High school basketball is in full swing in Indiana now. The girls have been playing for almost a month and all the boys teams across the state now have games under their belts.
Friday night I covered my first boys game of the year. It was a lot of fun and was another first in my career.
The game started with the visitors, who were not my team, jumping to an 11-2 lead. They were up 24-12 midway through the second quarter and the hosts, ICHS, were getting nothing out of their offense. I was already struggling to come up with things to ask the coach after the game, thinking my questions would revolve around first game jitters, the other team having already played a game, etc. ICHS made a few defensive stops, finally got something out of their offense, and by halftime it was a three-point game.
ICHS had five possessions to start the second half in which they could have cut the lead, but did not. I figured that was probably it when the lead ballooned back to eight. But another run had it down to two at the end of the third. Then, crazily, ICHS began to dominate. Over the next six minutes they built a nine-point lead. The gym was rocking and I was both looking forward to talking to the coach after the game and debating what player I should talk to.
But the game was not over yet. The visitors did a textbook job of cutting into the lead. They got quick but smart shots on offense, fouled quickly on defense, and benefitted from ICHS missing six of 12 free throws over the final 2:00. ICHS also committed a couple dumb fouls that put the visitors on the line for cheap points with no time lost. The visitors hit a three with :16 left to cut the lead to two. They fouled with :06 left. ICHS missed both free throws. The starting center for the visitors grabbed the rebound, went the length of the court and laid the ball in for the tie.
Overtime. My first overtime game! My initial thought, beyond the excitement of a close game, was that I hoped we just played one OT, because my stat sheet only has room for one overtime and I wanted to have time to write a decent story. Fortunately ICHS scored seven quick points and cruised to the win.
I had a good interview with the coach. It was his first game as head coach at his alma mater, so he was particularly pumped. I had 45 minutes to get my story out. It was decent, but I’m not sure I got all the excitement of the night into it.
So that was fun.
I’ve done a handful of girls games already. One thing that’s been nice about this year is how I’m seeing some kids I’ve covered for three or four years. There is one girl in particular who is especially fun to watch. Three years ago she was a freshman bench player for EHS, the sad sack school I cover frequently. She only got in the games late, when they were down by 50 or so. She weighed about 70 pounds, wore glasses, and ran around like a chicken with her head cut off. She would run into people on defense and if she got the ball on offense she either immediately turned it over or chucked it towards the basket, whether she was in range or not. It was kind of funny and kind of sad at the same time.
Last year, she ditched the glasses and was probably up to 85 pounds. She still didn’t play much, but she clearly had learned a lot more about the game. This year, she’s starting as a junior. She probably weighs 110 pounds and while she’s not ripped, she’s all muscle. And she carries herself like someone who not only knows how to play the game, but has confidence in her skills. It’s a dramatic change that’s been fun to watch. She’s still not all that good, mind you, but she’s come a long way. She might be a decent player as a senior.
Her whole team has been funny to watch, too. Last year they had their best season in a decade, finishing right around .500 and winning a game in sectionals. They lost their best player, arguably the best in school history, but have everyone else back. That group of players helped to win sectional titles in both volleyball and softball last year. They’ve learned how to win. Like the girl I wrote about above, the entire team looks like they spent a lot of time in the gym over the summer. These girls all have shoulders and arms now. And they also all think they’re ballers. Rather than run any kind of offense, they all pretty much put their heads down and barrel towards the basket. I love their confidence, misplaced as though it may be.