SPRINGFIELD – For as good of a player as Dan Rutecki is, there’s really little doubt that he’s underappreciated.
Rutecki’s game-winning layup to beat Radnor, 35-34, was impressive enough, even though he was initially well-covered. A great pass from Sean Carpenter helped out, too.
But Rutecki is probably as good an all-around player in the Central League as it gets. Well, this side of Lower Merion, anyway. While Radnor isn’t a great rebounding team, mostly because the Red Raiders just don’t have a ton of size, Rutecki dominated the glass to the tune of 18 rebounds to go with his 11 points. He can post up, run the point, step out and shoot and is a solid defender, but it’s also pretty obvious that one of the Cougars’ worst years in quite some time took a toll on him.
“It’s been a rough journey this year for us,” Rutecki said. “It’s been coming down to close games and we haven’t been able to pull them out. So it finally feels good to get one like this.”
The offensive showing between Springfield and Radnor probably set the game of basketball back a couple of years as the teams combined to only hit 27 of the 95 shots hoisted up. For the math majors out there, that’s a not-so-healthy 28.4 percent clip. But the Cougars came through when it mattered most and there was little doubt who the inbounds play was drawn up for.
“It was (drawn up for me). They did a good job of denying me the inbounds pass and (Kevin Swanick) got it into Sean, then I was able to find the open spot, he got me the ball, I was patient and just went up with it,” Rutecki said. “I wasn’t expecting a layup, but it’s a lot better than a jump shot.”
Rutecki’s gone after this year and he’ll be sorely missed. But I think that when Kevin McCormick refines his game, he’ll be a force to be reckoned with. As everyone else did, he struggled to find his shot, but he did find the time to drain another 3-pointer because that’s what he’s done more than everyone else in the county this year. And even before his nifty little pass to Rutecki on the game-winning bucket, I thought that Carpenter had a heck of a second half. He didn’t do much in the first half – still knocked down a 3-ball, though – but he was like the Energizer Bunny in the second half. He crashed the boards hard and provided a jolt of energy for Springfield.
I double-dipped at the game by also getting info for my notebook. He couldn’t buy a basket against Springfield, but Radnor point guard Nelson Blickman is blossoming in his second year as the Red Raiders’ floor general. The thing that impressed me the most about him was his ability to get involved in other ways when it was obvious that this just wasn’t his night offensively. He hustled just as hard to get to a loose ball as he did to hoist up a shot and there’s little doubt in my mind that he’ll lead a much-improved Radnor team next year. The Red Raiders bring back a ton, including Andrew Lundstrom, who was strong on the boards. Chris Galloway, who’s battled a hand injury and pneumonia all year, also flashed potential.
Bottom line, Radnor’s taken its lumps the past two years – and longer than that, actually – but don’t be surprised if the Red Raiders elevate to at least the middle of the pack next year.
– MATT CHANDIK