The basketball odyssey is over for 2013-14.
In a matter of days, the season ended for the six area district championship teams.
The Hermann girls closed out with third place in Class 3 Friday afternoon in Columbia.
The New Haven girls finished fourth in Class 2 Friday evening.
Borgia’s boys lost Saturday in the Class 4 quarterfinals to defending state champion Republic.
The Washington girls lost to defending Class 5 state champion Rock Bridge in sectional action last Wednesday.
The Borgia girls lost to Marshfield (which is heading to the semifinals) Wednesday in Class 4 sectional round.
And, the New Haven boys fell to Advance the previous Wednesday during Class 2 sectional action.
Craig and I got to experience some interesting places during our four days of travel around the state covering the local teams at sectional, quarterfinal and state venues.
So, what have we learned?
• We have discovered that you have to play hard all 32 minutes of a game to have a chance to advance. Borgia’s girls led for nearly the entire game Wednesday against Marshfield before losing the advantage in the final minute and falling.
• You’ve got to develop your depth and be able to use anyone to be able to step into the game at any given moment. Depth issues caught up with the Borgia girls and New Haven during the playoffs.
• The bracket can be a cruel mistress. Nobody did the Washington Lady Jays any favors by pushing them against Rock Bridge in the sectional round. The Lady Bruins were two-time defending state champions with the entire starting lineup heading to NCAA Division I schools next year. The consensus is that Rock Bridge is the second-best girls team, all classes, to the amazing Incarnate Word squad.
The Borgia boys ran into a stacked Republic team which features a number of players who raised the state trophy last year.
• Take what you can get. The Borgia-Republic game brought a prime example of this. Republic was aggressive and grabbed a lot of offensive rebounds in the first half while crashing the boards. The Tigers could afford to do that with a deep bench and big early lead. Republic was able to take advantage of that. By showing that confidence and aggressiveness, not only did the defending champs add to their lead, but they also caused Borgia to get very frustrated.
Frustration probably led to the technical foul in the second quarter called on the Borgia bench. The call came very quickly, making one think that some magic words were uttered, perhaps from the bench. No explanation was forthcoming on what actually happened.
The Borgia fans weren’t too thrilled with the initial call on that as it appeared to be an over-the-back play, but was called on the Borgia player who had position.
Twice, I’ve seen players put onto the free-throw line during the postseason who probably shouldn’t have been there.
You always should respect authority figures and the referees are the ultimate authority at basketball games. You aren’t going to change their minds by yelling or screaming at them. Remember that the officials are good people doing their best.
Let’s say that the quarterfinal game Saturday was not the pinnacle of officiating excellence. If they made technical mistakes, those will be washed out during the evaluation and corrections will be made.
• Don’t let a loss beat you twice. This really only applies to teams making it to the state level since it’s single elimination through that level. Both the New Haven and Hermann girls lost in their semifinal games and had to come back the next day.
The third-place games are nice because they allow semifinal losers the chance to end on a good note.
However, a lot of times, a loss in the semifinals tends to unbalance a team. Hermann happened to win its third-place game over Saxony Lutheran. New Haven lost to a very good New Franklin team.
Saxony Lutheran, a sophomore-dominated team, seemed to be happy just to be in Columbia. We haven’t heard the last of that squad. New Franklin seemed to have something to prove after a crushing loss to eventual state champion Crane the day before.
• The southwest part of the state definitely has the best overall quality of basketball this season. Take a look at your Show Me Showdown Classes 1-3 qualifier book from last week if you have one. The state map is dominated by teams in the lower left corner. All three girls championships went to teams from that part of the state. And, there’s a decent chance that at least one of the larger class champions will be from there.
I fully believe that our teams would have had an easier run going in a different direction. The southeast part of the state, where our local Class 4 district used to head, seemed to be down this year. I believe a number of teams, including those who lost in the district tournaments could have made a run through that zone and ended up in Columbia. Maybe, when the next cycle comes out, our teams will be able to go that direction.
• While the teams may have been knocked out, much praise should be given to the student cheering sections. They’ve organized, created interesting themes and supported their teams throughout the season. I know I’ve praised the Borgia, Pacific and Washington student groups and there are some other great ones out there, too. Individuals I happen to know who have done a good job in organizing and leading include Todd Kleekamp, Hank Vandaveer and Aaron Meyer. There are others who deserve credit as well. I wish I could name them all.
Anything those groups have done has been in the spirit of competition. There isn’t animosity between the groups. When the game ends, so does any outward rivalry. The kids get that it’s a competition, not a war, and that should be commended.
These are kids who support their athletes, have fun in the process and then move along. As I stated through my Twitter account, these groups have made basketball fun once again.
• We had some outstanding basketball in this area this year. Even if the season is over, the teams in these parts achieved some pretty special accomplishments. Don’t forget the good times. We’ve had a lot of them this year.