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HS basketball gamer for feedback

Discussion in 'Writers' Workshop' started by SFIND, Mar 15, 2011.

  1. SFIND

    SFIND Well-Known Member

    Stumbled upon this website today and hoping you professionals can help out a young guy. I'm a college freshman "getting started" in the business. I've been "working" for a weekly paper since I was 15 and have been reporting/writing the whole time.

    I have yet to take an actual journalism course yet in high school or college, and go only off of imitation and what I've read in the AP style book.

    With that said, I'm looking for feedback on game articles.

    Below is a gamer I wrote of a local HS tournament game from the past weekend. Any critiques, advice, ect. is appreciated. (Note: readers expected to know/do know school nicknames).

    (Have changed all names, locations, ect.)

    Second quarter the difference as South falls 80-70 in districts

    Mustang goes on 9-0 run in two-minute span in second and never trails again.

    TULSA — In a game with 116 shot attempts, the result can sometimes boil down to a few lucky shots — and a few unlucky shots — that make the difference. In a Division I district final game between South and Mustang on Saturday, March 12, 2011, at Russ Arena, it was Mustang who had more luck.

    The Tigers (18-5) shot 24-for-51 (47.1%) from the field on the day, including 12-for-23 in the second half, to knock off South 80-70 and capture a district final.

    The lead changed hands 13 times in the first half of the game alone, but Mustang pulled out to a 33-28 halftime lead thanks to a 9-0 run late in the second quarter and never trailed in the second half.

    “I’m still in la-la land,” Mustang head coach Tyler Wierzba said with a smile after the game. “This feels real good. The kids made some shots we don’t usually make and really stepped up.”

    The Trojans were done in by poor second-half shooting, as they went just 15-for-36 (41.7%) from the field in the second half. Mustang was able to ice the game from the free-throw line, shooting 16-for-18 (88.8%) from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter.

    “I thought our kids fought really hard and battled through it,” South head coach Tom Allen said after the game. “We were able to handle pressure and we got a lot of good looks. We missed a lot of shots that normally we don’t miss. They on the other hand hit some big shots at times to kind of put the dagger in us.”

    The game started off with a quick pace that did not lessen throughout the remainder of the contest. Mustang jumped out to any early 5-2 lead, but South responded with a 9-3 run over the next two minutes to take an 11-8 lead with 5:00 left. The lead changed hands several more times throughout the course of the quarter, including on a basket off the glass at the buzzer from South’s Nate Miller, which put the Trojans up 19-18 at the end of the first.

    South was up 23-22 with 3:56 left, but Mustang made the most critical run of the game in the final minutes of the quarter. The Tigers rattled nine unanswered points over the next two minutes, which gave Mustang a 31-23 lead. South managed to narrow the Tigers' lead to five points at at 33-28 by the end of the half, which is something Gilbert was not happy with.

    “I set a goal at halftime as soon as we got in the locker room — we wanted to limit their shots in the second half,” Gilbert explained. “At halftime I told the guys that it’s one-and-done (on South’s shots). We got it done.”

    Mustang started to do just that in the third quarter, as it pulled out to a 50-43 lead heading into the fourth quarter. South came within four points twice in the fourth, including on a three-pointer from Isiah Carter with 3:47 left. Mustang, however, always had an answer for South's comeback attempt, including their stout free-throw shooting.

    “They made some free-throws late that they normally don’t make,” Miller said of Mustang's shooting. “It was hard for us to get any momentum going if every shot we made, they could answer from the line.”

    Mustang out-rebounded South 22-13 in the second half as well, something both Gilbert and Miller attributed to the Tigers’ superior size.

    “We couldn’t put together a string where we could go down on three or four straight possessions and get baskets,” Miller said. “We were able to (at times) and get some momentum, but we couldn’t get over that hump. They got some big rebounds there and that really killed our momentum when we weren’t getting any second chance opportunities.”

    “I think we wore them down in the second half,” Gilbert said. “In the second half they got some shots, but if they missed that shot, we were getting the rebound.”

    Aaron Thompson led Mustang with 25 points, while Delvin Williams added 23 and Kevin Cooper added 15. Carter finished with 27 points for Troy, while Cody Hay added 20 points and Zach Martin finished with 10.

    Mustang now moves to play Xavier in a regional semifinal on Wednesday, March 16, at the Superdome in New Orleans. Xavier defeated Centerville 60-53 in a district final game on Saturday to advance.

    “We’re excited to be here,” Gilbert said. “The guys don't want this to end anytime soon.”

    South graduates three seniors, including Carter, who averaged 17.5 points per game this season for the Trojans. Carter is the lone graduating starter for South, who finished with a 16-7 overall record.

    “He’s going to be extremely missed,” Miller said. “He leads us with points and assists, and he’s been our point guard all year after playing at the four spot for us last year. That tells you what kind of job he’s done.”
  2. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    Hoo boy. Where to start. The lede is as good a place as any:
    • Don't put the full date, ever, unless you're referring to some date in a previous year or future year. For a deadline story, just use the day of the week.
    • I've seen worse ledes, but this one seems forced. A total of 116 shots between both teams is about normal for a decent boys' high school game, too. Might be a little high, but I don't think it's abnormal enough to focus on in the lede like you do.
    If the 9-0 run was the key to the game, you could have zeroed in on that or Mustang's strong second half. • The first sentence isn't the worst I've seen, but it does seem a little clunky. There's a couple spots where you could've taken out a word or two and made it more readable.
    • Who Mustang plays next should be closer to the top of the story. Think of it like this for a gamer: the first 5-6 inches should be able to stand as its own story. If you don't read beyond that, you should have all the pertinent information. I usually try to stick the "up next" and "what it means" paragraphs just after my first quote, wrap up the thought with another quote, then get back to the game. It's a little formulaic, but it works.
    In this case, you stuck a factoid in there about the free throw shooting. That works, too, but could've been used as a lead-in back to the game.

