Thursday, March 26, 2009

Week Two, Round Two

Things were tight in the Poetry bracket second round matchups, two squeakers that weren't decided until the very end, but the games were over much earlier in the Thriller/Horror bracket. Of course, the results might be a bit surprising:

#3 Anne Rice vs. #7 Jeffrey Deaver
Jeffrey Deaver was a late addition to the tournament-- the selection committee nearly overlooked him, focusing instead on older, deader authors. But his contributions were recognized and he was slotted in at #7. In round 1, Deaver used his post moves and strong defensive presence to edge #2 seed Dean Koontz. In round 2, he took on #3 seed Anne Rice, whose vampire tales have inspired many subsequent re-examinations of the vampire legend (including the very popular Stephanie Meyers Twilight books). Rice made it to the second round by utilizing a patient, fundametally sound approach and edging Robert Bloch in a thriller, 6-5. This one was over almost before it began. Rice's pick moves and back door cuts were consistently foiled by Deaver's reach and excellent defensive positioning. Rice quickly found herself in foul trouble and Deaver was out to a 4-0 lead halfway through the first period. Deaver never let up on his defensive pressure, and when it was all over, the #7 seed and Cinderella of the tournament so far had recorded a convincing 9-2 victory.

#1 Stephen King vs. #5 Edgar Allan Poe
Most of the other horror and thriller authors in the field this year owe a substantial debt to Edgar Allan Poe, who established many of the well-worn paths of suspense, thrills and horror that we all like to walk down from time to time. But, his narrow victory over best selling author James Patterson in round 1 was a bit of an upset, given that Poe has been dead for over 150 years and he hasn't written anything new during that time period (slacker). His opponent in round two was the #1 seed in the bracket, Stephen King, the most recognizable name in horror and author of over fifty novels and collections of short stories. An easy victory seemed likely, but few would've picked Poe as the author (hah!) of that victory-- yet here it was, Poe jumping out to an early lead as he hit shots from all over the court and King never seeming to be in rhythm. When the dust settled, Poe had recorded an easy 8-3 victory, and had earned a spot in the Sweet Sixteen, where he'll play Deaver. After the game, King was asked about his poor performance: "Well, I'm disppointed, obviously, but lots of credit to Mr. Poe-- he played some great defense and never really let me get in a groove. I also probably shouldn't have started reading "The Tell-Tale Heart" last night-- that story really creeped me out, man. I didn't sleep so good."

#1 Robert Frost vs. #4 Emily Dickinson
Robert Frost cruised to victory over Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in Round One, 8-3, and Emily Dickinson dispatched Walt Whitman by an even more decisive margin, 9-2. But no one expected that sort of lopsided result when the two victors faced off earlier this week, and the game was as good as anticipated. It was a see-saw battle throughout, with Dickinson out to an early, though slim, 3-2 lead before Frost really clamped down defensively, allowing him to go on a 3-0 run and a 5-3 edge miway through the second half. Dickinson rallied, burying two long range shots to tie the game at 5-5 in the waning minutes, but it was Frost's pinpoint passing that finally got him past the determined Dickinson as he lobbed a perfectly placed alley-oop to the front of the rim which was slammed home for the winning point just before the buzzer. The two poets hugged after the game, both obviously impressed with the other. "I'm happy to win, of course," said Frost in his post-game conference, "but I wish it hadn't been at Emily's expense. We're both New Englanders and I have nothing but respect for her poetry and for the tremendous effort she put forth tonight." Dickinson was similarly gracious, "Bob deserved it-- his work is iconic and he made the play down the stretch. I'm happy with my performance, though I wish the end result had been a W."

#2 Carl Sandburg vs. #3 Oscar Wilde
As with the earlier poetic match up, both Sandburg and Wilde had cruised through their first round games, Sandburg defeating John Keats, 9-2, and Wilde eliminating T.S. Eliot, 8 to 3. Also as with the first game, this one was a barn burner, with several lead changes and ties. The two men have similar styles-- solid defense and a silky smooth release on their jump shot-- and for a while it seemed the game would head into overtime as both players buried shot after shot enroute to a 5-5 tie late in the game. But there would be some controversy in this one, as the officials called a blocking foul on Wilde with time running down. The foul sent Sandburg to the line where he calmly knocked down the free throw, the winning point as it turned out when Wilde's last second shot hit the back of the rim and back out onto the court. Afterwards, Wilde was irate: "I can't believe they called that," the lanky Irishman railed. "We'd been bumping all night long, no fouls called, and then at the end of the game they call a ticky-tack foul to decide it? That's a crock." Sandburg was unavailable for comment, claiming that he needed to get ready for his forthcoming matchup with Robert Frost.

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