THP #41: Fatherhood

December 7, 2022 – Auburndale, Massachusetts
Lasell vs Trinity
Women’s Basketball

This is my last stop for a while. I got a daughter coming any day now. As I write this my wife is in her 39th week of pregnancy. I am over the moon about having a child.

I waffled for a few years. I wasn’t ready. I didn’t want a kid. I didn’t know how I was feeling. My emotions ran the gamut. Honestly, after a crazy first season of this project I wanted one more year of full-on chaotic running around and I think I would have been good to go. Get that bit of dirtbagging out of the system.

COVID burned that season and last year we got a dog and were settling into our new house. This year I went buckwild this first month of the season and loved it. I got to mentally scratch that itch that I couldn’t reach, and I feel much better about everything. Maybe it’s the Lexapro helping, who knows.

Raising a puppy certainly helped too. I called raising Bella preseason for raising a kid. I’ve gone through weeks of no sleep, crying on the toilet when I have a moment of solitude, full blasts of anxiety at the thought of getting out of bed to pee at night lest I rustle the dog and ruin our sleep.

I’ve had those realizations that the dog isn’t gonna die if it eats a leaf and the eureka moment that she’s ok to be on her own after I finally got six straight hours of sleep at night

Having a kid means those timelines will be way longer, and I’ll experience those feelings again. I survived raising Bella. My life adjusted and I went about living with this awesome new furry buddy in my life.

With my daughter, my life will adjust and I’ll go about living with this awesome daughter in my life.

I’ve openly bristled at older relatives making a show saying things like “oh, your life’s never your own anymore” or “You know you can’t run around like you do now for sports.” The first line ticks me off because it frames kids exclusively, in my view, as a negative. My life isn’t changing, it’s being added to. I’m excited to add to it.

And as for the second line: yeah, I know. I’m not gonna do a triple shot in Northern Maine over a weekend. Doesn’t mean I can’t take a small handful of Saturdays and hit some local spots. There’s 30-35 schools within a 90-minute drive of the house, I’ll be fine in that regard.

It goes back, again, to the negative framing. Was I wanted? Was anyone? My daughter, especially when she’s a newborn and a potato, will be a huge change, and each phase of her life will be an adjustment for everyone. I’m excited to make those adjustments and hopefully raise a well-rounded, self-assured woman alongside my wife.

Quick aside, and my wife hates what I said but I think it’s hilarious and want it saved for posterity. A few years ago she was showing me pictures of a friend’s baby all adorable and swaddled in their crib. In my head, I said “look at the cute little burrito.” However, what came out was “oh wow, a flesh taco.” Still makes me chuckle.

I wasn’t a “boy or bust” guy when my wife got pregnant. The day she tested positive, after the hugs and smiles, I said, in the most matter-of-fact way, “Great, we’re having a daughter.” Just knew. How? No clue, but I did.

And now little baby Claire is on the way. I can’t wait to meet her. It’s gonna be college hoops, cartoons, and dinosaurs for her. And reading Calvin and Hobbes to her. And watching her and Bella pal around.

This will be an exciting journey, and I’m looking forward to starting it.

And speaking of my favorite fuzzball, here’s a moment with Bella.

The Good Eats

Auburndale is one of the 13 villages of Newton, a city of just under 90,000 that borders Boston to the west. The village is on the western edge of the city and borders Waltham.

Outside of Lasell, Auburndale is almost exclusively residential with many houses on the National Register of Historic Places.

But located a mile from Lasell, up Lexington Street, is Depasquale’s at Night Cap Corner.

A small eatery serving pizza and sandwiches, it was bright and welcoming inside.

I kept it straight up and simple. I got a chicken salad wrap with fries, drink, and in-house chocolate chip cookie. I had the cookie while waiting for the sandwich and it was a thick chonk.

Look at the size of those chocolate chunks.

It was a good cookie. A bit too thick for what I’m really looking for, but the chocolate was quality, and the bake was good. I’m in the area with some regularity and I could see myself heading over to grab a cookie as a snack for the ride home again.

The sandwich was exactly what I wanted it to be.

It was a quintessential chicken salad sandwich. No cranberries. No walnuts. My wife loves that, but I just want well-seasoned chicken with mayo and celery, maybe onion. That’s exactly what I got.

And look at how full of chicken the wrap was. So so good. Add in the crunchy water AKA iceberg lettuce, and each bite had a satisfying crunch. Chicken salad, while not a deli meat in construction certainly is in spirit, and is always an underrated gem when I can find good varieties.

