By Jim Stout
Two halves don't always make a whole. Sometimes they make for a significant rule change.
For the first time since the 1989-90 season, basketball teams in Massachusetts will have their 32-minute games broken up into four, eighth-minute quarters, rather than two, 16-minute halves.
The change, implemented by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, went into effect this past week as the 2007-08 regular season commenced across the Commonwealth.
The rule change was instigated in part by Brian Cogswell, the athletic director and boys basketball coach at Lenox High. Cogswell's school is located in the western portion of the state, where enrollment and rosters tend to be smaller. Many people believe the previous two-half system for basketball - similar to what the colleges play - hinders teams with smaller rosters.
"We talk about it every year in our coaches meetings," Cogswell told the Berkshire Eagle, adding that the main reason for the change is to make managing player substitutions easier for coaches.
Under MIAA rules, players who are on a junior varsity roster are permitted to play in varsity games. If, however, a JV player played the first half of a game under the old system, then played just one second if the second half, he or she would ineligible to play in the varsity game.
Now a coach can use a JV player for three quarters, sit him or her out for the entire fourth quarter and have and that player available for eight minutes of the varsity game.
"It's the best thing we can do for our kids," said Monument Mountain coach Randy Koldys.
The rules for timeouts have changed as well under the new format. Instead of having five full timeouts per half, each team will work with three full timeouts and two 20-second breaks, as well as the added stoppages between quarters.
Anyone who has ever watched and compared the two formats knows that the action and the flow of the game in the two-half setup are generally superior to that of the four-quarter system. That is something that concerns several coaches in the western Massachusetts area.
Others have reasoned that the two-halves setup tends to lend itself to longer, uninterrupted play, favoring teams with deeper benches.
"I don't like (four quarters)," Hoosac Valley coach Bill Robinson said. "I like the flow of the game (as it is). I never really cared for (quarters)."
Said Taconic coach William Heaphy: "I hope the game doesn't slow down any more than it is now."
Boen Debuts With a Rout at Brockton
Robert Boen has a lot to live up to at Brockton High after taking over a boys basketball program that went 378-158 under its previous coach, 24-year veteran Victor Ortiz.
For one night, anyway, Boen lived up to the legend just fine.
Brockton opened its first season under Boen by routing Bridgewater-Raynham, 95-72.
The Boxers went on an early 13-4 run after falling behind on the game's opening basket.
Brockton increased its lead to 23 by halftime, overcoming B-R's size advantage (notably 6-foot-10 sophomore Dennis Clifford) by nailing several 3-pointers.
"I haven't seen such quickness in a team in many, many years," B-R coach Larry Fisher told the Brockton Enterprise.
"We do have a very quick team," Boen said, "(both) in our starting lineup and our guys coming off the bench. That's the way we're going to play all year. We'll be up and down the whole court all year and use our quickness."
Kyle Gerry scored a team-leading 19 points for Brockton, which was eliminated in last season's Division I South quarterfinals by the eventual champ, Boston College High.
"Kyle Gerry's a very aggressive player, offensively and defensively," Boen said. "He's very, very impressive, and he really knows how to get to the ball.
"I liked the way we got some open shots for ourselves," Boen added. "We moved the ball well and got some good open shots."
Springfield, Wright Open New Gym in Grand Style
Springfield Cathedral opened its new gym this week, an event that was memorable in itself. Six-foot-9 junior center Rashad Wright then went out and made the night even more special.
Wright recorded a triple-double in his first game with the Panthers as they scored a 60-53 win against East Longmeadow.
"Rashad was phenomenal, he played his tail off," Cathedral coach Gene Eggleston told the Springfield Republican. "The big difference in the game was Rashad. They didn't really have an answer for him."
Wright had 17 points, 20 rebounds and 13 blocked shots for Cathedral (1-0).
Nick Ahmed, who had a game-high 23 points, led East Longmeadow.
