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Schools of Thought: Cougars clean the glass

January 19, 2009
By Bill Cain, The Leader-Herald

I seriously thought Rick Palumbo was going to yell it until he was blue in the face.

"Why aren't we rebounding?"

He only yelled it a couple times, but that wasn't because he got an answer at any point. He could have kept hollering, but he probably realized he wasn't going to get the response he wanted.

The Canajoharie boys' basketball team had built a 40-30 lead on Schenectady Christian with 5:50 to go on an Anthony Taylor baseline drive. Taylor hit a 3-pointer with 3:05 to play to give the Cougars a 43-34 lead.

Then the game went to overtime tied at 44.

In the last 4:15, Schenectady Christian grabbed six offensive rebounds and scored seven second-chance points.

The Cougars were limited to a handful of possessions because the Falcons' offensive rebounding, ate the clock.

Canajoharie managed just two field-goal attempts in that time, Taylor's trey accounting for the only non-free-throw points down the stretch. The Cougars turned the ball over twice and went to the line three times, unable to get the offense under control in the last few frantic minutes.

This should drive the point home for all teams - rebounding is not only important, it is essential for all 32 minutes of the game. Or 36 if you insist on giving the fans some free basketball to watch in overtime.

Forget the foul on the Kelsey Collins 3-point shot at the end of regulation, the one that may or may not have truly been a foul (to be fair, I can't dispute the call, but Payton Stahler, who was called for the foul, said he didn't touch Collins). Stahler said he knows he shouldn't have been that close to the play. Deep down, I think the Cougars know the game shouldn't have been that close at that moment, either.

In overtime, the Cougars got back to the business of playing what Palumbo called "Canajoharie basketball."

Stahler pushed the pace on offense and the defense forced the Falcons into perimeter shots. The only Schenectady Christian interior shots came from a slashing Collins, who had been held in check much of the game by Taylor.

Long shots mean long rebounds, which can negate good boxing out with a bad bounce, but the Cougars buckled down and outrebounded the Falcons 5-2 in the extra four minutes.

With Canajoharie not having to scramble after defensive rebounds, the renewed focus translated to the offensive end, where the Cougars made 3 of 4 field goal attempts. With the Falcons not getting extra chances, the Cougars were able to run a more patient and controlled offense, looking for the best shot instead of trying to answer what Schenectady Christian had done on the other end.

Palumbo said he was frank with his players before overtime, telling them if they didn't listen to him, "It's not going to be pretty," as Canajoharie's Dane O'Neil said after the win.

They listened. They won. Lesson learned.

The lesson almost came as a blow to the Cougars' chances of competing for a Western Athletic Conference South Division title. If they practice what they're learned in their remaining games, Canajoharie basketball looks strong enough to hang with the best the league offers.

If not, well ...

Bill Cain is a sportswriter for The Leader-Herald. We invite your feedback on this or any other sports-related topic. E-mail your opinions or ideas to us at



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