The fries? Excellent. I’ve spent plenty of blog space putting over the necessity of quality fries, and this place made a fry that was the perfect compliment for the sandwich.

Lasell University

A small college with just 1,650 undergrads, Lasell opened in 1851 as the Auburndale Female Seminary. It was founded by Edward Lasell, a chemistry professor at Williams College in Western Massachusetts that wanted to invest more personally in women’s education.

His untimely passing soon after the seminary opened brought on a name change a year later to the Lasell Female Seminary.

It would change names multiple times until it began offering four-year degrees and took the name Lasell College in 1989. Male students followed in 1997, and the college became a university in 2019.

The campus is a mix of historic houses used as dorms and admin buildings along with more modern buildings as well.

Dining hall

Academically, Lasell is known for its fashion program which includes three majors: Fashion Communication & Promotion, Fashion Design & Production, and Fashion Retail & Merchandising.

It’s one of the few schools with fashion programs where underclass students can showcase their work at the annual undergrad fashion show.

The Game

The home of Lasell basketball is known simply as the Athletic Center.

You enter from above and descend down to courtside to sit in the bleachers. There is a short running track above the court where you can post up and watch the game as well.

It’s the only college venue I’ve been in that has featured temporary aluminum bleachers to help boost seating. In fact, the majority of the seats here are temporary.

A small wall of plaques commemorates past athletic success for all Lasell sports.

A neat feature was the speaker on the bench side of the room. It was encased in a mesh that was Lasell branded. Never seen that before.

Also up around the track are banners of past successes for basketball and volleyball. Volleyball has an august, regal banner.

Basketball, men and women, has the ignominy of being the only program I’ve ever seen to have their accomplishments immortalized in comic sans.


A rarity for D3, the mascot, was there for the game. Now, Lasell is known as the Lasers. Lasell is the only NCAA school known as the Lasers. Irvine Valley College goes by the same nickname but it’s a non-NCAA community college in California.

The mascot, Boomer, graced us with his presence. What exactly does a Laser mascot look like? First, here’s where the Laser name comes from, direct from the Lasell website.

“From our earliest beginnings in the nineteenth century when the lamp of knowledge was emblazoned on our University seal, to the one hundred and fifty years of Torchlight Parades, light has been a part of Lasell’s rich history. It is in this tradition of light, and the pursuit of knowledge and excellence, that our athletes bear the name LASERS. Lasers are by definition a source of intense energy. Therefore, like a laser, our athletes are fast, focused and intense on the fields and courts of athletic endeavor.”

You can read the full explanation here. And now… he is.

Thanks for the pose Boomer. Onto the game.

The Lasers were hosting the Trinity Bantams, last year’s NESCAC regular season champions. However, the two-win Lasers were up to the challenge early and gave as good as they got it.

Trinity led by as many as seven in the first, but the Lasers found answers and were led by Juju Nealy. The sophomore led Lasell with eight points in the opening period.

And the Lasers ended it with a flourish and went into the break tied.

The partisan crowd was feeling it after 10 minutes. And they kept feeling it as Lasell maintained the pressure and pushed into the lead. This jumper from Brenna Graber made it 28-27 Lasers.

But the Bantams found their groove as the second quarter continued on and quickly retook the lead.

The Bantams went got some much-needed breathing room before intermission thanks to this three from Tori Varsamis. She finished with 11 points, one of four bantams to score at least that many points.

Trinity went into halftime up 37-32. And the Bantams blew the game to smithereens in the third. A precise, diverse attack overwhelmed the Lasers.

These two buckets by Hannah Marzo helped key a 16-4 quarter for Trinity. Marzo was the only Bantam to score more than two points in the period as they moved the ball effortlessly and turned the Lasers over five times.

Defensively they shut down Lasell and Nealy. Nealy finished with a game-high 14 points but only had four in the second half.

Varsamis put a bow on the proceedings with this three.

Trinity 68, Lasell 51. Final
Player of the Game – Tori Varsamis (Trinity) – 11 points, 3-6 from 3, 2 rebounds, assist, steal, 9 minutes of action.
Time of Game – 1:35:27

And that’s a soft wrap on season 4. Nine stops, all three divisions, and three states. I’ve really grown an affinity for Connecticut this year. There’s a lot to go in the Nutmeg State, and there’s a ton of amazing food. It’s a win/win every time I hop on Route 84 or 395 to go south.

With 41 stops in the can I am now 36% of the way done with whatever this is supposed to be. And I’ll have one or two more before the season once tournament time comes around.

