Aug. 19, 2008
Contact: Brian McCann
Long time no talk. . .
The Vikings won in a relative rout this evening, 95-60, as six players scored in double figures. . . more on that to come.
The Vikings departed Valencia at 6:30 p.m. to make the 45-minute ride to nearby Alginet for the second game of this four-game tour through Spain.
The ride was issue free. Once we left the city, the countryside took over as countless fields of olives, grapes and oranges were clearly visible from the bus as we cruised along the mostly empty road. We made good time, pulling off the highway and right into Alginet.
A city of about 14,000, Alginet seems like a nice little town to live in. We easily found the "Pabellon Josep Lozano Rosell" where the game was going to be played. It is a nice structure. It has a pool adjacent two it - actually two pools, a round wading pool and a round deeper pool. The gym itself has a nice main arena with seating for maybe 150 in an upper deck and locker rooms underneath. It has an olive green tartan surface with the baskets being mounted to the ceiling (so there isn't anything on the ground behind the basket).
The gym itself was warm, having no air conditioning and little ventilation. Outside it was very nice with a breeze blowing across the valley. Inside, it was rather warm and extremely humid.
Eddie Benion had two of his three favorite things: Water and towels. We brought some water and were given some by the staff of the gym and everybody "borrowed" a towel from the hotel and brought it along (I borrowed a towel and Eddie stole it from me, making me sweat all night long without anything to wipe myself off with). Incidentally, the towels fit the team as the Vincci Hotel logo is reminiscent of the "V" logo that we used before the new logo came out last year.
As I stood in the lobby, I noticed several posters (17 x 11) on the bulletin board that announced our game. They were very simple but very nice. I reached forward to take one down and thought twice about it. Then a man on the arena staff from about 20 feet away yelled at me, "go ahead", gesturing me to take the poster down. It is now neatly folded in my bag as a really nice souvenir.
I began to work to get a seat at the scorer's table when a man approached me (Antonio Hernandez) and he offered me a nice wooden chair, similar to one you might eat your Sunday dinner on. As we spoke, he mentioned that he had been reading my blog online (five minutes later I got it. . . he brought me a comfortable chair. How hilarious). We fast became friends.
Anyway, I also noticed that they were setting up a computer and printer to do stats for the game. His would allow me to not have to keep unofficial stats during the game while trying to keep a book. The staff there told me that I could relax during the game because they had everything covered. Unfortunately, they had the same problem pop up that I have had. Since it was the first game of the year, the software didn't work right because they had switched to Windows Vista. (Note to Bill Gates: Thanks a lot buddy. You cost me an official box score so you better fork it over now).
Some other neat things about the arena.
Unlike the real nice ball rack that you find in most U.S. arenas, Alginet kept the practice balls in a shopping cart (I wonder if they asked if they could take it out of the parking lot?).
Being a multi-purpose arena, the floor has many, many different sets of lines on it. I noticed lines for basketball, team handball and volleyball. That doesn't count the lines that go the other way across the court when they split it into two courts. The lines were a bit confusing (I am positive at times the officials were calling different sets of lines at times, especially on the sideline).
Speaking of officials, Marta (our guide) showed up for the ride with a couple of new friends. It seems like every time we see her, she has somebody new with her. I didn't think anything of it until the game started and I realized that the officials had been on our bus for the ride to Alginet. (And we still didn't get any calls. . . kidding of course. They called a nice game).
This game did have a pregame ceremony as each player on both teams were introduced and lined up on the floor. Antonio, the announcer, also introduced Gary Waters, but when he saw the long list of assistant coaches, managers and video people, he just waved them on the court saying, "and the rest of the staff."
After both teams were introduced, they met at mid-court, shook hands and exchanged gifts. CSU gave each player a media guide from last year along with a Viking head pin. The Alginet players gave each person a bag with four oranges in it.
I asked Antonio about the oranges and he told me that they were grown locally and picked earlier in the day. I somehow got two bags - the one for me and Eddie Benion's bag (Eddie told me that he doesn't eat fruit because he doesn't like the texture. . . great logic there Eddie).
I ate one of the oranges post-game and boy was it sweet. I peeled it with my hands and by the time I was done, my hands were drenched in the zest and juice of the peel.
Alginet had 15 players, some of which played for its "B" team which resembled more of a junior varsity team. Age wise, the CSU players were a little older which made the outcome not very surprising. Still, Alginet played very hard and had many very nice plays.
Coach Waters went with a starting lineup of Cedric Jackson and Norris Cole at the guards, Chris Moore at center and George Tandy and J'Nathan Bullock at forwards. The move paid off as CSU had both a size and athleticism advantage inside.
Alginett big man Vincente Gomez hit a pair of threes in the first two minutes, but a four-minute scoreless drought allowed the Vikings to take a 13-7 first quarter lead. The game plan was simple. . . pound the ball down low.
CSU had a 21-12 lead after one quarter with Bullock scoring eight, Moore six, and both Tandy and Fields two each.
