|10:27 am - Live Basketball|
The arena speakers blared the opening strains of AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" and the message on the jumbotron read, "Scream!" And gosh darn it, the 2,600 or so people in the stands stood up and summoned up a respectable noise. After taking somewhat dismissive notes throughout the game, now I was getting caught up in the experience. The Springfield Armor, the city's sub-.500 D-League basketball team, was tied 108-108 with the Canton Charge.
Here are some facts that I learned at the game Wednesday night that help explain D-League basketball. The oldest player on the Armor has been a pro for only six years. The game's leading scorer, a slashing guard named Dominique Jones (pictured), had only been with the team for nine days. Only one of the five starters was a member of last year's team. And just hours before game time, two of the team's stars were called up to join the NBA's Brooklyn Nets, on the Nets' western road trip.
I had scored press credentials to the game for my Sports Journalism students at WNEU. Two of them were able to make the game and I accompanied them. We got to sit at a press table down by the court, and I was permitted to sit on the parquet floor with my camera and shoot some pictures of the game.
And it turned out to be a doozy. The score was deadlocked at 108-108 for most of the last two minutes, until the Armor's big man, Willie Reed, connected on an 8-foot catch and shoot jumper off an inbound pass, with less than a second left on the clock. It was the team's last home game of the season, and with five road games left to play, it meant that they had not been officially eliminated from playoff contention yet.
The best part was being able to be there in the media huddle for the coach's post-game interview, and to talk to the Republican's Jeff Thomas, who was there to cover the game for the hometown paper. The students got a chance to see what being a sports reporter felt like, up close.