But now, it’s off to fatherhood and laying the first bricks of raising my daughter. She’s not here yet but she’ll be here any day, any hour as of the time of publishing this. I’ve led a charmed life in my first 31 years, and having a kid will be the perfect bow on this chapter of it.

We all live multiple lives. For many around me, I’m simply going to be Claire’s dad, and I’m ok with that. For me, I get to see everything fresh again. I get to experience so many firsts again that I haven’t done in decades. What a wonderful trip it will be.

And, in honor of those temp bleachers at the Athletic Center, here’s one for the road:

THP #40: Nuclear Basketball

December 6, 2022 – New London, Connecticut
Mitchell vs Westfield State
Women’s Basketball

What happens when a conference dies? Where does everything go? Why does it fade away into the ether? Well, that very thing will happen in New England this summer when the New England Collegiate Conference ceases to exist.

And I mean fully disappear. No, this isn’t the Big 8 becoming the Big 12 or Atlantic-10 football “disappearing” but really just rebranding as the CAA. This is like the Southwest Conference: a whole conference competing this year and then simply not the next.

Mitchell, a private school with just 508 students, is my final stop in the NECC. There were only three others. Mitchell is lucky and already has a home locked down for the future: The Great Northeast Athletic Conference.

The Red Barn, an event space on the Mitchell campus.

“It’s been up and down. We’ve tried to not really think about it in terms of our team,” Mitchell women’s basketball coach Courtney Burns said. “Our administration worked really hard to get us in a position to get into the GNAC, and we trusted that they would.”

The GNAC is a perfect fit but hold up Mike: four schools? In a whole league?

Yeah. That’s been the NECC’s existence for the last several years. I’ve been to them all.

That’s it. Burns has seen the league fall apart since taking over in New London back in 2017. That year the Mariners opened the conference slate against Lesley. After that, three of their next five conference opponents no longer exist (Newbury, Southern Vermont, Wheelock) and one stopped sponsoring basketball (Bay Path).

Keep going down the schedule and there’s Becker College, which closed after the 21-22 school year, and there’s Elms & Dean, which are both now in the GNAC. Even before Burns got there, Daniel Webster College shuttered unexpectedly in 2017.

“We had, unfortunately, some of those smaller New England schools that closed down,” Burns said. “You don’t want to worry about having to add another team or be on a probation period this year. You want something that’s stable. You shouldn’t have to worry about your conference closing and competing for an NCAA bid. That should be something you shouldn’t have to worry about as a coach.”

The league had maintained its auto-bid for a probationary period but now that’s up, and the schools needed to find new homes. Mitchell and New England College will join the GNAC together next year.

It’s a great fit, in my opinion. The GNAC is a large conference that will have 15 schools next year, and it’s full of similar colleges to Mitchell and NEC. It’s a league of small, private schools across New England. It’s one of two conferences that have schools in all six New England states.

Some of the dorms at Mitchell.

“Getting into the GNAC helps with recruiting. It’s a more competitive conference,” Burns said. “I think it’ll help, when we win championships, to get a better seed in the NCAA tournament. I think it’s a great move for our program. I think it’s a great move for our school. It gives us, as coaches here at Mitchell, peace of mind because we have a conference and we’ll be able to compete for championships.”

As for the rest of the NECC, it’s not settled. Lesley has found a home in the North Atlantic Conference, which is a league of teams in the North Country of New York and Northern Maine. It’s not a great fit for a small school located basically across the street from Harvard.

And Eastern Nazarene? They don’t have a home yet. And looking at the landscape of New England, if the GNAC doesn’t extend an invite to go to a full 16, I don’t know where they land.

Watching the NECC wither has been sad to watch. Hopefully, ENC finds a place to call home in the future. For now, though, the ball goes on and the games get played.

And before we hit Southeast Connecticut, enjoy a moment with Bella.

Lyman Allyn Art Museum

New London is a lovely city. With a population of just under 28,000, the city has a long, illustrious history with the sea. A former whaling port, New London today is on the rebound after losing much of its manufacturing might in the last century.

On historically Pequot land, New London sits on Long Island Sound and is just a 20-minute drive from the Rhode Island border.

There will be two more stops in the city in the future, and it had been a minute since I’d been to a good art museum so I started the day at the Lyman Allyn Art Museum. Sitting in the shadow of Connecticut College, the museum looked great even against the backdrop of a miserable gray day.

The museum passes the first test for me: making art accessible. I despise how art is framed as this pastime for the rich and elite. With admission ranging from $5-$12 anyone can have an afternoon at the Allyn so if you’re in the area make the time to check this place out.

