Category Archives: Sports

Staying Grounded with Jason Page


By Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor

The commercials finish airing and there is minimal buildup. The radio goes from zero to a hundred miles per hour in mere seconds.

“Get ready for four hours of The Back Page in your future!” The man with the booming voice who is shouting those words seems extremely comfortable in the small radio booth in which he stands.

This is how Jason Page welcomes the listeners to his show based out of ESPN Radio 1410 in Hartford.

The program also airs locally on ESPN Radio 1300 in New Haven, and has been around for over a year.

The first time I met Jason Page was in the press box at Arute Field for a CCSU football game.  He strolled in after the game had started, and sat down immediately to my left with the producer of his show, Evan Wilner, in tow.

Over the course of the game, we talked and realized we shared a mutual co-worker. By the end of the game, he was telling me details about his contract negotiations with Clear Channel.

At the time, I thought to myself, “Wow, what an ego.” But in a business like sports radio, ego is an essential tool of the trade. Radio personalities are in charge of hours of show time, they’re the star and what they say goes. They can’t be as successful as Page without a dominant personality.

The ego seems primarily based on pride in his accomplishments and knowledge of the sports world. There are times where he seems self-conscious, but that works in sync with his decisiveness – the same decisiveness that allows him to rant and speak freely in each segment of his program for four hours at a time.

While Page does have the characteristics of a sports talk radio host with his outgoing personality and off-the-cuff opinions, he’s a lot more like the fans than the typical sports media. He openly admits that he would rather be in the stands with fans than be on press row.

He is not a journalist, and doesn’t try to toe that line. He’s a commentator who clearly enjoys his job, even if it is grueling at times.

And comment he does. On anything and everything. Even during our interview, he would comment on anything that caught his eye, or in this case, nose. Someone who apparently overdid it with cologne walked by, and Page paused for a moment.

“God, did he drown himself in that stuff?” he asked, stopping in mid-sentence. “You smell that?” He also managed to interrupt a conversation about the Yankees to point out how terrible the pizza provided by CSU was.

Opinions like those are what make Page polarizing. Those who listen to his show either love him or hate him. What matters to him is the fact that those people are listening.

“People who don’t like me are still listening to me, which is what I like even more,” he says.  “Fine, you disagree with me, but you’re still listening to me, so you must find me entertaining on some level.”

A fan base in particular that he finds opposition from is that of Red Sox Nation. His strong opinions tend to irk Boston fans at times, who accuse him of being a New York homer.

“They can’t be objective, and they hate anybody who is,” he said about Red Sox fans. “All people hear is me knocking on the Red Sox. They won’t hear when I praise the Red Sox.”

Another group who seems to have Page pegged as biased against their team are fans of  the University of Connecticut teams. His criticism of Hasheem Thabeet has been a hot-button topic for Huskies fans in the past 12 months.

It might also be fueled by the fact that Page pays attention to CCSU sports and those of the smaller schools in the area. He regularly interviews coaches from Central, Quinnipiac and Yale on his program.

“There’s something more to Connecticut sports than just the UConn Huskies,” he said. “UConn loves the fact that they have a monopoly on the whole state, and I want to try and break that up a little bit and let people realize that… you’ve got two [other] talented teams in our listening area.”

Those quotes are his honest opinions, and that honesty is what makes Page refreshing to listen to.  The way he carries himself on the air is exactly who he is off the air.

“If you’re phony, people are going to hear it,” he said.

Wilner, the show’s producer, attests that Page is a radio personality in every sense of the words.  “He’s very talented,” Wilner said. “A lot of on-air talent, they can be assholes at times. Jason certainly fits that at times, but there are other times where he’s the easiest person in the world to work with.”

Both Wilner and Page worked in the sports department at Sirius Satellite Radio before coming to Hartford, and their working relationship continues to evolve as time goes on.

“He allows me a lot of freedom,” says Wilner.

Page has carried a torch for smaller schools like CCSU and Quinnipiac in the time that The Back Page has been on the air.

Howie Dickenman and Tom Moore, the head coaches for each school’s Men’s Basketball program, each do a weekly interview with Page on the air.

Page described Howie as very “old-school,” and “the antithesis” of Blue Devils Football coach Jeff McInerney, who is widely recognized as more media-friendly.

He recalls the story of how he was approached to book Coach Mac as a guest by CCSU’s Sports Information Director.