Alginet opened the second quarter by scoring the first four points, an item that Coach Waters pointed out to the guys quite loudly. That started an 11-0 run the effectively put the game away.
The difference proved to be the advantage inside that the Vikings had and the half-court defense that Alginet had troubles with all night long. I had CSU with 15 steals, most of which came when a defender slid over to double-team the ball and then simply took the ball away. (Jackson had five steals to lead CSU with Cole making three and Tandy two.) That would then start the break and if CSU did one thing well tonight, it was run.
I had Jackson with 14 assists. . . no that isn't a typo. He had 14 assists because he stayed out of foul trouble and did a nice job running the floor and getting the ball inside. Norris Cole had five assists as well.
The score was 49-32 at the half and 74-47 after three quarters before ending with CSU ahead, 95-60.
Although they may have been young, the Alginet players really did a nice job of passing the ball from the inside to another inside player. Unlike the Illescas game on Saturday, CSU held Alginet to just four treys, forcing them to take the ball to the basket.
Before I forget, here is the boxscore:
Cleveland State (95)
B.C. Alginet (60)
Three-Point Field Goals:
Other unofficial stats:
Schiele: 2 rebounds, 1 assist
A couple more notes on the game.
The place was packed with about 200 people watching and they cheered for both sides. Early on, Chris Moore took a pass from Jackson and slammed the ball home, causing the crowd to erupt.
The best play of the half came when D'Aundray Brown made a steal and was going in all alone for the hoop. Just before he went up, you could hear Moore yell, "Leave it" and Brown banked the ball off the backboard. Moore swooped in, grabbed the ball and dunked it with authority. The crowd loved it.
The crowd loved J'Nathan Bullock. . . period.
At the end of the game, Alginet had one possession where Moore blocked a shot and Latas blocked the followup. It was an impressive display.
Antonio sat next to me during the game and we talked back and forth throughout the contest. I gave him a CSU Vikings shirt that Joe Jaketic had given me and his son (about 12) quickly swooped down and pilfered it from him, immediately putting it on and showing it to all of his friends.
Antonio showed me the plans for building a new arena (costing something like 3.8 million euros) that would add an arena with seating for 500) with the construction beginning on September 1.
The game ended and both teams and staffs met at mid-court for a picture. The Vikings were soaking wet. When I went to the bench area, Eddie Benion called the game, "the wettest game in CSU history." He pointed to the puddles of water on the floor, making sure that everybody knew that it was sweat and not spilled water.
I will say that as the game progressed, the Vikings had no dry place to wipe their hands. Bullock, who has a ritual when at the foul line, wiped his hands on the floor (leading to the mop being brought out).
After the picture, the guys signed autographs and met with the fans before taking a shower. They all signed a game ball, which was then presented to the mayor of Alginet.
Then the absolute best part of this trip happened.
The Alginet team and staff invited us to the bar and restaurant adjacent to the gym for a light dinner. When we arrived, we found a table set for 31 outside with no chairs. The restaurant manager kept bringing food out. There was: Potato chips, fresh green olives, prosciutto ham, a hard cheese (something sharper than parmesan), a potato frita (potato pie), French fries with a chili tomato sauce and mayonnaise, Spanish peanuts, French bread, soda and water (I might have missed something).
After both groups held hands in a circle, Coach Waters led the group in a short prayer. Then we stood there and began eating, using a fork to grab something off a plate and then eat it with our hands. Everybody began talking and even though the languages were different, it really didn't matter. The two teams were simply enjoying a meal together with the host team sharing some of the things that they are most proud of. Just like the oranges that we had received.
As we ate, the children kept coming up to our players and tried to either trade t-shirts or get the guys to give them their t-shirt. They also posed for pictures with our guys.
Now Chris Moore was acting like he was about eight. He loved it. Being 6-9, the kids were in awe of him and insisted on following him everywhere. Next thing you know, Chris is over on the adjacent team handball court playing soccer with the group. At one point, I saw him kick the ball at goal from 15 yards out and score. I just had to chime in, yelling out, "BULLY" to him. The group erupted in laughter (Apparently, Bully is a word that translates easily to Spanish).
Chris had a great time playing with those kids and I think the whole event really opened his eyes. I am happy for Chris because he really went through a tough time at the end of last season and wasn't sure he wanted to play this season. Now that he has decided to play, I am glad because we may have people to score, rebound and block shots, but the intangibles that he adds to the lineup really helps to make us a team. I'm not sure we could replace his soul.
I know that my new friend Antonio will be reading this so I want him to know that personally, my trip to Alginet was one of my favorite times not only since coming to Spain, but in my career working in athletics. You can keep the heat and humidity, but the friendliness of everybody I met was truly special. Please email me your address.
The return trip to Valencia was a spirited one as the Vikings not only celebrated the victory, but they also shared stories about the people they met.
We play again tomorrow and hopefully it will be just as rewarding an experience.
Keep the emails coming. We are having a blast over here and I have shared with the party notes about everybody who is writing so if you want me to pass anything along, feel free.
Until tomorrow. . .
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