Established in 1926, the Allyn features a variety of works with many centered around Connecticut and New England artists.

History of the Museum

One of the first exhibits was one dedicated to artists from the Nutmeg State. While there were many portraits of colonial folk in petticoats and tunics, which you can miss me with, the more modern works of art were excellent. Any museum that has works from the Hudson River School artists gets a big thumbs up from me. And they had blog favorite, Winslow Homer, on display.

Shepherdess by friend of the show Winslow Homer. Painted on a ceramic tile.
Abigail Dolbeare Hinman by Daniel Huntington

This painting has a hell of a story as it tells the tale of Abigail Hinman during the burning of New London in 1781. That’s her staring down Benedict Arnold. I’ll let the museum description tell the rest.

There was the good weird too with the surrealist “The Jugglers Dream of The Trio Begins and Ends” by George Marinko taking up a good chunk of my time. Just so bright and saturated, there are so many ways to take in this work

I really liked Circling Back by Pamela Zagarenski. Such a fun, thoughtful work.

There was a whole exhibition dedicated to Louis Comfort Tiffany, son of Charles Lewis Tiffany of Tiffany & Co. fame, and his, and his studio’s work, in stained glass.

This pair of lamps showed the intricate detail and crafting that went into the pieces released by Tiffany and his studio. The 12 Lily Lamp on the left featured blown glass flower blossoms and a bronze construction. The original piece won the grand prize at the International Exposition of Modern Decorative Art in Turin, Italy in 1902

The Dragonfly Table Lamp, which I love, was designed by Clara Driscoll and won a bronze medal at the 1900 Paris Universal Exposition. Driscoll worked with Tiffany Studios on and off for two decades, and this lamp became one of the company’s best-selling forms.

What I loved most about the Lyman Allyn was how it didn’t overwhelm. Some of the bigger museums in the region, like the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, are just so gigantic that it can be sensory overload to go and try and see as much as you can.

You can lazily see everything in the Allyn at your own pace and be in and out in around 90 minutes. I love that. A great way to spend an hour or two in the afternoon. I can’t recommend this museum more highly.

The Good Eats

As darkness descended and game time approached I needed to find something to eat. I needed to recover.

Luckily, on Ocean Avenue, there was The Recovery Room.

A family-style Italian restaurant with a bar, it was warm and familiar.

Known for its pizza I took them up on it and ordered a BBQ chicken pizza. And folks…it may have been the best single pizza I’ve ever had in my life.

Just look at this wonderful, edible journey.

What. A. Pie. This may have been the best pizza I’ve ever had. Yes, I said htat in back-to-back sentences because it was warranted.

What did it was the chicken. It was simply cooked chicken and not breaded and fried. That kept the whole meal lighter and brighter than if it had been fried. Sure, it wasn’t as crunchy, but it was so so good.

Eat here.

The Game

Burns has done a phenomenal job in building the Mariner program. Small enrollment be damned, she’s put together a team that features players from all around the region and even far-flung locales like Seattle and El Paso.

“Last couple of years we’ve really kind of branched out. We tried to cast a really wide net to make us competitive,” Burns said. “Six years ago we cast out that net and had a lot of success in New York that was a start in the change in culture. I think being able to get kids from Texas and Seattle and Maryland allows us to compete in the Northeast where there are some really good basketball programs.”

Burns’ club calls the Yarnall Athletics Center home.

It’s, well, it’s fine. It’s what you’d expect from a small D3.

Trophy case
Banners of past success

One thing that gets a big thumbs up from me was the vending machine downstairs. Yes, there was a small concession table at the gym selling popcorn, candy, and the standard drinks, but I rolled the dice with the machines in the lobby.

And…I got….an AHA seltzer AND peanut butter M&Ms, the best of all the M&Ms. Hell yeah.

Hell yeah.

The gym itself was small and creaked with decades of use. I love rooms like this.

I love gyms that still have these old scoreboards. They’re becoming more and more rare so any time I see one I feel good. Not everything needs to be an LED HD board.

Now this game was radioactive. This was a form of basketball rarely seen, and to interact with it you should wear personal protective equipment lest the glowing shrapnel sticks to your skin.

The ball was tossed in the air, and it was immediately clear that Westfield State was here to break what we think of as modern basketball and turn it into a bubbling geyser of glowing, radiating, radical rock. Don’t believe me? Take a look.