“Tom Pincince called us up and he was like, ‘you guys should have Coach Mac on during the season.’ And I was like, ‘Good lord, it’s CCSU Football for crying out loud!’”

Page remembered how McInerney’s personality won him over.

“The first day we talked to him, he came in the studio. As soon as he walked out, I looked at Wilner and said, ‘We’ve got to have him on every week.’ He’s such a character, and he makes you want to have him on.”

In a market where there is a clear demand for sports, The Back Page is a locally driven show which touches on national issues.  It’s an alternative to New York or Boston stations that ignore Connecticut, or local talk stations that only have time to discuss sports for an hour or two a day.

His focus on Central is a major reason to tune into The Back Page. College students are not typically the target demographic for sports talk radio, especially in this age of iPods and mp3 players.

“We’re fun. It’s a fun show. It’s not typical X’s and O’s sports radio,” Page said. “If you’re the pocket-protector-wearing sports geek who wants to talk about the backup tight end on the New York Giants, you’re not going to want to listen to this show.”

Dorau The [Sports] Explorer: Bilas Misses Big Picture for Big Dance

 

By Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor

In the CCSU Men’s Basketball media guide, freshman guard Robby Ptacek said the reason he chose to play here at Central was “for a chance to play in the NCAA Tourney.”  If Jay Bilas of ESPN has his way, Ptacek will never set foot in the Big Dance.

I understand that part of the ESPN-ization of the world means that their talking heads are the singular voices for movements like this, but the absurdity of Bilas’ plan to improve the quality of the NCAA Tournament is vocal enough where he can be referenced as its leader.

Bilas has encouraged the idea that the top 65 teams be included in the tournament, eliminating the automatic berths from each conference.  His arguments in defense of doing so are all fatally flawed.

So how exactly would we go about selecting the top 65 teams?  Maybe we should use the current polls in place combined with computer selection?  The BCS is a joke.  If the NCAA Tournament goes to that formula, it would be regressing in entertainment value.  We clamor in the fall for a playoff system in football, and here in basketball season, we have that coveted playoff system, and now we’re in danger of screwing it up.

According to his article, Bilas says the argument in favor of automatic bids “is a sentimental one.” While there may be a hint of truth to that, it is far more an argument against exclusion, inequity, greed, and monopolization.

So I ask, if automatic bids are removed from the NCAA Tournament, then what the hell are all the players here at CCSU playing for? 

When I stormed the court with hundreds of other fans in March of 2007, it wasn’t simply because the Blue Devils won the Northeast Conference, it was because they were going to the big dance and the players that worked so hard were finally going to get their shot on the national stage.

Sixteen total conferences would have their automatic bids revoked under Bilas’ plan, including the NEC. He cites each small conference’s lack of success in March Madness, which is a part of what makes the tournament so great.

It means West Cupcake University from the South-Central Great Lakes Athletic Conference gets their opportunity to play against the best that the NCAA has to offer. 

They have the same road to take to a National Championship as all the other teams.  Six wins, and congratulations, The West Cupcake Fightin’ Bunny Rabbits are your National Champions. 

Let’s not overlook the aspect that nobody will talk about. Once again, sports becomes about the almighty dollar. Of course the BCS conferences would love to keep small conference teams out of an NCAA Tournament that would quickly become their own personal playground. 

There would not be any true upsets, because the vast majority of teams in the field would be from major conferences that have a far larger recruiting base than mid-majors and schools from small conferences.

Part of the famous line from The Shawshank Redemption is “hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things.” When Central made it into the Tournament in 2007, obviously there was less than a slim chance that the Blue Devils would win. In fact, I expected the team to lose by a lot more than 21 points.

What kept running through my mind leading up to the game against Ohio State was the fact that Central still had a chance.

It might have been a one in a million shot, but they had the opportunity to be the first ever 16 seed to defeat a top seeded team. They even stood on the same ground as the 64 other teams to win a national title, if you ignore the running joke that is the play-in game.

The beauty of the setup is that a powerhouse one or two seed is rewarded for a good season with first round game against a lower-tier team. The Tournament in its current format is the ultimate meritocracy.

If a team did not get in, they have nothing to blame but their body of work, not a team from a one-bid conference.

