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Northwestern: a `perfect' story

POSTED March 03, 2013
BY Rick Wilson
Twitter: @scribewilson

A Closer Look

                                           Northwestern: A `perfect' story


            Doug Sebach doesn’t say much.  Then again the Northwestern Regional boys basketball coach hasn’t had to say much of late. His Highlanders have done all the talking that needs to be done on the court. What the heck, why mess with perfection.

            The Highlanders didn’t exactly tiptoe through the Berkshire League season. They powered their way through December, January, February and the first day of March.  With few exceptions, you got in the way, you got run over.

            Terryville, probably just one season away from ruling the BL roost with its terrific trio of Tyler Trillo, Jacob Johnson and Shea Tracy had the tough luck of being victimized by the exclamation point Friday night.

            With high hopes after playing the Highlanders tough during the regular season, the Kangaroos (17-5) just plain got steamrolled. They made the Highlanders show them one more time and the Highlanders showed them.

            If your entertainment dollar banked on drama you were out of luck. The only drama here was how long the shrimp would last in the hospitality room (there were still a few tasty morsels left at halftime).

            In place of any tension, Northwestern gave you perfection and let’s be honest, no matter who you were rooting for, it was pretty to watch. 

            John Stevens has been the best all-around player in the BL for a couple of seasons now since his emergence as a sophomore when he scored 21 points to give Northwestern the BL Tournament title over Litchfield.

            Stevens is bigger now, about 6-foot-3 or so and his game has grown with him. Defensively, a thief in the night, he was pain in the Kangaroos’ pouch. There were 16 points and several nifty assists. Oh, a pretty energizing dunk off of a steal. It was a lot about being the total package here. Inside, outside, both ends of the court. No one dimension here.

            After the game Stevens was having a little college pow-wow with Eastern Connecticut State University. His high school career is preciously short of days now. In the future he will play more away from the northwestern Connecticut corner but he has left an indelible mark.

            Stevens seemingly has always run with Connor Guiheen. Both senior 1,000 point scorers and All-Stars, they have traveled success road together. Guiheen had 12 points this night, a necessary ingredient always. The duo has been Frick and Frak, Rogers and Hammerstein, mac and cheese. All good on their own, but all needing one another. The foundation of perfection.

            But there is more here. Perfection comes in a package not just a pair. Guiheen lauded Mike Jeffko who has clogged up the middle and helped throttle Terryville’s offensive this night. Jimi Phillips scored nine points and Art Lefevre is always a long-ball threat.

            Two players may win a you a title and get you some place in the post-season. It doesn’t always get you perfection.

            And there is Sebach. It is always easy with championship teams and coaches to say, “well, he had the talent.” In fact in the more negative world, you too often hear that. Of course when teams don’t perform up to expectations, real or unrealistic, it is the coach’s fault.

            Give Sebach his due here. He is not a guy that draws attention. He is not a yeller. His demeanor suggests a blood pressure reading of about 100 over 60. Sometimes you look for a pulse. You watch him during the game and he is quiet. Occasionally sitting, sometimes standing, a word here or there but more contemplative than demonstrative.

            I once asked Northwestern girls coach and Athletic Director Fred Wiliams about Sebach’s game coaching style. Williams who is heading towards 600 wins himself told me that Sebach was the best practice coach he has seen between Monday and Thursday and that on game days, Sebach was more about adjustment  than instruction.

            Well, you can’t argue with perfection can you.

            Every year there is a champion. Rarely is there a perfect champion. Nonnewaug did it during the 2009-10 season, Terryville in the 2008-09 season and Gilbert in 1997-98. Before that you have to go back to Thomaston 1990-91.

            It happens but not often. It is a big deal as Stevens noted. “22-0 against any competition is hard to do.”

            Friday night wasn’t really about a coronation, it was more about validation. The Highlanders stepped in the Thomaston High gym as league champions. They left the venue as perfect champions.

            Fans filled the gym. They had already seen the BL’s best. This time they got a look at perfection. And the Highlanders give them an eyeful. It wasn’t close, it was perfect.

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