The Owls had one speed: manic. Get back in the halfcourt after your opponent gets a defensive rebound? Nope. Run an offensive set? Nope. Pure, refined mania.

However, even with the mania, the Owls were down 18-10 after a quarter thanks to sharp shooting by the Mariners in their halfcourt offense.

For the vast majority of the game, until deep in the fourth quarter, Westfield would do full five on, five off line changes every 90-150 seconds of game time. This led to 11 Owls playing at least 11 minutes.

When the Mariners were able to breathe and run their offense they were incredibly effective. Yasmine Santos effortlessly cuts to the bucket for two here in the second to open the gap back to seven.

Santos would finish with 21 points on 8-10 shooting and 11 boards.

The Mariners kept giving it to the Owls and not letting the pulsating defense affect them. Amina Wiley goes in here for a strong layup and deserves a spotlight.

Wiley is a program-changing player for the Mariners. The New Rochelle, NY native is the first player in program history to snag 1,000 rebounds and will graduate as the school’s leading female scorer and has a good chance of breaking the men’s record too.

She was NECC rookie of the year in 2019, NECC player of the year last year, and simply does it all for the red & black.

“She just continues to grow every year. She’s a dominant presence inside,” Burns said. “There aren’t many players with her skillset and her size at our level. There’s not a lot of players that can defend her. Even when she’s not scoring she draws so much attention which opens things up for other players. She’s that complete player for us.”

Even with Wiley as a force, Westfield continued to chip away at the lead by the Mariners kept finding answers.

But again, the Owls reached into their bag of suffocating tricks to manufacture points. This time Morgan Berthiaume finishes with a textbook layup.

The chaos wasn’t enough though for the Owls as Mitchell went into the halftime break up five.

The third opened with a bang as the Owls cut the gap to a single possession but Mitchell found answers. Olivia Hadla had a three for Westfield here, part of her game-high 24 points.

I was in awe of the Owls. They kept coming and coming at a breakneck pace. It was a pace I thought they couldn’t maintain but they kept coming in waves.

And late in the third they took the lead. I didn’t even realize it but suddenly they poked a steal and finished the bunny, and the Owls were up six.

But the strength of the Owls defensively was their weakness offensively. There was little rhyme or reason when they had the ball and the Mariners were able to exploit that.

First, it was Santos. Then it was Sam McKenna.

Mitchell had a chance to tie or take the lead heading into the fourth. The ball found McKenna.

McKenna finished with a team-high 23 points.

See those people in the bottom corner jumping for joy? Those are Burns’ parents. You love to see family support.

There was still 10 minutes to play and the Mariners held the slimmest of margins. But they were able to extend the lead. Jermia Dumas finishes a putback to open the gap to four.

The Owls had their one gear and kept up the pressure. Eventually, Hadla would be left open for a corner three and tie it.

Back-to-back layups by Hadla would give Westfield a three-point lead with 90 seconds to go. Who do you call here? Amina Wiley.

She missed the free throw to keep it a one-point Westfield lead. All the Mariners had to do was get a stop.

But Olivia Hadla…

Westfield State 86, Mitchell 82. Final
Player of the Game – Amina Wiley (MC) – 21 points, 22 rebounds, 4 blocks
Time of Game – 1:55:28

What a crazy ballgame. Getting into the numbers shows how weird it truly was.

You just don’t see teams lose when they outshoot opponents 56.1%-38.8%. You don’t see teams lose when they outrebound opponents 51-24. Westfield State made one more field goal than Mitchell (33-32) despite having 28 more attempts (85-57).

What was the difference? It was that nuclear defense. Mitchell turned the ball over 48 times. That’s 1.2 turnovers a minute. It was absolutely bonkers but it worked. The 48 wasn’t even a season high for Westfield. The Owls turned Mount Holyoke over 50 times in November.

That’s the beauty of college basketball. Under the cold, damp New England sky there could be basketball so peerless as to take your breath away.

Thanks for reading. Here’s one for the road.





THP #21: AJ Edwards

February 20, 2021 – Willimantic, Connecticut
Eastern Connecticut State vs UMass-Dartmouth
Men’s Basketball

“Whatchu mean walk the earth?”

“You know. Like Caine in Kung Fu. Walk from place to place. Meet people. Get in adventures.”

This is not, nor has this ever really been, a basketball blog. Sure, basketball is the glue that binds it all, but this is a blog dedicated to the fact that there is weird shit everywhere.

I really dislike this ideal pushed on young people in America that in order to have fully lived a life you must “find yourself” somewhere. Inevitably, that “somewhere” involves a flight or two. The destination always changes but the desired end goal is always the same: level up in a way you cannot do at home.

