Clinton, South Carolina, Saturday, February 13, 2016, 12:47 p.m.
Those of us who grew up in Laurens County are accustomed to going “across the lake,” that being Greenwood, which borders that county and this. This whole week has been similar. I get up, play a little guitar, write a blog, write some fiction, shave and shower, and head off to write about basketball games. The only aspect of this one that was any different was that, on Monday night, I went to watch basketball just for the hell of it.
Friday night was more than that. Laurens District 55 High School boys’ coach Ben Sinclair has attached primo significance to doing well enough in the Region I-4A season to play a home playoff game. The 87-58 victory over Greenwood means that, for the first time in at least 16 seasons, the Raiders will be at home when they take on Gaffney Wednesday night.
I mean, in the playoffs. I suppose they may have played Gaffney at home in a regular-season game, and you know me. I’d hate to be inaccurate, or incomplete, or tardy without written permission.
On the way over, of course, I had priorities of my own. I had intended to stop at Lee’s Barbeque in suburban Waterloo, but I got carried away updating a fiction outline, and by the time I drove by Lee’s, I did so sorrowfully because I like to get to the gym early and get everything squared away, and I only had time enough to settle for Zaxby’s.
By the way, do you like those crashes in NASCAR, kids? Zaxby’s pays for a lot of those wrecks, and fixing those wrecks costs money, so I enjoyed some wings with hot mustard sauce, which is at least reminiscent of South Carolina barbecue sauce like they’ve got at Lee’s, and it was the best I could do.
My first job out of college was at the Greenwood Index-Journal. At the time, I was fond of calling it the Index-Finger. Unfortunately, no one who was in Greenwood back then is still there. A few survive.
It wasn’t a perfect trip. The Laurens girls fell, 56-34, and their recent exploits have unfortunately coupled limiting their turnovers, which were once almost unlimited, with reducing their shooting percentage to depths I once considered impossible. Last night the Raiders collectively hoisted up 66 prayers, 10 of which were answered. My count was 66. The scorebook handled the easier task.
This year I have developed a greater appreciation for women’s basketball. They play hard, and they don’t sulk as much as boys, even though they have every justification. Laurens finished the season with 11 victories and 13 defeats, and they were 5-9 in the region. I can’t say it hasn’t been fun watching them. They once committed 48 turnovers in 32 minutes. They defeated, by 14 points, the same team that had defeated them, in the same season, by 28.
They are delightfully zany.
I have enjoyed my postgame conversations with LDHS head coach Yoneko Allen, who is disarmingly honest and has a good sense of humor, which, I guess, her particular job encourages and quite possibly requires.
As I general rule, I keep my statistics on a legal pad by tallying. For the Raider girls, I could use an abacus, or rather, a set of abaci. Wouldn’t that make a good press-row photograph? It would have to be taken before the men in the white jackets arrive.
The main event was Senior Night, but Laurens excels in seniority with 10, and their lead became a rapidly expanding universe. It was 23-7 at the end of the first quarter.
Greenwood, like Greenville earlier in the week, is an historic place to visit in terms of sports. My year at the Index-Journal was the last in which J.W. “Pinky” Babb coached the GHS football team. He was a stoic, proud, terse man. I liked him. I think he liked me. I just couldn’t get much in the way of words out of him. He made a writer work as hard as a ballplayer.
I walked around in the lobby, reading the plaques of all the members of the athletic hall of fame. There were names I’ve heard all my life: Clemson’s Harvey White and Lowndes Shingler, both of whom were before my time but not my daddy’s; but also Robert Anders, whom I knew at Furman; and Willis Burkett, who succeeded Babb and was a friendly acquaintance for many years after I left Greenwood; and a bunch more that I recognized then and can’t remember now. The latest Greenwood star to rise is the Carolina Panthers’ Josh Norman.
Greenwood-Laurens is a rivalry that, I suspect, means more on this side of Lake Greenwood than the other, and more happiness accompanied the Raiders’ ride home, I suspect, than the dismay felt in Greenwood. The Eagles finished up 9-11 overall and 6-8 in the region. Laurens has a shot to build on 17-7 and 11-3.
By all appearances, Laurens is peaking at the right time. The scoring is balanced. The bench is deep. The shooters are hitting. The inside players are hitting the boards. Greenwood’s defense might as well have been a twilight zone. The home fans didn’t have their popcorn finished in time to have a chance to cheer. Some probably got more popcorn. Some probably went home.
What the Raiders can ill afford is to be satisfied with just being there. That home game on Wednesday night isn’t going to be nearly as important if they don’t win it.
Here’s what I wrote at GoLaurens.com: http://www.golaurens.com/sports/item/22935-raiders-nail-down-home-playoff-game-by-crushing-greenwood
As you may have noticed, I use these blogs as a promotional tool for my novels. One, Crazy of Natural Causes, has been out since late July of 2015.
Another, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, will be out soon. I’m expecting to be given a release date soon. It’s a crime novel about corruption and patronage in a small town. The tale unfolds across two generations at the same time.
Crazy and Trespasses are my third and fourth novels. The Audacity of Dope was published in 2011, The Intangibles in 2013. I’m working on a fifth, Cowboys Come Home. Most of my books can be examined and purchased here: http://www.amazon.com/Monte-Dutton/e/B005H3B144/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1416767492&sr=8-1
My short fiction, reviews and essays can be found here: https://wellpilgrim.wordpress.com/
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