THP #25: Top of The Bell Curve

November 18, 2021 – Providence, Rhode Island
Providence College v New Hampshire
Men’s Basketball

I love this TED Talk by Roman Mars about the importance of design and how we take good design for granted.

When a building is designed well we regularly miss the flow and rhythm of the structure. It’s so good and ingrained that we pass through without much care unless you know what to look for. A well-designed building can quietly be a piece of art.

But a poorly-designed building? Those fuckers will frustrate you from sun up to sundown. Any building that makes you sigh when you’re in it is a mood and a bad one at that.

When it comes to a basketball arena I find that there are a few key things that a building must achieve to be considered good.

1. Every seat must have a good vantage point of the court. No seat should make you ask “really, they charge money to sit here?”

2. Getting in and out of the arena must be easy and common sense. If getting to or from your car is disorienting then there’s a problem.

3. There needs to be a good sound system. If you can’t hear the announcements then the room needs to be smaller.

4. We all know that arena concessions are a con, but at least let me feel like I’m getting something of value and not standing in a glorified bread line.

Now what if I told you that second-largest college basketball venue in New England fails to check all of those boxes? Would be pretty wild, right?

Welcome to the Dunkin Donuts Center AKA The Dunk AKA The Civic Center AKA The Top of the Bell Curve.

But before seeing basketball I needed hot dogs. Excuse me, I mean hot weiners.

The Good Eats

Located in the Olneyville neighborhood of Providence, New York System is an institution. Sharing a wall with Fete Music Hall, home to some of my favorite memories in professional wresting, New York System is the best.

You can walk in and have a weiner in your hand within 10 seconds. And, in my opinion, you absolutely must order them all the way which entails a steamed weiner (made of a beef/veal/pork blend) in a steamed bun topped with mustard, meat sauce, raw onion, and celery salt.

Just look at these masterpieces.

My order when I go is the special, two all the way with fries, and a burger and diet coke. Considering it was 5:30 and I hadn’t eaten all day it may as well have been the best meal of my life.

And the building is small. You can practically reach over the counter and cook the food yourself. It’s one of the few places where I always find myself in conversations with people whose names I’ll never know. It’s convivial. Familiar.

I’ve eaten at some relatively high-end places on my travels. None of them hold a candle to this. If you’re in Rhode Island or traveling through on 95, hop off and eat here. It’s going since the 40s for a reason.

Getting to the Arena

That’s a new section heading and you’ll never see it again. It’s necessary here because to get to the Dunkin Donuts Center is a herculean feat in its own right.

Situated in the heart of downtown Providence, the best place to park for a game at the Dunk is the parking garage of the Providence Place Mall which has thousands of spots and is only $2. Are there places closer? Yes. But there is no lot cheaper and, more importantly, larger than the one at Providence Place.

Now, parking in a garage to go to a game in a city is a regular occurence. I’ve done it in Boston and Hartford and Worcester and Manchester. However, all of those have one thing in common: you park, leave the garage, and take a short walk up the street to the building. Easy.

But not here. No. That would be too easy. What you can watch below is my eight-minute journey from my car to the Dunk. I promise, it is unlike anything you’ve seen before.

Why is the mall fully carpeted? Who signed off on that? Who is the sparkling thoughtmaker that decided to fully carpet a mall that is more than a million square feet?

The Arena

The Dunkin Donuts Center is big. It can hold 13,000 people for basketball and, when the opponent is a big enough name, Providence fans will pack it.

However, when the opponent doesn’t pass muster, the Dunk can be a sparse house.

The arena also hosts the AHL’s Providence Bruins and events as diverse as pro wrestling and the circus to concerts of all types. And as a multi-purpose arena it just doesn’t really fit anything well. It’s made even more striking because the best college basketball arena in New England is also in Rhode Island.

But being hemmed in by the mall on one side, Route 95 on another, and the heart of downtown on another created an oddly-shaped building that is bad for basketball.

Here’s the view from one of the top rows of the building. Notice how half the jumbotron is blocked by the banners because the roof is so low. The sound system is akin to the teacher from Charlie Brown at those heights.

Now here’s the view from a seat on the floor. This is a real seat that could be yours for $525 for the season.