I’d rather stay home and learn where I live. New England isn’t all that big, but boy is there a lot of weird in these six small states. Wherever you are there will always be some weird nearby. Go find it.

Today I found myself in a charmingly named city of frogs. Can’t get much weirder than that.

Willimantic. What a lovely word to say. Located on the historic land of the Mohegans, Willimantic’s name comes from Algonquian meaning either “land of the swift running water” or “place near the evergreen swamp.”

It is currently a part of the town of Windham in northeast Connecticut, and it’s a town that’s got bridges.

The Willimantic Footbridge just looks cool. I’m a sucker for riveted iron bridges and this looks the part. Six-hundred feet long, and built in 1906, it’s the only footbridge in New England that spans both a river…

and a railroad.

But about those frogs. The frogs are a symbol of the city and are immortalized in statues around the town. The main road bridge over the river features two copper frogs at each end of the bridge.

Thread City Crossing

The frogs sit atop spools of thread, a nod to the town’s long textile history. But the frog story is far stranger.

The tale goes that in 1754 the townsfolk of Willimantic were tense and on edge as the French and Indian War had just begun. The people were expecting an attack in the near future.

That year there had been a drought and there was little water left for the frogs in nearby Follett Pond. The frogs began attacking each other, and the noise was so great that the townspeople thought they themselves were under attack and took up arms and all sorts of commotion was made.

There were cries of armageddon. There were people running with guns in the streets. Riders on horseback crested the hill ready for the fight. Nothing.

The next day the town awoke to find hundreds of dead frogs in the pond. The town was ridiculed throughout the colonies and the town seal was made to be a bullfrog.

Today, the apocryphal story is a beloved part of the town folklore and the pond has been renamed Frog Pond.

Weird shit’s everywhere.

The Good Eats

Connecticut food culture is everything New Jersey puffs its chest about, but without brashness. The Nutmeg state lets the pizza and burgers and diners and everything else stand on its own and stand out from the field without a need to tell everyone about it.

And when it comes to diners, Blondie’s is one of the best.

Located about five minutes from campus, it was a quintessential diner and it was a busy Saturday morning on this day.

One of my problems with diners is that sometimes the portions are insanity. I’m a big dude, and sometimes it’s just too much. I want to be able to clean a plate and not feel like death 20 minutes later.

Blondie’s balanced the line perfectly. I got a deluxe breakfast (not sure the name on the menu but that’s what I’m calling it) of a chocolate-chip pancake, eggs, sausage, toast, and home fries.

This is what a diner breakfast is supposed to be. They also had sausage patties, the supreme version of breakfast sausage, which was a nice addition to the plate.

Go to Blondie’s. Eat some food. it’s a good time.

The Campus

Eastern Connecticut State was founded in 1889. It grew from being a normal school and teacher’s college into a university, a status it gained in 1983.

Today, the campus is broken into the sections, North, South, and the sports complex which is about two miles from the bulk of the main campus.

After the game I got to take a walk around North Campus and she was a looker.

Smith Library
Foster Clock Tower
Science Building

On the side of the science building was Windframe, a kinetic sculpture by Tim Prentice that came alive in the wind.

The Game

Geissler Gymnasium sits on the second floor of the Sports Center, which sits a short walk from the library.

The first thing you notice when you get to the second floor is the lobby area. It’s massive. It’s well-lit, and it feels like a Division 1 space in every way.

Geissler Gym sits about 2,000 people when full and is exactly what you think of when you think of a D3 gym. It smells of lacquered wood. The bleachers creak with every step. It’s warm even in the dead winter.

I love places like this.

As you can see, the bleachers were only partially open to allow for the webcasting team to have some space and for the broadcasters to be able to get up top to work.

It also gave me the chance to dangle my feet off the edge of the bleachers while watching the game. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to do that again.

Press box

Today the Warriors were hosting the UMass-Dartmouth Corsairs. Even without a crowd, the pregame had a good vibe to it.

Early on the game was fast and fun. The teams traded buckets and UMass-Dartmouth went into the under-12 media timeout up 19-18.

It was college basketball in its purest form. There was no PA announcer. No national anthem. No lineups. No one to read the scorers and the fouls. It was just the game.

During the manic opening I turned on the camera and just wanted to capture some of the game’s flow. What I got was more than two minutes of serenity. Enjoy.

While the beginning was electric, eventually the Corsairs took over.The lead kept growing throughout the half. By the time intermission rolled around, UMD was up 11 points and firmly in control of the game.