Even with 31 bids being considered automatic, that allows for 34 other teams to get in.  We’re supposed to believe there are more than 34 true contenders for a National Championship?

If automatic bids are removed as a qualifier for the NCAA Tournament, that undying hope, that opportunity for a bonafide miracle to occur will forever disappear. Not just for CCSU, but for all the teams in the NEC and every other conference that may not be as high-profile as the BCS schools.

But that’s okay, Mr. Bilas. Just take away everything that the Men’s Basketball team is playing for here at Central. 

Ignore the dream of Robby Ptacek and hundreds of other players at smaller schools across the country. You keep doing that and we’ll keep ignoring your plan to “improve” the tournament. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it.

Saints Baptize Blue Devils

By Christopher Boulay / Asst. Sports Editor

CCSU women’s lacrosse dropped their home opener at Arute Field against Siena, by a score of 15-9 on Sunday afternoon.

The Blue Devils (0-4) went down 2-0 early due to goals by Siena’s Dierdre McQuillan and Caitlin Mikel. After the early stumble, CCSU surged to score four goals in less than four minutes, to take a 4-2 lead with Courtney Mooney, Alexa Smead, Lyndsey Mastandrea and Ashley Perkoski cashing in.

Coach Rachel Tringali was pleased with the Blue Devils’ early efforts on all fronts. “We played the best first half this season,” she said.

“We did a great job in transition.”

Lindsey Rosecrands led the scoring for the Saints (2-1), scoring four goals and adding two assists. Mikel and McQuillan each scored hat tricks, Courtney Highsmith and Allie Kain each scored two, and Ryan Tierney scored a second half goal.

For the Blue Devils, Stephanie John, Mastandrea and Perkoski each scored two, while Smead, Mooney and Michele Conway all scored one.

The game fluctuated throughout the first half, with four ties and two lead changes.

Siena’s (2-1) Kristin Concordia made 10 saves for the Saints, while Blue Devils goalkeeper Alice Lee had 20 saves in a losing effort.

“We have a great goalie in Alice Lee, but sometimes we rely on [defense] too much,” Tringali said.

CCSU’s dependence on defense would come back to bite them, as they gave up four goals because of unsuccessful clears during the match, finishing 12-16 in clears, while Siena was a perfect 6-6.

The Saints were able to pull away in the second half, with Courtney Highsmith scoring what would be the first of four-straight goals for the Saints, and put the game out of reach. Siena outscored CCSU 6-2 in the half.

“We came out flat in the second half and we couldn’t recover. We couldn’t find our groove. We didn’t capitalize when we had to,” Tringali said.

Tringali also formulated what the Blue Devils will have to do to carry the strong first half play into a 60-minute effort.

“We need to maintain more possession on attack and [have] more ball movement on attack,” she said.

CCSU received six yellow cards in the game, while Siena received two. The Saints outshot the Blue Devils 41-20, and CCSU also lost the turnover battle, committing 25 to Siena’s 19.

“Turnovers hurt us. Sometimes we try to force things instead of allowing things to flow,” she said.

CCSU played Quinnipiac Tuesday in their Conference home opener. They will be in action again at Arute Field on March 18 against Detroit Mercy at 7 p.m.

William Paterson Single-Handedly Defeats Blue Devils

By Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor

Central Connecticut Ice Hockey had its season come to an end at the hands of William Paterson in the Super East League Semifinals. The Blue Devils fell 4-1 to the Pioneers, who won all three games between the two teams this season.

Senior goaltender Craig Height made 28 saves and Mike DiClemente scored Central’s lone goal in a losing effort. Joe Dabkowski and Rob DiClemente each earned a helper on the only CCSU tally. The Pioneers utilized a two-goal third period to put the game away.

CCSU reached the Semifinals by defeating the Montclair State Hawks by a score of 6-2 at the neutral site Albany Country Hockey Facility. Central’s offense was powered by Joe Dabkowski’s four-goal effort. Craig Prema and Mike DiClemente each chipped in a pair of assists as the Blue Devils scored two goals in each period en route to the win. Other scorers for CCSU included Jeff Pease and Matt Williams. Carmine Vetrano got the start in net and made 34 saves to earn the victory.