East Bridgewater Girls End Slide
When the East Bridgewater girls basketball team lost by a point to Middleboro in Game 20 last February, the crushing defeat sealed its fate in a 0-20 campaign.
Time has a way of changing things, however. A quirk in the schedule doesn't hurt, either.
East Bridgewater faced Middleboro for the second straight game this week, opening the 2007-08 season against the same team it had narrowly lost to in closing out 2006-07.
Thanks to a basket Jen Harvey with 30 seconds left in overtime and a game-sealing steal by Harvey's younger sister, Olivia, East Bridgewater beat Middleboro, 42-41 to win its first game in over a year.
"As soon as the schedule came out, we saw Middleboro was our first game," first-year coach Mitchell Daley told the Boston Globe. "They wanted this game."
Jen Harvey, a senior, finished with 14 points and 19 rebounds for EB, including both the winning shot and the game-tying shot that sent the content to OT.
Barnstable's Demanche Under Fire
According to a published report in the Cape Cod Times on December 13, the job of long- time Barnstable football coach Paul "Spanky" Demanche is in serious jeopardy.
A source told the paper that athletic director Steve Francis has recommended that Demanche not be rehired after 19 seasons.
Though the Red Raiders have not won more than three games in any of the last four seasons, Demanche is 115-83-2 for his career and has won two Eastern Mass. Division I Super Bowl titles, in 1995 and 1999, the latter against heavily-favored B.C. High.
The Eastern Mass. Football Officials Association named Demanche its 2001 Coach of the Year.
There has been a marked drop, however, in the football talent at Barnstable in recent seasons.
Hughes Steps Down at Hopkinton
Hopkinton football coach Dave Hughes walked into athletic director Eric Karjel's office this week and tendered his resignation, ending a distinguished three-decade career with over 200 wins (214-94-4) and one Super Bowl title.
"I had planned on doing it before the season," said the 62-year-old Hughes. "But this was such a good group of kids this year, I wanted to go out with them. I had a great run here and I'm thrilled with everything about it, and I wanted to keep it that way. I didn't want to stay forever. I'll just step back and root for Hopkinton. I have no regrets."
Hopkinton went 7-4 this past season. Five times under Hughes it qualify for the post-season.
Weymouth Looks to Keep Hockey Magic Alive
The Weymouth boys hockey team was everyone's favorite public school underdog last season, shocking four private teams during the state Super 8 Tournament before falling by 6-1 to BC High in the final.
What can the Wildcats do for an encore? For starters, they can get adjusted to their third coach in three seasons, Matt Cataldo.
"Generally speaking, when a public team makes the Super 8, nobody expects them to do any damage going up against the private schools," Cataldo, an assistant under Bob Donovan last season, told the Boston Globe.
"We surprised a lot of teams, and I think of lot of the team walked out of there with an experience of a lifetime.
"This is something I've wanted for a long time, and to be given the opportunity is something I'm excited about," the coach added." The kids have been very receptive to everything the coaching staff has thrown at them."
Weymouth dropped its season opener Wednesday night to Hingham, 3-1.
Jones Picks Up Pace at Cross Country Nationals
Bromfield's Emily Jones, the two-time state Division 2 Cross Country champ, gained All-American honors by finishing 11th overall at the Foot Locker National Cross Country Championships at Balboa Park in San Diego.
There was no holding back for Jones in this race. She ran with every ounce of energy she could muster right from the start, finishing with a time of 17 minutes, 54 seconds, just 10 seconds shy of fifth place. The top 15 finishers earn All-America status.
"If you let up at all in this race, you wind up in 40th place," Jones told the Boston Herald. "The start was fast because there are so many amazing runners. I knew it was going to be like that. I didn't want to leave anything on the course."
Jones had finished 25th in last year's national championship race as a sophomore.
"I'm really happy with that," she said. "I improved a lot."
Jim Stout is the MaxPreps.com Northeast Media Manager, as well as a photographer and columnist. He may be reached at (203) 563-2297 or at email@example.com