What a lovely view with a whole side of the court blocked and the endline blocked by a table of media people. To sell this ticket, in my opinion, is the equivalent of theft. At least the seat at the top of the building is a victim of poor arena design. This one is insulting.

The only plus to this seat is that you’re right next to the Providence band, and it’s one of the best in New England.

Underneath feels like a dirge. Even with an $80 million dollar upgrade/renovation in 2005, the Dunk is blah. I’ve been here when it’s at capacity. It’s almost unsafe trying to get through the halls. But at least you can get a tallboy for $10.

And the greatest ignominy of all was the Dunkin Donuts in the arena wasn’t even open.

The Game

On paper it was a pretty straightforward game between a high-major team and a local one-bid opponent. Thing is, despite having a marked size disadvantage, UNH came to win.

The Friars jumped to a 20-9 lead. Rather than fold up, the Wildcats chipped away through the rest of the first half to get back within range. This three by Qon Murphy cut the gap to three.

It became tennis toward the end of the first half as both teams kept answering the other.

Nate Watson was a big ole problem for the Friars. The grad student was a nightmare for UNH to defend on the inside and made sure to keep the Wildcats at bay on the defensive end.

Even getting switched over to a Qon Murphy, Watson still gets back to get the swat.

Murphy would finish with a team-high 15 points for UNH off the bench.

UNH got to taste the spoils of adjusting and bouncing back early in the second half when they took the lead. With 16 minutes left UNH took a 40-39 lead.

Providence quickly retook the lead and blew it up to a dozen, but UNH kept chipping back and staying in it. Nick Guadarrama floated this one in, and he finished with 13 points.

But I did say earlier that Providence did have a size advantage and it showed down the stretch. The Friars finished +14 in rebounds and pulled away late.

Nate Horchler finished with a double-double of 10 points an 12 rebounds. All of his points came in the second half, and he had the honors of dropping the dagger.

Providence 69, New Hampshire 58. Final.
Time of game: 1:50:00

With about a minute left in the game the refs called a jump ball on a tie-up. The fans behind me were incensed with the call and loudly rode the officials for nearly a minute about how horrible the call was. Providence had the arrow.

Maybe they were traumatized by the mascot.

Anyway, that’s the Dunk. Let’s meet somewhere else next time. Here’s one for the road.

 

THP #18: Huntington

January 4, 2021 – Boston, Massachusetts
Northeastern vs Delaware
Women’s Basketball

Welcome back my friends to the show that never ends. We’re so glad you could attend. Come inside, come inside.” — Karn Evil 9 – First Impresion – Part 2 by Emerson, Lake, & Palmer.

Man, did I miss this. The last time I was inside a gym was back on March 7. I was at Tufts for the second round of the D3 men’s NCAA tournament. The Jumbos held off a talented RPI team to win by nine and advance to the Sweet Sixteen. I was covering the game for the Times Union in Albany.

The gym was packed to the gills. As the final seconds wound down the student section sang along with John Denver’s Take Me Home, Country Roads. I didn’t pay it much mind because I was on deadline and the following week was a big one.

I had assignments in Maine, New York, and Connecticut lined up. And then poof. Five days after I saw Tufts beat the Engineers the whole season got chucked in the bin.

I cried when the NCAA tournament was cancelled. It wasn’t even about the basketball. It was about losing an anchor point in my life that had defined every year for me for more than 20 years.

The opening weekend was almost my personal start to spring. Sure, it may have still been 35 degrees outside, but it was opening Thursday and that meant sunny skies and warmer nights were coming soon.

Every March I could tie the dance back to my memories of chaos growing up. TJ Sorrentine hit it from the parking lot when I was a kid. Ty Rogers and WKU blowing my bracket apart and beating Drake when I was in high school. Picking Norfolk State to beat Missouri because I had a hunch Frank Haith would blow another big game.

Every March tied into the ones before and would into the ones to come. But 2020 had no March. It was devastating.

So far this season I had reached out to contacts I had about picking up work, both written and broadcast. Anything to just get me in a gym. Places I’d worked for years either weren’t playing or weren’t welcoming people inside.

It was shaping up to be the first winter since 1996, when I was five, that I wouldn’t see a live college basketball game. I got a gig working the PA at one place. Then I got an email that morning that the game was postponed.