The Blue Devils once again made their presence known in the Super East awards. Senior forward Mike DiClemente was the Super East Player of the Year, recognizing a regular season that saw him average more than two points per game while putting up 20 goals and 59 points. Excelling off the ice, Joe Dabkowski, Craig Prema, Brett Holmes and Michael Joy all were named to the All-Academic team. Finally, freshman forward Jeff Pease was selected to the Super East All-Rookie team.

The Blue Devils will be heavily represented in the first ever ACHA Division II All-Star Challenge. The event pits all-star teams from leagues around the country against one another in the first week of April. Players from the Blue Devils on the team include the top line of Joe Dabkowski and the DiClemente brothers, defensemen Kevin Butler and Ryan Beaulieu, as well as goalie Carmine Vetrano.

The Pioneers were blown out 8-1 in the SECHL Finals by Siena. The same score that the Saints put up on CCSU a year ago in the League Championship. Siena won the Super East for the second consecutive year. They swept the season series with the Blue Devils this season, outscoring Central 17-1.

Dorau The [Sports] Explorer: Women’s Turnaround Impressive, Not Over Yet

By Kyle Dorau / Sports Editor

Technically the season is not over for the Central Connecticut State University women’s basketball team. That is the only technicality when it comes to the remarkable turnaround they achieved this season. Last year, they had a record of 4-25 overall, with three of those wins coming in the Northeast Conference.

This season, they finished 18-13, earning the second seed in the NEC Tournament. They now wait to see if Sacred Heart defeats St. Francis (PA) in the conference finals. If the Pioneers are victorious and advance to the NCAA Tournament, Central Connecticut will represent the NEC in the Postseason WNIT.

The drastic improvement, which was the largest in the nation this season, starts at the top. 1987 CCSU alum Beryl Piper began her tenure here at Central last year coming out of New Britain High School. Moving up from a lower level is what makes it so pleasurable to cover Piper as a coach.

She understands that the media is here to do a job and can only help a team. She doesn’t look at it like some coaches at the collegiate level, as some sort of hassle.

She is humble, soft spoken, yet confident and straight forward. She has surrounded herself with strong assistant coaches, and their collective attitudes trickle down to the players. The team has certainly matured in the past year, and is still fairly young. The team is losing just one senior, Jhanay Harris, who started eight games this season. With such a young team going through the growing pains of recent years, they have experienced life as a bottom-feeder and are now ready to ascend to the top of the NEC. Just like their Men’s Basketball counterparts here at CCSU, this team will be very good next year and even better the following season.

Shontice Simmons is a dynamic run-and-gun point guard who, with a little maturation, has the potential to be first team all-conference. Leanne Crockett is a talented rebounder who can lead the NEC in boards. The rest of the team fits the roles that are needed to perfection.

My recent columns have highlighted the negative, and it is such a relief to focus on such a positive story. Rarely do I ever invoke the name of the 1980 Olympic Hockey miracle on ice in comparison to other teams, but this season was exactly that; Miraculous.

We have been blessed here at Central to have several feel-good stories in recent years. From Javier Mojica’s career and his NEC Tournament Most Valuable Player award, to the Men’s Soccer team and their shocking run to the NCAA Sweet Sixteen two years ago, there has been no shortage of things to be proud of athletically here at CCSU.

We may be in the shadow of a national powerhouse in basketball, but that takes nothing away from Blue Devils athletics. Some may just accept it and root for the Huskies, and that’s fine. They do an exceptional job marketing their teams. Others may lament that fact, suffering from and inferiority complex and referring to UConn as the “evil empire”.

I choose to just enjoy the ride. The CCSU Women’s Basketball team was difficult to watch last year to say the least. After losing 100-41 to USF in their opening game, we figured it was going to be another long season. But less than a week later, they got a victory. The wins began to mount quickly and impressively, as the Blue Devils won six straight conference games, making believers out of all of us. I’ve never been happier to be proven wrong. It was an exciting transformation to watch in person.

For once in my CCSU career, I’ll be rooting for the Pioneers, because for all their efforts this season, the Blue Devil women deserve a shot to represent this school on a national stage, as well as get more post-season experience. It will prepare them well for the inevitable success that is on the way.

Blue Devils Overwhelmed by Pioneers in 101-67 Loss

In the hours leading up to the Central Connecticut men’s basketball game against Sacred Heart on Thursday, word began to circulate that Ken Horton would not be in the lineup due to a concussion.

Things only got worse from there. Sacred Heart made fifteen three pointers as they decimated CCSU on their home floor, 101-67.

