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Rick Reilly rips H.S. basketball team ESPN promotes elsewhere

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Rick Reilly, ESPN the Magazine columnist, on Houston’s Yates High School‘s basketball team, nationally renowned for running up the score on weaker teams with no apology from coach Greg Wise:

At the very least, USA Today ought to remove Yates from its national rankings — the school is No. 1 — as a statement about basic sports decency. That’d be the un-Wise thing to do.

Meanwhile, Yates is rated No. 2 by ESPN RISE, the network’s magazine devoted to fetishizing high school sports:

No. 2 Yates (Houston, Texas) won its first two Class 5A playoff games by lopsided margins of 126-61 over Sterling (Houston, Texas) and 104-48 over Friendswood (Friendswood, Texas). Head coach Greg Wise eased up on the throttle slightly in the Sterling game once the Lions were leading 40-7 after the first quarter.

Yes, kudos to Yates for only outscoring Sterling 86-54 the rest of the way.

I eagerly await Reilly’s condemnation of ESPN RISE for promoting Yates as well, especially if it gets picked for the magazine’s April 1-3 National High School Invitational Tournament, or as Fayetteville (N.C.) Observer prep sports writer Paul Shugar called it, “April Absurdity.”

Written by rkcookjr

March 12, 2010 at 10:44 am

Yates High: Still running up the score

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As if it weren’t enough to keep running and pressing so it could score a state-record 170 points in a 135-point squeaker over Lee High, Houston’s Yates High boys basketball team cemented its reputation as the worst sports in the world Jan. 20 in its failed attempt to get a 12th straight game with more than 100 points. Nothing was at stake except looking more badass to move up from a lowly No. 3 in the USA Today Super 25 national high school ranking, but Yates played the fourth quarter as if it were down 20 points instead of up 20.

From the Houston Chronicle:

Scoring six points with 1:30 remaining in a basketball game may sound like an attainable goal, but for Yates, it was mission impossible.

Unable to log its 12th 100-point plus game for the season, the Lions, ranked No. 3 in the nation on USA Today’s Super 25, had to settle for a 94-64 win over Westbury Wednesday night at Barnett Stadium. …

With less than three minutes to go, [Brandon] Peters broke away for a crowd-pleasing, 360-degree dunk to push the Lions’ total to 84.

From that point on, Yates employed a strategy of their own: immediately foul on the inbounds play. Westbury went to the free-throw line seven times in that span, giving the Lions plenty of opportunities to pad their point total to triple-digits, but missed shots and broken plays tripped them up as the clock wound down.

I couldn’t imagine being more bush-league than merely running up the score on a hapless team for a state record, but Yates coach Greg Wise clearly has an imagination far more active than mine. Fouling to stop the clock so you can get 100? What, does everyone in the crowd get a chalupa if you hit triple digits?

I applaud the professionalism of Westbury coach John Howie, who had his team play hard as if it were a real basketball game in those last 90 seconds. I would have been tempted to make a mockery of a mockery, say by having my team stand around and let Yates score, or intentionally clanging free throws, or having me, a la Slap Shot, run around the court and strip down to my skivvies.

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Eric Nystrom raised $30,000 for charity with his strip for the Quad City Flames in 2008, and guaranteed himself a place on the short list to play Ned Braden in any Slap Shot, ugh, reboot.

Written by rkcookjr

January 21, 2010 at 3:18 pm

170-35: Why such a lopsided basketball score happens

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We have a final in the Houston Independent School District: Yates 170, Lee 35. Yates is 14-0 and Lee is 1-12, but that doesn’t even come close to explaining this margin, which reflects Yates’ national championship aspirations. Yes, I said national championship.

But first, it sounds like it was as wacky a game as the score indicated. Yates set a Texas state high school record for single-game scoring, but not before a fight broke out in the third quarter, and the referees ordered (with the consent of the coaches) that only five players from each team would finish out the game. Yates became the first Texas school to score 100 points in a half — to Lee’s 12. The fight was precipitated by Lee’s frustration that despite the enormous margin, Yates continued to play full-court press defense and otherwise did not step off the gas.

As you could probably predict, the Yates-Lee game, reminiscent of the infamous 100-0 girls’ basketball game in Dallas a year ago, has opened up the usual debate on who is in the wrong when a team scores such a blowout. On one side you have people wringing their hands over poor sportsmanship, about how the winning team should back off once it’s clear the margin is in hand. On another you have people balling their fists that this is America, dammit, where winners win and losers lose, and that if a team doesn’t want to get beaten so bad, maybe it shouldn’t be such a bunch of pussies.

The view of Yates coach Greg Wise is that his team couldn’t let up because, well, once it did that in a blowout and ended up losing. The other reason is that its eye is on the prize of a mythical high school national championship. That’s why Yates also does things like blow off this year’s Houston Independent School District tournament to play (and win) a tournament in Hawaii. Or post 170-35 victories. That way, it can keep up its standing in places such as the MaxPreps Xcellent 25 (Yates is No. 2), have Nike representatives show up to its games, and keep getting those invitations to national tournaments. If nothing else, Yates’ success can help people forget how a 2007 Johns Hopkins study listed it among the nation’s “dropout factories,” or about that more infamous Houston Yates, Andrea.

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It seems patently ridiculous that a high school team is going for a national title. But that’s how high school basketball has changed. A curiosity like USA Today rating the nation’s top 25 teams in the 1980s has turned into a basketball-industrial complex, with schools private and public (especially public schools that are open-enrollment districts, like Houston, or have charter schools) competing for spots on ESPN instead of spots in the county tournament. It’s the AAU culture making its way into high schools, and, well, given that colleges want to see top players against other top players like in AAU, it might be the way to ensure that elite players keep suiting up for their school, even if it’s a school like Findlay Prep in Nevada, which technically does not exist.

Unfortunately, a lot of these superteams still have to play some games against the local puds, the suckers actually drawing from the actual student populace. And that’s how 170-35 happens.

Written by rkcookjr

January 6, 2010 at 11:51 pm

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