Remember how I mock complained about always getting assigned to games that ended up being blowouts, often at the expense of the team I was covering? That was a bit of an exaggeration, but it seemed that more often than not, I was asking a coach questions about a loss than a win.
Things have been a bit better this year. I was lucky enough to follow a good soccer and excellent tennis team, which made things interesting.
The girls basketball season started in Indiana last week. I covered my first game last Friday, a game that was close for a half and then my team pulled away to win easily. This week is the county tournament, and I’ve covered games Tuesday, Thursday, and am scheduled to cover the championship game Saturday.
The game Tuesday wasn’t close. It was my old favorites, the school that doesn’t win at anything, against a team that features the two-time county player of the year. Thursday’s semifinal, however, was a lot more fun.
This game had the team I covered last Friday, we’ll call them Team A, which is one of those teams that has talent and is just trying to figure out how to put it all together. Team B was the winners from Tuesday. On paper it seemed like an even, interesting match-up.
The first half was very sloppy. Team B eventually built a 10-point lead, although their star was having an off night shooting. She had 12 first half points, but was putting in a lot of work to get those points.* Team A ratcheted up their defense and slowly ate into the lead. By late in the third quarter, it was a five point game, but Team A was missing a ton of open shots. You got the feeling the star would get hot at some point and all these misses would come back to haunt Team A.
(She came into the game averaging 32.)
About a minute into the fourth quarter, Team A’s center got the ball on the wing, outside the arc, had space, and drained a three pointer to tie the game. It was the only three her team hit all night. For the next five minutes the teams exchanged two baskets and Team B hit two free throws to go up 2. Then each team missed shots until the final minute. They exchanged free throws, then Team B got a stop and their star went to the line with a chance to put them up four with less than 15 seconds to play. She hit the first and missed the second.
Team A brought the ball up, worked it inside, missed another close shot, and their best player went flying in, grabbed the rebound, put up a shot that went in, and got fouled. She was going to the line with 3 seconds left and a chance to tie. She had just clanked two free throws, so I figured this was money and we were looking at overtime.* She missed. Somehow, for like the first time all night, Team A got an offensive board. A guard had a five footer she put off the front of the rim. The ball volleyballed off of hands. The center, who hit the tying three earlier in the quarter, grabbed the ball and quickly tipped it toward the goal. Off the backboard, onto the rim, the buzzer sounded and the gym went quiet. It rolled completely around the rim, paused for a second, and fell in. Pandemonium!
(I hate overtime. We have a hard 10:15 deadline and that was going to make it very difficult to do interviews and write a decent story.)
A game like that makes the post-game stuff rather interesting, especially when I have to talk to both coaches. One coach is elated, the other down in the dumps. One team is screaming in the locker room, the other wanders around in tears waiting for everyone to be ready to load the bus. Team B is a smaller school and doesn’t get to play their county rivals often outside of tournaments. It’s arguably more important for them to do well in the tournament, and earn respect, than it is for the larger schools.
So that was fun. And hopefully I’ll get another good game on Saturday.