And the lead just kept getting bigger. With nine minutes left, the Corsairs had opened it up to 21 points and were taking the game for a walk.

The Warriors were able to close it down a little, but this nifty layup by Adam Seablom but UMD up 14 with 6:30 to go.

And it’s at this point in time that we meet the protagonist of this story, AJ Edwards.

Edwards, a freshman from New Haven, left high school as his program’s all-time leading scorer. However, this afternoon, 30 minutes into the game, he had yet to crack the egg next to his number on the scoreboard.

And then AJ Edwards took the rock and turned the game into his own personal mountain to conquer.

Edwards scored 15 points in the final seven minutes of the second half. And every time he touched the ball he kept escalating.

He even found a way to crossover out of a steal. One of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in college basketball.

And on the back of Edwards, the Warriors chipped away at the lead. It shrank and shrank some more until a pair of free throws from Edwards put Eastern up a bucket with 19 seconds left.

But UMD did have a shot, and this was the top team in the conference.

Overtime it was, tied at 77. And like in regulation, the Corsairs sprinted ahead, leading by four just over two minutes into overtime.

But only one team had AJ Edwards.

But even Edwards couldn’t get the Warriors to turn the corner. The Warriors trailed by four inside the final minute of overtime and were down 85-83 with 40 seconds left.

And then this happened.

AJ Edwards finds Max Lee for the game-winning three. It was Lee’s only points of the game.

Eastern Connecticut State 86, UMass-Dartmouth 85. Final, overtime.

AJ Edwards: 24 points, five steals, four assists in 24 minutes off the bench.

This is all I ever want from sports. For a few fleeting minutes on a Saturday afternoon nothing else mattered. It was just AJ Edwards, an orange ball, and the entirety of the universe on a hardwood floor.

Four days after beating UMD, the Warriors hosted Keene State. It was another back and forth affair won by Eastern 85-83 in overtime. AJ Edwards hit the game-tying three at the end of regulation. He finished with 24 points.



THP #11: The Smallest Gym

January 28, 2020 – Henniker, New Hampshire
New England College vs Tufts University
Men’s Basketball

It was a cold night on the last Tuesday in January. It was the kind of cold that gave you claustrophobia. And it was in a town seemingly removed from the rest of New England.

Henniker has just a shade under 5,000 people and it feels less because the town is so spread out, with just 110 people per square mile.

It has three major claims to fame. The first is that it is the only Henniker on earth. The second is that it is the birthplace of paintball. The third is that the community of Henniker played an early role in the development of American Sign Language.

The town is an enigma. It has all the trappings of a tucked away hamlet in Vermont but it sits just 30 minutes away from Manchester and 20 minutes from Concord, the first and third largest cities in the state, respectively.

Today it is a small, sleepy town buried under the cold of a dark winter’s night.

The downtown starts at town hall and ends at the intersection of the Citizens Bank and the convenience store.

However, on this night there was excitement and theater all around as a fender bender snared the main thoroughfare through Henniker.

The Campus

The New England College campus feels very much like the many other small, secluded colleges that dot New England. Academically, NEC offers programs ranging from associate’s degrees all the way up to a doctoral degree program.

It’s also one of the most diverse universities in the country and was named as one of the 25 most diverse univerisities in the country by Time Magazine in 2018.

Athletically, NEC is a member of the New England Collegiate Conference, a non-football league of small private schools around New England. New England College is the only college in the country with athletic teams called The Pilgrims.

This is THP’s second stop in the NECC after Lesley.

Bridges Gym

The Game

Bridges Gym is small inside and out. With offices wedged into the tiniest of spaces, Bridges is definitely an exercise in maximizing space.

The cramped entryway of Bridges Gym

But nothing can top the size of the gym. Nothing can quite prepare you for seeing a 94-foot court in a room 100-feet long.

The yard between baseline and wall

On the bench side the sideline is only about seven feet from the wall. This is a room devoted to NEC athletics with not a single inch to spare. With a capacity of just under 400 it gets real loud real quick in a room this small.

And tonight was a night for it to get loud as nationally-ranked Tufts University was in town for a rare late-season non-conference game. While the Jumbos came it with the national ranking, NEC was by no means a lightweight. The Pilgrims entered the game 12-6 with talent across the floor.

Here, I want to take a minute to reference Calvin Cheek. The NEC junior from Boston has 385 career steals as of this writing. The all-time NCAA men’s career steals record is currently 452 held by Juvaris Hayes of Merrimack College. Cheek is on pace to break the record and potentially reach 500.

