Column: Line Drives — Being in right spot is half the battle

[This is my column in the Dec. 29 issue of The Commercial Review.]

“Awesome picture.”

“Great photo.”

“Perfect shot.”

Those are just a few of the comments I’ve gotten in the last couple years on photos I’ve taken.

But I’ll admit: Getting those pictures has more to do with Lady Luck than it does my abilities as a photographer.

Half the battle behind a good sports photo is being in the right place at the right time.

For example, Tuesday’s boys basketball game between Fort Recovery and Jay County.

Let me first say that I love covering games between any combination of Jay County, Fort Recovery or South Adams teams. The closeness of the three communities generally leads to exciting atmospheres, and Tuesday was no different.

But, the downside to being at a game while covering both teams is trying to capture everything, yet both teams equally.

If I’m on one baseline of the court the focus is obviously on the team that is trying to score at the same end as me — photos of the backs of athletes aren’t very appealing.

Facial expressions, whether of excitement, surprise or grit, make each picture better.

I shot the first half of Tuesday’s game near Fort Recovery’s bench as Jay County was on offense. The first half didn’t go so well for the Patriots, as they trailed 17-11 after the first quarter and 30-18 at half.

The flow of the game at that point seemed to suggest the Indians were going to win, especially during the third quarter during which they had a 13-point lead for the first time and led by that much again early in the fourth quarter.

Because how tilted the game appeared to be in favor of Fort Recovery, I spent all of the third quarter and the better part of the fourth focusing on the Tribe.

Then the Patriots mounted their comeback.

As Jay County slowly started to chip away at the deficit — a 6-0 run covering nearly three minutes made it 48-45 Fort Recovery — I was torn. I didn’t know what side of the court I wanted or needed to be on.

Given the “rivalry” between the two schools, I knew if the game came down to the wire the chance for exceptional, celebratory reaction to a victory was going to be possible. Since it looked like Jay County was going to make a comeback and perhaps win in regulation, I darted across the court to the other side to focus on Jay County’s offense.

But as FRHS senior Micaiah Cox was shooting free throws after a technical foul with 37 seconds left, he put the Indians ahead by six, 51-45. I lapped the court again to the other side, thinking the Tribe was going to be the team to provide those reaction shots I so desired.

Then Jay County senior Jay Houck buried a 3-pointer from the left wing and made it 51-48 with 18.6 seconds left.

Oh no.

I was on the wrong side of the court again.

During a timeout with 17.5 seconds left, I jogged the length of the court once again — dodging Fort Recovery players in the huddle, past the Cody Linville, Bob Staugler, Jason Hart and Ken Daniels at the scorer’s table, by the Patriot bench and back to the baseline. I needed to be in the right position. Remember, it’s half the battle.

A woman noticed my hurried scamper and smiled as I made my way back to the other end of the court. We made eye contact, and I gestured to her me wiping my brow. Her smile grew bigger.

It was then I was committed to the Patriots’ end of the court, no matter what happened.

Turned out to be a good choice.

In those final 17.5 seconds of regulation, I put down my clipboard so it was just me and my camera.

I followed Houck as he got the ball and was blanketed by Indian defenders. I saw him pass to Holton Hill, but my view of him was blocked by traffic from the other players on the court.

Then Ryan Schlechty got the ball at the left wing. I pressed the shutter and didn’t let go.

Swish. Tie game.

schlechty

Ryan Schlechty, a Jay County High School sophomore, screams after sinking a game-tying 3-pointer in the final seconds of regulation against the Fort Recovery Indians on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016, at Jay County High School in Portland, Ind. Schlechty’s triple sent the game into overtime, and the Patriots outscored the visiting Indians 15-5 in the extra period to win, 66-56.

Schlechty leaped in celebration, pumping his fist and clapping his hands at his game-tying bucket just before the buzzer.

Hill was the first to greet him, pushing the sophomore while also screaming. Schlechty’s twin brother Michael was next to join the celebration. Then Houck, and Cole Stigleman. The heroes teammates on the bench greeted him with more high-fives as the Patriots got prepared for the overtime period.

Right place, right time, for the game-tying shot and ensuing celebration.

Had Schlechty missed, I would not have been able to get excited reaction shots of Fort Recovery because I was on the wrong side of the court.

Thankfully, it was a problem I never encountered.

Half the battle is taking a gamble and being in the right position.

The other half rests on the athletes coming through with moments to capture.

 

 

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