Clinton, South Carolina, Sunday, December 19, 2015, 5:47 p.m.
It was a game, of course, that PC was bound to win.
This was because Presbyterian College was playing Piedmont College. PC/PC. Get it?
The homestanding Blue Hose did, in fact, keep the visiting Lions at bay, but the final score was 69-65, and it was even more fortunate than usual that head coach Gregg Nibert had DeSean Murray, the phenomenal 6-5 sophomore from Stanley, North Carolina, on the Templeton Center floor.
“Phenomenal” was not my word. It was Nibert’s.
Those were the first words out of the coach’s mouth: “He’s phenomenal.”
Murray scored 27 points the old-fashioned way, one or two at a time without any of those garish treys. He pulled down 18 rebounds, seven of them on the offensive boards. He was nine of 16 from the floor and nine of 10 from the line. Murray had two assists, and assists were hard to come by for players not passing the ball to him. He had two steals and a block.
Almost 40 percent of Presbyterian’s points were Murray’s domain, along with 35 percent of the rebounds.
Presbyterian (5-6) was supposed to win. The Blue Hose are considered “mid-major,” which is a ridiculous term because, in order to have a mid-major, there has to be a low-major, and low-major is not only a casualty of political correctness but a word that has seldom, if ever, been used because of it.
But the Blue Hose are headed off to visit Richmond and Milwaukee (to play Marquette) soon, school’s out for the holidays, and the Temp contained 200 people, the majority of whom were as old as I or older, and it was a lovely Saturday afternoon for small-town residents to do something like rake the leaves. Fortunately, I have few leaves and have long allowed them to loiter on my disheveled estate, so, to make a long story short, I went to the basketball game.
It was a better game than I anticipated. The Lions entered the game 5-3, but they do not play the likes of Richmond and Marquette — the Blue Hose fell to Clemson only last Tuesday — but have split already with the University of the South, better known as Sewanee.
Piedmont is “mid-minor,” I guess, but it’s a plucky team young Greg Neeley has assembled. I don’t know how young Neeley is, but if he’d walked up to me outside a restaurant, I might have thought it was for valet parking.
Here’s how loose were the Lions. At the start of the latter half, I was sitting at the media table, across the court from the scorer’s table, but wholly unaffected by the water table. Chase England, a stocky red-headed junior from Oakwood, Georgia, who plays forward for Piedmont, walked over to get the ball from the referee. Before he tossed it in-bounds, he turned to me and asked, “How’s it going?”
I told him I was approximately the same. I saw him and his parents as I was leaving Templeton Center later. We spoke briefly. England’s father has a Clinton connection because he remarked on the local football tradition when prompted by the Red Devil hoodie I happened to be wearing.
Nice guy. Hardworking. Mixed it up with Murray, Ed Drew, Austin Venable and other Presbyterian insiders. England scored 15 points. I hope his team has a good season now that the Blue Hose have escaped its clutches.
I’m glad I went. It was a great game. Presbyterian had to play hard, and Murray had to play clutch. The currently fashionable cliche is that he was a boss. I knew it. Nibert knew it. Chase England probably knew it more than everyone else in the gym combined.
“What we really tried to do, we changed the lineup, went with a more defensive lineup, and I think the attitude was tremendous,” Nibert said. “Everybody was thinking defense, and if we wouldn’t have had held them to 25 points in the first half, I don’t know if we’d have won the game.
The Lions tied the score (56-56, with 5:03 to go) but never led in the latter half. Murray hit four key free throws in the final half-minute.
Presbyterian plays a tough schedule every year. It is the plight of the “low major,” which contrary to public pronouncements, really does exist.
I’ve known Nibert for more than 30 years. We’re friendly. I bump into him around town. Just last week we chatted at Sadler-Hughes Apothecary. His team has considerably more talent than last year’s. What it has to do is build confidence. All except for Murray. He’s there. Where the team needs to be.
“DeSean can be so overwhelming,” Nibert said. “We might rely on him too much.”
It’s a good problem to have.
“We didn’t shoot well,” he added, and 32.9 percent isn’t debatable in that regard. “I wanted to see, if we’re not shooting well, can we still win the game? I don’t care if it’s against the Sisters of the Poor.”
It wasn’t, and they won.
I hope you enjoy these blogs, and if you enjoyed reading that takes a good deal longer, I’d like for you to consider my novel, Crazy of Natural Causes, set in the hills of eastern Kentucky. http://www.amazon.com/Crazy-Natural-Causes-Monte-Dutton-ebook/dp/B00YI8SWUU/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1436215069&sr=1-1&keywords=Crazy+of+Natural+Causes
Crazy is my third novel. Most of my books, fiction and non-, are available here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1
Soon, my fourth, a crime novel entitled Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be released as my second KindleScout winner.
Check out my fiction site, www.wellpilgrim.wordpress.com, from time to time.
And I hope your holidays are joyous.