It was the worst home loss in years for a Central team that is floundering down the stretch.

“Tonight, it was just an overall poor performance on our part,” said Central head coach Howie Dickenman. “We need to find some intensity. If we keep this up, we’re playing ourselves out of the playoffs for the first time in 11 years.”

Pioneers’ guard Corey Hassan torched the Blue Devils for a gamehigh 21 points on eight of thirteen shooting. Five other players scored in double digits for Sacred Heart, who improved to 10-6 in the Northeast Conference. The Blue Devils fell behind early and were never able to recover.

Each of the first five CCSU offensive possessions resulted in a turnover. Sacred Heart capitalized on those turnovers, jumping out to a 9-0 lead in the first 3:10 of play.

“They had nine points before we even took a shot,” said Dickenman. “We were never able to recover. We were never even close to recovering, to be honest with you.”

Central’s struggles with turnovers were compounded by the accurate shooting of the Pioneers. Sacred Heart shot over 62 percent from the field in the game, was 60 percent from beyond the arc, and senior forward Joey Henley made all six of the team’s free throws.

Amidst all the negatives, Central did get some much-needed life from freshman guard Kyle Desmarais. The Montreal, Quebec native came into Thursday night averaging just over five minutes of playing time per game. He made an impact immediately, scoring seven points to lead all CCSU scorers in the first half. By the end of the evening, he had played 29 minutes, scored a career-high 11 points, all while tacking on four rebounds, three assists and three steals.

“Kyle gave us a spark coming off the bench,” Dickenman said. “He just kind of reacted and was very energetic.”

Shemik Thompson, who had a team-high 13 points on the night, also was complimentary of Desmarais’ play.

“I know he got me going,” said Thompson. “He definitely stepped up. He plays hard.”

Thompson was once again the most consistent Blue Devil on the floor, grabbing a pair of rebounds and dishing out two assists in a losing effort. His effort did not match his stat line, in large part due to his teammates’ struggles to finish.

Central shot just 33 percent from the field in the first 20 minutes, almost half of what Sacred Heart was shooting. Once again, just like the previous week’s upset at the hands of FDU, missed lay-ups proved costly for the Blue Devils.

“Even though we started bad,” said Thompson, “if we made those lay-ups that we missed, then we would have been right in the game.”

Central never led at any point in the game, while Sacred Heart found themselves up by 19 after just the first half. The Blue Devils trailed by 15 in the first half, found a way to whittle the deficit down to 4, but coul

d muster no further comeback.

It was a far cry from the game at the William H. Pitt Center in January in which Central lost 77-69. The Blue Devils were able to bounce back from such a crushing defeat on Saturday, as they took down St. Francis (NY), 78-73. An undermanned CCSU team missing Ken Horton, Tamir Johnson, and Chris Baskerville was able to overcome the short bench to get a key win and clinch a NEC Tournament berth.

“There was a little bit more pressure, with eight players and needing a win, there was a bit more, but not a lot,” Thompson said. “With three people out, we had to step up.”

Freshman Robby Ptacek and senior Marcus Palmer each contributed a team-high 17 points in the victory, while sophomore David Simmons posted a double-double with 16 points and ten rebounds. Simmons played a key role down the stretch as Central tried to preserve the lead. With a two-point lead, Shemik Thompson was fouled with just 11 seconds left. He missed both free throws, but Simmons was able to grab the offensive rebound, and was fouled.

Despite shooting just under 52 percent from the line on the season, he knocked down both free throws to ice the victory for CCSU.

“This was a statement game for ourselves,” said Simmons. “We are normally a great team at home.”

Central hosts Monmouth on Senior Night this Thursday at 7 p.m., before closing out the regular season at in-state rival Quinnipiac on Saturday in a key NEC match up. With the split this past week, CCSU is now 13-14 overall and 8-8 in the conference.

 

-Kyle Dorau, Sports Editor: ccsurecorder.sports@gmail.com

Blue Devils Turn Back Pioneers

In what may have been the final home game ever for the CCSU Ice Hockey Club, the Blue Devils were victorious on Senior Night, downing the Sacred Heart Pioneers 9-4 at Newington Arena on Friday.