Man, did it suck. As I’ve gotten older, college basketball has become an almost spiritual experience of connecting with the land. I’m a New Englander to my core. Born here. Raised here. Married here. Will die here.

This project has been a way for me to get out and see all of New England. All the small towns and little hideaways tucked in corners that I’d never have thought to look. That’s the greatest joy of this. It never matters who wins or loses. What matters is the journey.

And I thought there would be no miles to log or gyms to see this year. It dragged on me like a weight. But, like the song lyric above, college hoops finds a way (for better or worse) to roll on.

. . .

Northeastern is a hockey school through and through. Nothing matters more to the student body than winning the Beanpot, Boston’s annual tournament to crowd the city champion between NU, Harvard, Boston College, and Boston University.

I’ve always been fond of Northeastern. I grew up going to Husky football. Played on a tiny field tucked away in Brookline far from campus, I saw NU’s best teams ever. A 10-2 squad in 2002 that made the NCAA tournament before being upset by Fordham in the first round was the highlight.

Although being 11 and seeing that loss live was crushing. But what was more crushing was when the team was dropped in 2009. I was a freshman at Rhode Island and was at the Huskies’ last ever game, a 33-27 win over the Rams. John Griffin scored Northeastern’s last touchdown, an 18-yard run with 48 seconds left in the third quarter.

At last year’s Beanpot final the students filled more than half of the upper deak at TD Garden and made a ruckus all night long, capped by a rousing rendition of the greatest song ever after the Huskies beat BU in a thrilling 5-4 game.

Even with a student body that comes out to support the teams, basketball does not have much history of success on Huntington Avenue. The men’s team found great success in the 80s led by Reggie Lewis on the court and Jim Calhoun on the sideline, making six NCAA tournaments and winning three tournament games during the decade.

The women have made just one tournament (1999) , and that was back when the program competed in America East and not its current home, the CAA.

Other than that the best team was the 2015 men’s team that won the CAA and gave Notre Dame a heart attack before losing 69-65 in the opening round.

But even without much history, Northeastern does stand out from the crowd. It is one of just four schools in New England (UMass Lowell, Fairfield, and Providence) to have two venues for basketball.

One is the oldest continuously operating arena in the country. The other is our stop today.

The Hub of the Universe

The Good Eats

With a unique 1 p.m. Monday start time there was a need to grab a quick lunch before tip. Luckily, being in the heart of Boston, there are many great places to bop in and grab a quick bite.

I was feeling mediterranean and Boston Shwarma was open. the fact that there was no line was gravy.

A small storefront just down the road from the gym, it sits about a seven iron away from Symphony Hall. And it’s great. Small, compact, well-priced, and a damn good spot to get a shwarma on the go.

I went classic, a lamb shwarma and chips sandwich. It came with all the fixings so it was meaty and savory and crunchy and messy and perfect for crisp winter day in Boston.

I didn’t realize how much I’d missed grubbing up on the go. Walking down Huntington having a sandwich, feeling the familiar embrace of cold winter air wrap itself in and around me was something I hadn’t thought I’d yearned for.

Covid has taken away so many of the daily smells of being out and about because of masks. Masks are good. It was nice, even for just two minutes, to feel the burning sensation of cold air in my nostrils.

A perfect shwarma

The Neighborhood

Like the other big schools in Boston, Northeastern doesn’t so much have a campus as it’s a distinct neighborhood. Located on the E train branch of the Green Line, Northeastern is in the heart of Boston.

It’s also so close to BU that the banners on the lampposts change from one school to the other and you don’t even notice.

The E train

The Museum of Fine Arts was around the corner from the gym. When it’s open it’s one of the great art institutions in America. My favorite painting, Renoir’s Dance at Bougival sits in the Impressionists’ gallery at the MFA. It’s a wonderful place.

Next time I’m at Northeastern I’ll stop in and hopefully show you what’s on exhibition.

The MFA

The Game

About 30 minutes before tip my friend Brandon called me. I pace when I’m on the phone and I’m glad I did because I wound face to face with Cy Young.

Cy Young

Located between the gym and Churchill Hall there’s a small patch of grass and Cy is looking in on home plate for the sign.