    Other things:
    • 41.7 percent shooting isn't that bad for a high school game. It's about average, maybe even respectable. If there were some timely shots that they missed (a 3 that could've cut it to a single possession, some free throws, something like that), you might be able to better make the point.

    • If I break one young writer of this habit, I'll have done God's work. DO NOT START AT THE BEGINNING!!
    No basketball game in the last 100 years has been decided by the first basket. Unless it's something of a tone-setter, there's no need to mention that early action in a game story. It just bogs things down. You get some leeway here because of the back-and-forth nature of the first half, but it can be summed up far more quickly than it was here (and, in fact, you did it in the opening portion).
    I think this entire paragraph could've been eliminated entirely or trimmed to a single short sentence:
    • QUOTES! You have some good ones here, but you use too many in the second half of the story. You even stack them at one point, which you really should try to avoid. The only time that works is if you have two people playing off each other's comments:
    Bill Johnson's awkward, off-balance 3-pointer put Podunk ahead 51-48, and it never trailed again.
    "That was the worst shot I've ever seen in my life," Johnson's teammate, Joe Smith, said playfully as Johnson walked past.
    "It still counts, doesn't it?" Johnson said in response.

    • For a young writer, this actually isn't too bad as a whole. There's some style issues you'll pick up on as you go, and some pet peeves of my own that I'm pointing out, but you've got a passable gamer here. I think you're on the right path by imitating basic style first, so keep working on that until you get the hang of it.
  3. SFIND

    SFIND Well-Known Member

    Thank you for your feedback.

    I did not know about omitting a full date. So, even for a weekly, saying "last Friday" would suffice?

    I had also never heard of the concept as having the intro or first paragraphs serve as a standalone story. I'll start to implement that technique.

    Also, I see what you mean about condensing game recaps and "not starting at the beginning." I have noticed that in other stories, but I've just always went from beginning-to-end if you understand.

    Thanks again for the critiques and advice. I plan to implement them immediately.
  4. Batman

    Batman Well-Known Member

    Including the date depends how far removed you are from the event. I think the general rule of thumb is a week either way. So if you're writing for a weekly you can probably get away with "last Friday" if you publish on Monday or Tuesday. If you publish on Thursday or Friday and are referencing something that happened last week, then it's probably best to put the date. Ask your editor what the paper's style is.
    Just don't go day, month, year. Either write the day (Saturday) or the date (March 12) without the year.

    There are exceptions to the standalone rule. If you're going for an anecdotal lede, for example. Just try to have the nut graf in there somewhere that sums up what happened and who did what. Don't go more than three or four paragraphs before you mention the score.
    If you get a chance, look at the AP wire. Right after games end, they'll move a brief 3- or 4-inch capsule of the game that includes all the pertinent information. About an hour later they'll move the full story with a proper lede and quotes, but that 3- or 4-inch capsule will still be in there as the core of the story.

    I do understand about you going beginning to end, and it's becoming my mission to break people of the habit. Like I said, very few times is anything that happens early relevant, at least as far as play by play is concerned. I've seen way too many gamers where they talk about a miraculous game-winning shot or walk-off home run, then spend 12 inches talking about the first two innings. Makes me want to punch a kitten.
    I've always felt that if the game is close at halftime, you don't have your story yet. Try to think of it like this -- if you called one of your buddies and told them about the game you just covered, what's the first thing you'd say?
    Is it "Joe Smith scored 44 points and hit the game-winning shot with 3 seconds left."
    Or "Joe Smith hit a layup to put Podunk High ahead 2-0 with 7 minutes left in the first quarter."

    You're welcome for everything. Hope it helps some. Good luck!
  5. Blake1288

    Blake1288 New Member

    Everything Batman said is good. Also, this is just me but I try to never go with back to back quotes. Maybe talk about the run earlier? It seems like that's what won them the game. Good job though.
  6. MartinonMTV2

    MartinonMTV2 New Member

    This one needs a lot of work. One additional thing I noticed: Your sentence structure is the same throughout the entire article. You never use any introductory phrases that vary the pattern.

    Using an introductory phrase would fix another problem I see in a lot of sports stories. When you refer to the Tigers for the first time, I have to read the whole sentence before I know which team it is. That should never happen.

    I'd suggest an alternative, but as others have pointed out, the structure of your story is off, too. You were at the game, and I was not, but based on what you offer here, I would put the 16-for-18 FT shooting early in the article and build backward as necessary. There's probably a better alternative, but you would need to supply that.

    One thing here I disagree with: Using AP's capsule format. AP does that for a lot of reasons. Unless you are posting capsules to the Internet, your strategy should be different.
  7. BillyT

    BillyT Active Member

    Batman: I am glad you said what you did about putting the opponent up higher.

    I cannot tell you how many tournament stories I have read that don't even mention the next opponent (even if it's known).
  8. SFIND

    SFIND Well-Known Member

    Thanks for the feeback. Seems like you guys are saying the consenus is to never use back-to-back quotes, so I will remember that. Thanks for the info.
  9. 93Devil

    93Devil Well-Known Member

    Take a quote like this and dig a little deeper.

    “I’m still in la-la land,” Mustang head coach Tyler Wierzba said with a smile after the game. “This feels real good. The kids made some shots we don’t usually make and really stepped up.”

    You said some shots were made that you don't usually make, I noticed your point guard Bobby Bumpass had a big shot in the second half...

    Can you give some examples of them stepping up?

    I always liked for the coach to narrow down the focus of his or her quotes. To me, that is more interesting.

    The first thing they say is what they want to say. Make the second or third thing be about what you want them to talk about.
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