Junior co-captain Joe Dabkowski’s hat trick powered the Blue Devil offense as they head into ACHA Regional competition on a five-game win streak. Fifteen different Blue Devils registered points in the victory, which once again showcased a potent Central offense.

“I was very impressed with how the guys looked,” said Head Coach Jim Mallia. “All four lines were coming together at the right time, kind of just like what we did last year,” a reference to finishing the 2007-08 regular season on an eight-game win streak.

The Blue Devils held an emotional edge with the uncertainty of the program’s future combined with saying goodbye to six senior student athletes. The offensive explosion began just 26 seconds into the game as Dabkowski opened the scoring, appropriately with goal number 26 on the season.

Less than two minutes later, sophomore Eric Blewett banged home his fourth of the season to give CCSU a 2-0 lead. Central’s third goal was the play of the game. The Blue Devils took advantage of a three-on-one as Matt Williams scored his fifth of the year thanks to some nifty passing from linemates Jeff Pease and Dane Anderson.

The tic-tac-toe marker certainly impressed coach Mallia.

“To see that from those three guys that were put together a couple of weeks ago,” Mallia said. “When they’re doing things like that, there’s no way I’m going to change that.”

Coach Mallia continued to praise the highlight-reel goal calling it, “one of the prettier goals I’ve seen in ten years.” A concern heading into the game was the quality of Sacred Heart as an opponent.

With the Pioneers sporting a record of 1-2 against Super East teams and their only win against a sub-par New York University team, it was another meaningless game for CCSU.

“In April, you schedule the teams and you don’t know how the teams are going to be,” said Mallia. “That’s just how the season ended.”

Dabkowski, a three-year veteran of the team, knows how important the past couple weeks have been for Central despite the lack of quality opponents.

“You’ve got to make sure you do all the little things that you always do. You go back to the basics against lesser opponents,” he said. “You’ve got to make sure you don’t get into any bad habits. It’s really just to build confidence, put the puck away, play well defensively and make sure you have everything in gear heading into the postseason.”

Seven different Blue Devils scored in the victory, as six players had multi-point games. Craig Prema and Mike DiClemente each had three assists.

“That’s what we need,” said Dabkowski. “We need everyone putting the puck away and everyone playing defensive hockey.”

Senior Craig Height got the start in net, splitting time with Carmine Vetrano. Height allowed one goal in thirty minutes and earned the victory, his seventh of the season.

Central’s regular season record comes to a close at 17-8-1. Corey Emilia led the Pioneers offensively, grabbing a goal and two helpers. CCSU now looks ahead toward Regional competition, held in Albany, N.Y. this weekend.

The teams ranked third through 10th in the Northeast will take part in a single elimination tournament, and two semifinalists will qualify for the Division II National Championship. Central reached Nationals last year, and looks to return for the second consecutive season.

Standing in the Blue Devils’ way in round one are the Nittany Lions of Penn State University. While they are no longer members of the Super East, Penn State is a familiar foe for CCSU. “They’re primarily the same team as last year that we beat 5-0 and tied 5-5,” Mallia said. “It is ironic. You had to figure one of the Super East teams would face them in the Regional, and it happened to be us.”

 

-Kyle Dorau, Sports Editor: ccsurecorder.sports@gmail.com

Crockett Thrives in Comeback Year for Women’s Basketball

Versatility is a valuable weapon in women’s college basketball.

Weapons as a whole are often far more dangerous when they go undetected.

That’s what makes Leanne Crockett so vital to the Central Connecticut women’s basketball program in the midst of this year’s incredible turnaround. Crockett, a sophomore from Manchester, Conn., has the ability to play anywhere on the court.

With all her talent, she has a soft-spoken andfocused demeanor. That allows her to go relatively unnoticed during game play, until you look at the stat line and see the numbers she produces.

“She just makes a difference,” said head coach Beryl Piper.

Inside the paint, she has proven that she can hang with the best in the Northeast Conference, ranking in the top five in rebounds per game as a sophomore.

“She’s a big, strong kid,” explained Piper. “I’m not sure there’s a player in the conference that is as physically strong as Leanne is.”

That strength allows her to pull down over eight rebounds a game despite being just a shade under six feet tall. Away from the basket, Crockett makes just as much of a difference to the team. She averages ten points per game, and has shot better than 38 percent from beyond the arc this season. She has made more three-pointers this season than anyone else in the Northeast Conference and is in the top ten for rebounding.