This was the site of the Huntington Avenue Ground, the original home of the Boston Americans baseball team. Today the club is better known as the Red Sox. The Grounds hosted the first World Series in 1903, in which Young led the Americans to a 5-3 series win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Home plate

Now the Cabot Center sits on the sit of the old ballfield along with other campus buildings.

Cabot Center entrance

While both basketball teams are playing at the Cabot this year, traditionally it’s only home to games for women’s basketball and women’s volleyball.

Two things strike you immediately upon walking in: the immense amount of natural light and the gray playing surface.

The natural light is lovely. I can’t think of any other D1 facility in New England with windows overlooking the court. It gives the building a brightness that fluorescent lights just can’t.

The matchup was the first of a back-to-back between the Huskies and Delaware, another former America East program. The Blue Hens have made four NCAA tournaments this century, making it back-to-back in 2012-2013 on the shoulders of Elena Della Donne.

The Blue Hens made the Sweet 16 in 2013.

The game was great in the early going as the teams traded the lead with zeal. Up 15-14 in the first quarter the Blue Hens found a different gear and scored 13 straight points to widen the lead and never looked back.

The Blue Hens rolled. A strong game inside (outrebounding NU 43-35) and a strong game outside (47.7 percent shooting) compounded with timely defense allowed Delaware to win with ease.

The Blue Hens outscored Northeastern 50-19 over the second and third quarters.

Delaware had five players with 11 or more points including a team-high 16 points from Tyi Walker. The Blue Hen bench outscored the Husky reserves 35-9.

Mide Oriyomi had 20 for Northeastern and Stella had a full day with 13 points, nine assists, five rebounds, and four steals for the Huskies. Delaware was just too much.

Delaware 86, Northeastern 59. Final.
Time of game – 1:50
Player of the game – Ty Battle (Delaware) — 13 points, 14 rebounds, 2 steals

One of the more surprising things for me was how familiar everything felt once I got in the gym. Sure, there are no fans and no general gameday buzz, but once I was in the gym I was vibing with the pregame music. It was like putting on your favorite jacket after it spent all year folded up in the closet.

Yes, there was plexiglass surrounding everyone’s seat at the media table but even then couldn’t take me out of the moment. It was basketball. It was familiar. It was home.

THP #13: The Burg

February 5, 2020 – Fitchburg, Massachusetts
Fitchburg State vs MCLA
Women’s Basketball

Fitchburg is the kind of town that’s easy to drive through. With Route 2 running directly through the city, thousands of people drive through Fitchburg very day.

But the City by the River is a charmer. With a population of 40,000 it’s like many mill towns in Northern Massachusetts. It’s worn and cramped by the centuries of time. It creaks with the stories of people long past.

Downtown Fitchburg

The Good Eats

In a town like Fitchburg it just made sense to go where the townies go. And that took me to Slattery’s. Located on a corner, the bar/restaurant could easily be described as rustic. Low ceilings. Low lights even in the afternoon. It was a place I knew I could get a good meal and disappear into a booth.

The classics are classic for a reason and the veal parm was a classic. I don’t ask for much from most restaurants. Just give me good, solid food that isn’t the bare minimum. Fresh meat. Al dente pasta. Great stuff.

Around Town

When I travel to these places I’m always trying to find good bakeries. If I could figure out all the best places to find a good cookie or cannoli I’d love it.

And Fitchburg has a great spot in the Dutch Kitchen Bake Shop. Located in a strip mall, the Dutch Kitchen has case upon case of delicious treats.

I got myself a chocolate chip cookie. It was good. I got the fiance a lemon square. It was great. Definitely pull off Route 2 and grab a pastry.

To top it off, Fitchburg had an art museum and I wasn’t about to say no to a little bit of culture in my trip to Central Mass.

The Fitchburg Art Museum is located on a hidden little side street. Established in 1925 at the bequest of Eleanor Norcross, a famous artist and collector born in the city. Norcross was the first American artist to have her works showcased at the Louvre in Paris.

After her death in 1923 she left many of her works and a sizable amount of money to establish an arts and cultural center in her hometown.

On this day there was a whole room dedicated to works by my favorite American Artist, Winslow Homer. Before he painted his famous landscapes in Maine, he was a magazine illustrator and the exhibit went back through his career with the pen.

