dropped a three. Raiders up 48-47. Howard, who cooled off in the second half, misfired but Graddy was perfectly positioned for a put back and low and behold the Raiders were ahead by three 50-47 with 3:36 remaining. By now many Raiders fans were on their feet chanting “Defense” over and over again. Having a chance to build the lead but unable to convert free throws, Howard too missed the front end of a one on one. For the night Shenandoah sank half of their eighteen free throws for only fifty percent! After a New Castle miss Shenandoah’s Bennett, on a fast break, waited for the defensive pressure to run by him and banked in another layup for a 52-47 cushion. After the Raiders cleared the court towards the west, Kinsey exploited the opening using his quickness and drove in, to push the lead to 54-47. In the span of a minute New Castle, with the help of a Raider turnover, which led to a three, cut the seven-point lead to two 54-52 with 1:03 left. Kinsey was fouled on a drive on the ensuing series stepped to the line with the expected chorus of “airball” raining down from the rafters. The Raider’s foul line woes continued as he missed two freebies. The Trojans worked
the clock and ball down low to tie the game with 9.4 seconds left. Shenandoah called time out. Applying soft pressure up court, New Castle backed off enough not to foul, which allowed McCollough, to work his way to the left of the key. Like the shot of Indiana’s Keith Smart or the many of Larry Bird’s game enders, McCollough pulled up three feet beyond the arc and let it fly and float to the bottom of the net. Boom Baby!! Pandemonium and bedlam prevailed as his teammates celebrated together as One. The Raiders won 57-54 …after New Castle’s desperation shot kissed only glass with 1.1 seconds left. The Raiders bent but did not break. Shenandoah, ranked #2, now stands 15-3 for the season. Nothing like defeating New Castle on their home court.
Ed Breeden, Courtside in New Castle