The game was a grind as both teams defended like their lives depended on it. Two squads used to scoring 80 or more, scored in fits and bursts.

Strong defense certainly helped keep the score down.

NEC let an eight-point lead slip away in the second half thanks to timely shooting by the Jumbos.

However, the Pilgrims were able to flip the script and pull back into the lead as the half progressed. Led by 16 points from Jamal Allen and 15 points by Cheek, the Pilgrims were able to consistently stay that one step ahead of Tufts throughout the final 10 minutes.

And when it came down to the final seconds, when Tufts had a chance to tie, NEC buckled down. New England College 59, Tufts 56. Final.

Top Performer: Luke Rogers (Tufts) – 8 pts, 16 rbd, 6 blk

During the game, I was sitting at the table and got to talking with some of the student workers. Everyone there cared. From the spotter to the PA announcer, it was so refreshing to talk with students that were actively involved and cared about the event going on.

One of the guys even offered me some of the french fries that he had with dinner. They were the good crispy ones, the ones you can only find at the local pizzeria. Good fries. Good kids.


THP #10: Basketball by The Sea

University of New England vs Gordon College
Women’s Basketball
Biddeford, Maine – January 22, 2020

For the fourth time this season, we are back in The Great State of Maine. I love it here. Maine truly has a little bit of everything for everyone, and today we’re by the beach.

Biddeford, Maine is located about 15 miles south of Portland and is the sixth-largest city in the state by population (21,300). It’s also one of the oldest towns in Maine as it was first visited by Europeans in 1616 and incorporated in 1653, 133 years prior to Portland.

Today, Biddeford is a twin city with Saco, which sits directly across the Saco River. Like many New England cities and towns located on rivers, Biddeford is an old mill town in flux. The last mill closed in 2009, bringing to the close a chapter that lasted more than 150 years.

Biddeford City Hall

Old mills are turning into offices for upstart companies, microbreweries, and small art galleries. Combined with nearby Saco, it creates for a pleasant, quiet corner of New England.

Local Eats

Directly over the bridge in Saco sits Rapid Ray’s. It is a step back in time. Opened in 1953, Rapid Ray’s is a fast food original.

There are no seats in the restaurant. There’s one counter to order and a wraparound counter around the interior of the resturant to stand at and eat.

And the food is bare-bones in all the best ways. Burgers, dogs, fries, onion rings, lobster rolls. All the important New England food groups under one roof and it’s all cooked right in front of you at an inexpensive price.

I went for the standard burger, hot dog, french fry combo with a cold diet Pepsi. On a cold January afternoon it was perfect.

The dining area.
A perfect meal

The Campus

The University of New England is the largest private university in Maine and is an important institution within the state. With satellite campuses in Portland and Tangier, Morocco, as well as a stout online offering, UNE boasts a student body of almost 7,500 with a shade under 2,500 undergrads in Biddeford.

The flagship campus features almost a mile of ocean frontage and is also home to the George and Barbara Bush Center, which focuses on the family’s history with the state of Maine.

UNE’s College of Osteopathic Medicine is the lone medical school in Maine and the College of Dental Medicine is the only dental school in Northern New England.

It’s athletic complex is on the other side of Route 9 from the bulk of the campus. The whole complex features multiple fields, including a blue football field, as well as the Harry Alfond Forum.

The Forum is a massive complex that features a full cafe, training facilities, UNE’s hockey rink, and the gymnasium.

There’ also a unique hall of fame dedicated to UNE’s long, unique history. There’s a nod to former school colors and old Westbrook College, which merged with UNE back in 1991. The original Westbrook campus morphed into UNE’s Portland satellite.

The gymnasium sits 1,200 people and is bright, vibrant, and a great place to catch a game.

The Game

For the first time during The Hoops Project we see a team for the second time. We’ve already seen Gordon College once before and know how good Meghan Foley is.

On this night she did what she does. Her game-high 19 points was almost half of Gordon’s total offense in the game.

It was all Gordon early. The Fighting Scots led by 11 midway through the third quarter and led in the fourth quarter. But the Nor’Easters were too much.

UNE closed the game on a 12-2 run to pick up the victory. UNE 58, Gordon 50. Final.

Time of game: 1:46
Top performer: Abby Cavallaro (UNE) – 17 pts, 5 rbd, 5 stl, 3 ast

As an added bonus, UNE’s men’s team won its game that night over Gordon 98-86. The mascot was quite content.