Exhibitions of African art and Egyptian relics filled the museum and gave it a worldwide feel. For less than $10 it’s definitely worth an hour of your time when you come to Fitchburg.

 

A replica of one of King Tut’s thrones

American Domestic by Willie Cole

The Game

The Recreation Center at Fitchburg State is just that. It’s a place for students all over campus to workout or run a game of pickup. The Falcons’ basketball and volleyball teams call the venue home.

Small, smelling of wood lacquer, and worn in by the years, it’s a perfectly serviceable place to play and watch basketball.

On this night it is the Falcons women’s team taking on the Trailblazers of MCLA (Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts), and it was all Falcons from the jump.

Fitchburg took the lead early and grew it to six by halftime.

Fitchburg grew the lead to 11 after three quarters and would go on to pick up the 56-41 win.

The top performer was Fitchburg senior Angelina Marazzi. Marazzi had 23 points and nine boards for the Falcons.

The most notable thing about the game though was its length. From start to finish the game took exactly 80 minutes. I don’t know if I’ll ever see a full 40-minute game that fast ever again.

. . .

Sharing a wall with the bakery was Disc Golf 978, a store dedicated exclusively to disc golf. It was a festival for the eyes upon walking in.

I got to talking with the man behind the counter, Adam. He was so passionate about disc golf. He was explaining to me the difference between a driver and a putting disc. The differences in materials. The prevalence of courses throughout Massachusetts.

I love passionate people. They do the three important things: show up, give a shit, try. If you do those three you’ll be doing okay in life and Adam certainly was.

I asked him how people view the university and the school’s athletic teams around town. He said there were two types of people: the ones who were ambivalent and the ones who took great pride in having a university in town. I’d rather get to know the latter.

Fitchburg. Nice town.

THP #9: Green Mountain

January 17, 2020 – Middlebury, Vermont
Middlebury College vs Colby College
Men’s Basketball

Vermont is a self-contained universe of small towns. It’s largest city, Burlington, is the smallest largest city in the country with a population just a shade over 42,000. The second-largest city, South Burlington, has just under 18,000 people.

Today the road took me to Middlebury, a town of just 8,500, and the ride took me through tiny towns like Bethel, a place that has less people than my high school.

Downtown Bethel, VT

What Vermont lacks in megacities it makes up for in its charm, and Middlebury is the perfect kind of charming. It’s a town straight out of central casting. A snowy hamlet in the mountains wrapped around an elite university with the history to match.

John Deere, yes, that John Deere, went to college here. Robert Frost taught at the school for more than four decades. That’s just the kind of place that Middlebury College, and the town itself, is.

Middlebury

It’s a bear to get to as it’s an hour off I-89 through land so remote that there is no connectivity of any type. However, once you get there it is a truly wonderful little town.

Local Eats

The Fire and Ice resturant (not connected to the chain) is a local treasure. Opened in 1974, the restaurant is a landmark in town and has the food to back it up. A quirky mishmash of trinkets and stained glass inside, Fire and Ice is a delight.

Every entree comes with a complimentary all-you-can-eat salad bar. The bar has every salad staple along with chickpeas, sushi, and pasta salad among its options.

There is also a well-manicured boat in the middle of the salad room.

The boat.

The dining rooms were exactly what you would think from a cozy, family-owned New England restaurant. Soft lighting, stained glass, books set upon the walls.

What made the night even better was that I was meeting my friend Clayton, A native Vermonter, Clayton is one of many groovy people I’ve met in my sports travels. An author, a traveler, and a member of SABR, Clayton’ the kind of guy who loves his state and loves the theatricality of sports.

He was also picking up dinner that night, and I’m never one to say a negative thing about someone like that.

If you had told me the best cheesesteak I’d ever have would be in Northwest Vermont I’d have said there’s no way. But that sandwich could compete with any of Philly’s best.

The Campus

Middlebury has just 2,500 students but just a shade over $1 billion in its endowment. With that comes resources unavailable to most D3 schools, or for that fact many D1 institutions.

It shows the most with the main athletic building on campus. Enclosed within is the indoor track, pool, ice arena, and the gym. There could very well be more but that’s just what I walked by on my way to the game.

