Saturday, December 3, 2016

Pink Whistle: Blake Tournament

Allendale's seventh-grade girls' team during the Blake Tournament. (Photo by Ray Floriani/Daly Dose Of Hoops)

By Ray Floriani (@rfloriani)

ALLENDALE, NJ - The annual Blake Tournament, a holiday tradition in northern Bergen County, features fifth through eighth-grade divisions for boys and girls teams. The weeklong tournament runs a with four sites concurrently in use.
Thursday’s assignment found three girls’ games as the good fortune of the draw. My partner, officiating coordinator, good friend and one of my favorite referee partners; Glen Mezzatesta, shares the court. A Michigan grad who bleeds blue, we discuss the latest in Michigan football and hoops before taking the floor.

The scores and recaps:
Sixth grade: Paramus 37, Allendale 13

Paramus got off to a quick start and never looked back. They did a great job of initiating offense at the top of the key and hitting a cutter. Paramus had several good ball handlers and a couple girls able to hit from 10 feet, quite a luxury on this level. Allendale head coach Maria is active with Ring City’s AAU program. She is working on basics here, but says, “I have the next game, you will like the group of seventh-graders I have.” Next game will tell but for now, focus is on the job at hand.  
In the fourth quarter, Paramus is up 15 and one of their players is going to the basket in transition. She is fouled hard but not pushed from behind by an Allendale player. Process the information: The Allendale girl is frustrated, not playing sound defense and her team is getting buried. Calling an intentional may single her out adding insult to injury. I make the call and make sure to tell her “just be careful, that was almost an intentional foul.”
A night later, I run into Jon Levinson at the FDU game. An excellent official whom I was fortunate to work with, Jon is the Northeast Conference officiating supervisor. I discuss the play with him and he agrees not calling an intentional was right and talking with girl about the foul was even more important. Twenty-nine years on the floor, and always learning.

Seventh grade: Allendale 28, Paramus 11

Allendale scored the game’s first 17 points, as Paramus was unable to get in the scorebook until midway through the third quarter. Allendale did not press a great deal, but they applied good half court ball pressure and thoroughly disrupted the Paramus offense. Offensively, the host team had some size and ran very well in transition. They simply had too much for a Paramus team that won a nail-biter of an opening round game the prior evening.

Eighth grade: Allendale 38, St. Margaret’s 23

Allendale got an early lead but St. Margaret’s closed it to four at the half. The Pearl River (NY) school did not have the head coach, who had another commitment, so the assistant was in charge. The second half saw Allendale use some pressure, get out on the break and essentially open it up. Allendale had a good, aggressive player triggering the break and doing a lot of nice things to spark her club. Allendale advanced with a score that was sort of misleading, as the hometown ladies were challenged for a half.
The lady coaching St. Margaret’s said “thank you and great job” to me in the parking lot. She also said her club was right there at the half, then struggled the last two quarters. She praised Allendale, then also added how she played everyone to get them experience, which may have been a factor. Getting everyone minutes did not necessarily cost them the game, but might help win a few more during their CYO season. Good move.

The press pet peeve: No one here is looking to run up the score. Even in game two, Allendale put the brakes on in transition once they jumped out to an 11-0 halftime lead. Still, the rules; which allow pressing for grades 6 through 8, stipulate no press by the winning team if the margin is 10 or more points. The players would be better served forbidding a press completely. All right, let the eighth-graders pressure the second half. The idea is getting the kids to learn halfcourt before full. Former Net head coach Lawrence Frank, thoroughly in agreement, summed it up best, saying, “learn the trade before the tricks.”

In game one, Allendale pressured behind by 20 in the fourth quarter. All it did was create a prolonged foul fest. Rather than trying to work on some half court defensive fundamentals, Allendale reached and bumped their way into a potentially larger deficit. They scored 13 for the game, a press wasn’t going to do it down 20 the last seven minutes.

In game two, Paramus was even pressing the final minute. To reiterate, barely scoring double digits as a team and down almost 20, full court pressure was not the answer, not to mention the Allendale seventh-graders had the skills to break the pressure with relative ease.

Game three saw less pressure. The full court press was only used as an element of surprise. It worked, as the Allendale eighth-grade team broke the game open the second half. To no surprise, game three had the best tempo and flow of the entire night.

Glen coached his son’s team in this tournament a few years back. He used the press only at key junctures and can’t explain the reasoning behind pressing while you are down 15 or 20 with two minutes left. Practice time is at a premium. With pressing, younger teams spend time learning to press and set up press offense rather than half court offense and defense and, FUNDAMENTALS!!!! Lawrence Frank was so right on his assessment.

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