“I think the kids want her to take the game-winning shot,” Piper said. “It’s funny, when she shoots, [the team] is always saying ‘knock, knock’ because they just assume it’s going to go in the basket all the time.”

With Central’s rebirth from 4-25 overall just a year ago to being seeded second in the NEC Tournament next week, such success may be unfamiliar to some of her teammates. However, Crockett is no stranger to big games or success in them. In 2003 and 2005, she helped lead the Manchester High School Indians to Class LL State Titles.

Playing alongside Crockett at MHS was teammate-turned-conference rival Khalia Cain, now of Sacred Heart.

“It was weird playing against her,” said Crockett. “I played with her for three years at the high school and she’s a good player. It was funny being on different teams.”

The two played against one another for the first time on January 31 at the William H. Pitt Center. While Cain’s Pioneers got the 76-64 victory, Crockett had the better stats on the day, scoring nine points and grabbing ten rebounds.

High school basketball also allowed Crockett to become more familiar with Piper.

“It worked out because I knew Piper from Manchester,” referring to Piper’s time as head coach of New Britain High’s basketball program.

With Manchester in the same conference as the Golden Hurricanes, the two were acquainted with one another and would soon cross paths in the future.Crockett attended the University of Maryland-Baltimore County her first year out of high school, but returned home after one year to enroll at CCSU.

“I liked the kids on the team, the coaching staff was nice, [but] it just wasn’t a good fit for me,” Crockett explains. “I just didn’t really like it there. I never felt comfortable.”

A return closer to home is apparently just what the doctor ordered for the Connecticut native. She sat out the 2007-08 season due to NCAA transfer rules, but was still able to practice and be around the team. That allowed her to have perspective on what the differences are between last year’s struggles and the accomplishments this season.

“We know how to finish and win games now,” she said. Winning certainly is made easier when Central’s team added a player who went on to win the NEC Rookie of the Week award twice, named among the top rebounders in the NEC, and nearly averages a doubledouble on the season.

Not only is she beneficial to the basketball team, but one school’s loss is the gain of two athletic programs. Crockett will also be competing as a member of the women’s track team in the throwing events. Last season she threw the javelin and discus, and placed third in the Yale Springtime Invitational with a javelin toss in excess of 31 meters.

For now, her sole focus is leading the women’s basketball program to a NEC Championship. When asked about the young team’s potential, her outlook is bright.

“We’re only going to continue to get better,” she said. The same goes for Central’s most versatile weapon.

 

-Kyle Dorau, Sports Editor: ccsurecorder.sports@gmail.com

CCSU Defeats Terriers, Clinches Second Seed in NEC Tournament

CCSU’s women’s basketball team defeated St. Francis (N.Y.) 64- 52 with double-doubles from Justina Udenze and Kerrianne Dugan on Alumni Day at Detrick Gymnasium.

Udenze put up her third straight double-double with 16 points and 10 rebounds and Dugan added 15 points and 10 rebounds in the win. Coach Beryl Piper was pleased with the win.

“It is always good to win, especially with Alumni here,” she said.

Dugan spoke positively on the defensive effort of the team, which held St. Francis to 31.8 percent from the field.

“The past couple of games we have been struggling on defense, but today we picked it up,” she said. The Blue Devils were without one of their players as Leanne Crockett is stricken with bronchitis.

Freshman Shontice Simmons only played 16 minutes as she is dealing with a bad cold. “[Simmons] was struggling, but other kids stepped up,” Piper said, “We gotta pick it up without [Crockett].” CCSU had their biggest lead of the game with 11:41 remaining, when Udenze hit a layup to make it a 24 point gap at 49-25. For the Terriers (4-22, 3-13) Kendra Williams led the way with a double-double of her own, scoring 20 points and 10 rebounds.

Karla Babica added 10 points and eight rebounds while Vianca Tejada added 10 points in a losing effort. Freshman Gabrielle Oglesby who added 16 points and seven rebounds for the Blue Devils, said in regards to the overall success of the season, “coming off of last year, [the success] is not the icing on the cake, but [it shows] that we are for real.”

The Blue Devils were unable to carry Saturday’s momentum into Monday night’s game against the Sacred Heart Pioneers as the fell 81- 62 to drop their record to 17-10 overall and 12-4 in the conference. The Blue Devils started out strong against the Pioneers and made several runs during the first half, but the Pioneers held onto the Blue Devils and kept it close.