Middlebury’s indoor track complex

Kenyon Ice Arena can hold 2,600 people

The Natatorium

The Game

Pepin Gymnasium is nice and cozy. Sitting a compact 1,200 people, the room is no-frills in the best possible way.

Pepin Gymnasium

One quirk of the room is its baseline. Due to the gym being housed in a Quonset hut-esque building, it means that pillars extend a little too close to the court on the baseline which creates one of the more unique padding setups in college basketball.

The contest was a massive one in Division III. It was 12th-ranked and unbeaten Colby traveling west to play the fifth-ranked Panthers.

The game had an added energy due to Noah Tyson. A native of nearby Castleton, the sophomore had a large and vocal cheering section right behind the Colby bench.

Tyson finished with 11 points and six rebounds. Check out a nifty layup from Tyson late in the first half.

The game was an excellent one. Colby led by 10 in the first half but couldn’t shake the Panthers. Middlebury eventually took the lead, 71-69 with 5:52 left but Colby took the lead back for good less than a minute later and put it away with this three:

Colby 89, Middlebury 82. Final.

Top performer for Colby: Alex Dorion -23 points
Top performer for Middlebury: Jack Farrell – 20 points, six rebounds

Time of game – 1:30

 

THP #7: The Edge

January 11, 2020 – Medford, Massachusetts
Lesley vs UMass-Boston
Men’s Basketball

Welcome to the edge. Take one step further and you fall down the abyss. This is the farthest reaches of college basketball. The Kuiper Belt. This is a place where most do not think to tread.

This is Lesley University’s men’s basketball facility. This is the gym at Medford High School.

To understand how I found myself walking around a brutalist concrete building in the northern suburbs of Boston on a hot January afternoon we must first understand the unique identity of Lesley.

Lesley University is located in Cambridge and has roughly 7,400 students but only 2,600 undergraduates. Among its academic offerings, there are programs in specific areas such as expressive therapies, counseling, and fine arts. It isn’t a school driven by its athletic teams.

The school is also located four miles from Medford High, and getting through the Boston traffic can make that drive take almost 40 minutes. Add all these variables into the pot together and you get a team that is winless and a program that has two winning seasons in the last 14.

I chatted with the school’s custodian on my way out of the gym and he told me that Lesley paid to put down a full hardwood court to keep in line with NCAA guidelines as MHS had a rubber court. The track surrounding the court is still rubber.

But at least there’s a Lesley logo on the court.

Getting In

One would think that the best way into a high school would be through the front door. Not today. There was some type of weekend school program so I was told to walk around to the back of the school.

So I did. I walk to the door and went in only to be met by a locked door in the inner vestibule.

Back out I went. It was up a 43-step staircase and through the loading dock before I found a door propped open by a chair and heard the ever-familiar noise of Jordans squeaking on hardwood. I had finally made it.

The Game

There was a curtain drawn midway through the gym and a youth league playing on the other side.

About 10 minutes before tipoff a ref walks over to me as I sit courtside at the midline and jokingly asks how I was able to afford these seats. I responded, laughed, stayed for the first few minutes and moved to the top row. I found $2 under the bleachers so at least the expedition netted me a future Fresca.

There were 25 people in the stands at tipoff.

Lesley basketball is not good. The men’s program is winless this season and won nine or fewer games seven times last decade. The Lynx lost their first two games of the season by nine and 11 points, respectively and have lost the ensuing games by an average of 35.5 points.

And this game went to script. UMass-Boston showed why it’s one of the top teams in the Little East this year. The Beacons jumped out early and never let up. A 10-point lead ballooned to 15 and to 20. UMass Boston won 90-64.

Dasan Cinelli finished with 30 points while Malik Lorquet had a double-double with 10 points and 10 boards.

It wasn’t for a lack of trying by the Lynx either. Chase Howard had 27 points on 8-13 shooting. Kostas Tatsis had 14 points and 10 boards in 23 minutes off the bench. But being minus-15 on the glass and shooting 19-66 will do in anyone.

Time of game: 1:42

THP #6: 4.2 Miles

January 9, 2020 – Beverly, Massachusetts
Endicott v Gordon
WBB/MBB

Sometimes you love your neighbors. Sometimes you want to constantly express your displeasure at their existence.

