THP #39: KenPom Hell

December 3, 2022 – Worcester, Massachusetts
Holy Cross vs Central Connecticut State
Men’s Basketball

I have no desire to see the best sports. The best sports are boring. I don’t need to see the most talented players or fastest plays.

I want great television. Theater that would make Broadway blush. I want a show.

Modern sports frustrate me with the endless, ruthless quest to be correct. It takes the theatrical spectacle out of it all.

Replay is a pest that does nothing but erase millions of collective minutes from our lives and push the games I love further down the hole of becoming more equation than entertainment event.

Sports are contested by humans and humans mess up. It happens. It sucks when it goes against your team but it happens. It’s the glob of paint on a beautiful canvas. Sure, it’s a wart that sticks out but it makes the whole the whole.

Just because we have the tech to “get everything right” doesn’t mean we should, especially because they don’t even get it right all the time. No one knows what a catch is in football anymore, hockey has gotten marred by plays getting called back by minutes-old offsides, and out-of-bounds plays in this fair sport have gotten down to the microscopic level to see who it went off last.

The spectacle I fell in love with gets punted aside in the misguided quest to optimize everything to hell because of the thought that correct = good. I don’t want everything to be pinpoint correct. I want it to be fun. To be frustrating. To tell a story and make a memory. That’s what sports are to me.

And now here’s your moment with Bella

The Good Eats

Are donuts breakfast or dessert? For that matter, is it correctly spelled as donuts or doughnuts?

No matter your thoughts on the matter, we can all agree that donuts are delicious wonderful treats of heavenly goodness. And man, am I lucky to have high-quality donuts right here in town at Rocco’s.

It’s a tiny shop. It’s really just a small space to stand, a register, a merch shelf, and a large kitchen. There are two other locations in nearby Millbury and Westborough, both of which aren’t much bigger.

The thing with Rocco’s is that when the donuts are gone for the day they’re gone. There’s no second batch coming and no back room keeping them warm. I’ve walked in two hours before close to be told all the donuts are gone.

Today though I was lucky because I was able to get a whole meal in one shot. It was a maple bacon donut for the proper meal (because bacon is meat and meat must mean its a meal) and a classic chocolate frosted to close the show. These donuts are thick and beefy and amazing.

And I got to pull out my milk cup. It’s a cup. Only for milk. Why? I don’t know; life just worked out that way. Maybe because it’s from a minor league baseball giveaway in 1997 so I try not to beat it up too much.

Are donuts baked goods? They’re fried, at least the good ones are, but I’d still consider them within the baked good universe. Cake donuts aren’t donuts. They are wheel-shaped cake. Nothing wrong with being wheel-shaped cake, but fuck outta here with your donut nonsense.

If you’re passing through Central Massachusetts in the morning stop by Rocco’s and get a donut: a really, really good donut.

The Game

It’s got a mouthful of a name: The Hart Center At The Luth Athletic Complex. We’ll just call it the Hart Center, and it is as wide-ranging a building as I’ve seen in New England.

For starters, there’s a statue of basketball legend Bob Cousy illuminated on the walk into the building.

And inside there is every bit of Holy Cross athletics. There’s the pool and the rowing tank and a gym excusively used for volleyball matches. Across from the basketball arena is the hockey rink.

Every team’s offices are in the building as are locker rooms for everything from hoops and hockey to lacrosse and track. Oh, and there’s a full indoor football field within the building too.

When you walk in the lobby is big and bright and welcoming, always a good thing to have.

And the Hart itself is one of my favorite arenas in all of New England. With the ability to cram 4,000 people in it’s not too big, not too small, just right for basketball.

And the Crusaders have a long history of success on the court. It’s one of only 16 schools to have won an NCAA championship and an NIT title. The banners hang proudly on opposite sides of the arena.

Even in the 21st century, Holy Cross has found great success in the sport. Both the men and women have won multiple Patriot League titles since 2000 but only one (men in 2016) since 2007.

The game itself? Well, it was something. The Crusaders played host to Central Connecticut State in a game featuring #350 in the KenPom rankings hosting #340.

Still though, these are D1 athletes, and CCSU showed it early.

It was back and forth early as neither team could get more than five or six ahead. Play was energetic and the vibes were strong from both teams.

Led by eight points from Gerrale Gates, the Crusaders went into halftime up a bucket.

Holy Cross being the Crusaders, the last Crusaders in Division I, means they don’t sell concessions. They sell…..

Back to basketball, and let’s talk about Gates a bit. He’s the star of this Holy Cross team and has had a Quixotic journey through college basketball. The Charlotte native played his first two years at the University of New Orleans where he averaged 8.4 points over 61 games for the Privateers.

He transferred to Worcester going into the 2020-2021 season and has been an awards machine. Third-Team All-Patriot League that year and second-team last season.

He’s well on his way to joining the 1,000-point club for the Crusaders and plays like this help.

The jumper put Holy Cross up four with 13 minutes to play. We’ll see Gerrale more in a bit.

The second half saw the Crusaders maintain a lead but only a slim one. It never got bigger than six as the Blue Devils kept finding answers but couldn’t turn the corner.

Of course, at one point in this game, the KenPom-ness of it all would show itself and show itself it did with this sequence midway through the second half.

Caleb Kenney had just four points for the home team, but this nifty layup extended the lead back to half a dozen and brought the bench to its feet.

But the Devils persevered, and Kellen Amos was the engine. The junior from Houston came to life in the second half, and this big three cut the gap to three with six minutes to play.

The final few minutes of the game were beautiful chaos. Both teams desperately wanted to get that first D1 win and played with an energy above and beyond what I’d expect from early December basketball.

Amos kept upping his play. He had 16 of his 20 points in the second half. This jumper cut the gap to a single point.

But I did say we’d check back in with Gates. And the possession after Amos made that jumper the North Carolinian stepped up and did what top guys do: make big shots.

Gates’ bucket gave the team some breathing room but the game was still up for grabs. In the final 90 seconds though, the Crusaders put it to bed. Kenney capped it with his final points of the game.

Holy Cross 61, Central Connecticut State 55. Final.
Player of the Game – Gerrale Gates: 22 points, 10-17 shooting, 7 rebounds
Time of Game – 1:40:43

This was such a fun time. Both teams brought it hard, and the crowd was deep into the action. And a 100-minute game? Hell yeah.

I love supporting the local teams. Sure, I could make the drive down to UConn, but why? Supporting the local teams makes me feel closer to my home city and part of something bigger than just a hoops game. Sometimes the cool thing is right under your nose and it was for me on a cold Saturday night.

Oh, and the on-court kids game was a delight too.

Not sure what’s better: TV timeout kids basketball contests of little kid hockey on the ice at intermission.

But yeah, up next is the big 4-0, and trust me, it gets weird. Thanks for reading. Here’s one for the road.

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