Central led 23-17 with less than nine minutes left in the first half when the Pioneers began a 22-10 run that put them on top by six points heading into the locker room.

Freshman Shontice Simmons led the early Central charge, scoring 12 of her 18 points in the first half. But the Blue Devils could not slow down the best shooting team in the conference.

The Pioneers entered the game shooting a conference high 45 percent from the field and leading the NEC with 69.4 points per game. The Pioneers outscored the Blue Devils in the paint 18-14 but it was that high field goal percentage that hurt Central the most.

Led by sophomores Alisa Apo and Maggie Cosgrove the Pioneers extended their lead to eight points to start the second half. The Blue Devils managed to pull within four points of the Pioneers with just over 14 minutes left to play but then SHU took over. It would be another 5:14 seconds before the Blue Devils scored again. The Pioneers went on a 15-0 that saw Apo and Cosgrove score a combined 13 points in just over three minutes, including three three-point baskets. Apo led all scorers with 19 points for the game.

“They just keep nailing shots. Every time we made a mistake defensively they took advantage of it. They’re a smart team like that,” said Piper. “I don’t know you just can’t make mistakes against them. We have to do everything right to beat that team.”

Oglesby and junior P.J. Wade added 10 points to the Central effort while Udenze led the team with 11 rebounds and fell one point shy of her fourth straight double-double. CCSU has two games left in the regular season. On Saturday they will travel to Hamden to take on the Quinnipiac Bobcats as 1 p.m. and the will end the regular season at home against the Monmouth Hawks on Monday, March 2 at 7 p.m.

 

-Peter Collin, Managing Editor: ccsurecorder@gmail.com

Christopher Boulay contributed.

Blue Devils Far from the End

“What do you do when teams shoot the ball like that?”

It was an impressive performance for CCSU women’s basketball coach Beryl Piper to watch when the Sacred Heart Pioneers rolled through New Britain on Monday. The CCSU women’s basketball team has come a long way from last season but they haven’t travelled past the Sacred Heart Pioneers yet.

The Northeast Conference regular season champions came into New Britain and served notice to the Blue Devils, defeating them 81- 62. It’s hard to complain about what the Blue Devils have done this year under second year head coach Beryl Piper. Going from four wins to 17 is a remarkable feat no matter what the outcome of their season. But the Blue Devils recent performance begs the question of whether or not they will ever be able to step up beyond the elite SHU squad.

So far they have been able to overcome all of the other opponents that have stood in their way like Robert Morris and Monmouth. Much like the Blue Devils, the Pioneers are a very young team and will retain most of their major pieces for the next two seasons. This has all the makings of a classic rivalry that will last. The teams are geographically linked and both have a young core of players who have exceeded expectations for this season, albeit CCSU has exceeded theirs by leaps and bounds. Plus SHU has been the one opponent that the Blue Devils, or any other team in the NEC for that matter, haven’t been able to figure outthis season.

Like Peyton Manning, the Blue Devils are up against their Tom Brady and the Patriots and right now things aren’t looking good. It may be awhile before Central gets to write its chapter of the rivalry. The Blue Devils may go further than anyone expected except they probably won’t win the one game no one will expect them to. Central players were upset about their second defeat at the hands of the Pioneers and it is a certainty that this one stung all the more considering it happened in their own gymnasium.

But it just might not be their time yet; at least not yet their time against the Pioneers

“Our kids were upset,” said Piper. “And that’s a good thing. You don’t want them to be like, ‘we’re not supposed to win this game’ they wanted to win this game and they were upset with themselves.”

It is good to hear that the Blue Devils learned that losing is something they should never settle for after it had become such a tradition at Central. The hope would have to be that the Blue Devils take that anger and use it to make sure they never get complacent with the gains they have made this season.

The Blue Devils may get a third try at SHU in the NEC Tournament but the match up will be at the Pioneer’s house and Central will need to do a better job at defending the perimeter, something they have done well, except against the Pioneers.

For all of the tactical lessons the coach Piper will take from their most recent encounter with the top seed, the main lesson for her to take away, is that for once, losing is something that is hard to swallow for women’s basketball at CCSU.

 

-Peter Collin, Managing Editor: ccsurecorder@gmail.com