For Endicott College and Gordon College, close quarters does not make for a pleasant relationship. Located a 12-minute drive apart up Route 127 and through Pride’s Landing and Beverly Farms, it’s exclusively mutual disdain and contempt between the Gulls and the Fighting Scots.

It’s made more intense by the recent success of the two programs. On the men’s side, one of the two schools has made every conference title game since 2012. Gordon also won the league in 2010.

On the women’s side, Endicott was the league runner up in 2019.

Even though the students were away on break, the games drew a nice crowd. This year had the added touch of featuring some of the greatest players either school had ever seen.

The Venue

Located in Beverly, Mass., Endicott College was founded in 1939 and has since grown to be a school of just more than 5,000 people.

Today the school hangs its hat on its internship program as every Endicott student is required to put in thee internships, which means they are learning experientially almost immediately after getting to campus.

Fun fact: Beverly Hills is named after Beverly Farms, the neighborhood where Endicott is located, as it was a favorite vacation spot for then-president William Howard Taft.

The Gulls basketball teams today play at the Post Center. As with many Division III schools, the Post Center is an athletics venue and a student rec center as well as a place for classes and meetings.

A neat quirk of Endicott athletics is that club sports are outwardly treated just as prominently as varsity sports. The club teams get their own tabs on the athletic site just like the varsity teams.

Club teams even get banners in the gym after winning championships.

The Women’s Game

As many Division III schools do in New England, the basketball teams play doubleheaders as a way to cut down on travel costs.

Tonight, the women led off and Gordon was led by Meghan Foley. The day this game was played she was the leading female scorer in all of Division III and the third-leading scorer across the entire NCAA.

As of this writing she has dropped to second and fourth in those categories, but 25.1 points a game is nothing to sneeze at. The native of Malden, Mass. is going to finish as the program’s second-leading scorer.

Meghan Foley (in blue)

And on this night she was a machine. Foley went for 19 points in the first half as the Fighting Scots raced to a 14-point lead.

 

Endicott made it exciting in the second half and even cut it to a one-score game, but they didn’t have Meghan Foley. Foley finished with 33. It was her third-best scoring performance of the season.

Gordon 90, Endicott 82. Final
Time of game – 1:30

The Men’s Game

When it comes to the best scorers in men’s college basketball, the name that instantly comes up is Markus Howard. The Marquette senior has been a scoring machine in his time in Milwaukee and, as of this writing, leads Division I in scoring with 27.3 points a game.

Gordon senior Eric Demers is averaging 33.6 a game. He is currently the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,974 points with 10 games left in the season. And he’s not even the only all-time leading scorer in the game.

Endicott senior Keith Brown has been a ridiculous scorer his whole career. A two-time state champion at Pelham High in Pelham, NH, Brown can reasonably hit a shot from anywhere inside the halfcourt line.

Averaging 21 points a game, as of this writing, Brown sits less than 100 points away from breaking Kamahl Walker’s school record of 1894 and is also an excellent facilitator.

Brown grew from a bench player his freshman year on a Sweet 16 team to a star. He’s scoring less as a senior than as a sophomore, but those dimes are adding up into dollars for the Gulls.

And both players stepped up in what turned out to be a ridiculous game. Brown flashed his court vision and cashed in some dimes.

Gordon led 39-36 at half. Demers had a rough first half with 12 points on 5-14 shooting. Brown had 15.

Now, once the teams flipped ends Demers put the game in his pocket. His second half was 16 points on 5-11 shooting and 4-8 from three. Just look at the nonsense he was pulling out of universe.

It was ridiculous. Forty minutes couldn’t contain the game. Tied at 76, five more was put on the board.

The OT was as nip/tuck as regulation. In the final minute, Endicott found themselves up 86-83 and then this happened.

With the game tied at 86, Endicott was unable to score the ball and gave Gordon a chance to escape Post with a win, and it appeared they did with a layup at the horn by Parker Omslaer.

However, a foul was called. Two made free throws by Endicott with a second left did the trick. Endicott 88, Gordon 86. Final.

Do you think it was a foul?

Eric Demers: 31 points
Keith Brown: 28 pts, 6 rbd, 5 ast, 7 stl

Time of game – 1:44

THP #2: The Downeast Queen

November 3, 2019 – Bangor, Maine
University of Maine vs McGill men’s basketball

Almost the exact halfway point between Boston and Quebec City, Bangor sits in the heart of Central Maine with the Penobscot River running right through town

The Queen City of the East is gorgeous. Even on a chilly New England fall day, downtown Bangor stood out.

The third-largest city in the state of Maine, Bangor was once the lumber capital of the east coast. In the 1860s, Bangor was the world’s largest lumber port with more than 3,000 ships passing through the docks each year.

The glory of the lumber years is long past but the city still stands bright today thanks in part to being home to Husson College and the nearby University of Maine.

Most importantly, it’s pronounced bain-gore and not banger.

Come take a ride with me through downtown Bangor.

Things to Eat

Bangor is a sneaky good food town. With the two colleges nearby, there are bound to be good food stops and they do not disappoint.

I had dinner at Dysart’s. Wow. It’s like an IHOP type of restaurant but 10/10. Quality ingredients. Homemade soups and breads. You can tell it’s a place that take’s pride in the food that comes out of the kitchen.

One thing you’ll notice about the food reviews in these blogs are the three C’s: Clubs, Caesars, and Cookies. I’m on a quest to find the best Caesar salad in New England and a cookie and a club sandwich can say so much more about the quality of a restaurant than a fancy dish can.

With that said, you’re going to have a tough time trying to find a better cookie in New England than at Fork & Spoon in the heart of Bangor. The size of a small car tire, they satisfy in a way that Chips Ahoy could only dream of.

Homemade vegetable soup at Dysart’s

Turkey Club with the goodies at Dysart’s

Dysart’s blueberry pie. Yes, homemade.

The birthday cake cookie from Fork & Spoon

The University

The University of Maine is the flagship of the state’s university system and is located in Orono which is about 20 minutes north of Bangor. With an enrollment of roughly 11,000, U-Maine is also the state’s lone Division I athletics program.

Academically, the University of Maine is one of a select number of space grant universities that get federal grants to study and research the cosmos. Additionally, Maine is home to one of the nation’s oldest honors college and is the birthplace of the Phi Kappa Phi honors society.

When it comes to athletics, Maine is mostly known for its men’s hockey team. The Black Bears won national titles in 1993 and 1999, with the former considered the greatest college hockey team of all time after racking up a 41-1-2 record en route to the title.

Games at Alfond Arena are fun, loud, and usually draw the biggest regular season crowds for Maine sporting events.

Alfond Arena

The Game

Cross Insurance Center

When it comes to basketball in Maine, Bangor is home. The Bangor Auditorium stood for 57 years and hosted packed houses pushing 6,000 people for the high school state finals.

Closed in 2013, the new Cross Insurance Center opened to replace it. Not to be confused with the Cross Insurance Arena two hours south in Portland, the CIC opened as the new home for basketball in Maine.

The high school finals take place there and both men’s and women’s teams from the University left their on-campus home, the cozy Memorial Gym, and set up shop in Bangor.

However, when it comes to University of Maine basketball, the real success has come on the women’s side. With nine NCAA tournament appearances, including bids in 2018 and 2019 thanks to a pair of America East titles, the women’s team has quietly built itself into one of the most consistent mid-major programs in the Northeast.

Throughout the arena, there are wall hangings and memorabilia from basketball greatness long past.

A small portion of the Maine Basketball Hall of Fame

And the arena itself is a real gem. With a seating capacity of 5,500, the CIC has all the amenities of other midsize modern arenas. Spacious concourses, a variety of food options, and good sightlines make this a real hidden gem in New England.

Oh, and did I mention that there’s a casino across the street?

The Seating Bowl

The concourse

The game itself was a fun one. Despite it being an exhibition, both teams came to play. The Black Bears opened up a seven-point lead at intermission and held it through the second half to claim a 70-63 win.

Time of game – 1:42
Price for a bottle of water: $3
Attendance – 320
Top Performer – Andrew Fleming (Maine): 22 pts, 9 reb, 5 ast, 4 blk, 2 stl

Thanks Bangor it was fun. Looking forward to coming back one more time.

Up Next: Blue Devil Mania