My basketball season came to a quick, inglorious end last week. None of our seven teams advanced from sectionals, with four losing in what were at least mild upsets. At one point it looked like I would cover a minimum of three post-season games, including a regional contest next week. But, thanks to all the upsets, I ended up with only one game.

But at least that was a good game. I had the Christian school we cover only in sectionals1 in their opener against a Baptist school. More on the makeup of that sectional in a minute. My school, GCA, jumped out to a 12-2 lead and while the Baptists slowly cut into that lead by halftime, GCA was able to keep them at arm’s length into the fourth quarter. Then GCA’s best player took a shot to the head in a battle for a rebound and left with a concussion. GCA got a cheap technical when the old men at the scorer’s table got tired of players not checking in appropriately, complained to the refs, and the kid who came in for the injured player got a T. Weak. Very weak.

The technical free throws tied the game, and it was back and forth until the final seconds. The Baptists went ahead on free throws with six seconds to play and GCA missed a contested shot at the rim at the buzzer. Game, and season, over.

The Baptists, who were under .500 coming into the sectional, went on to win Friday then upset the undefeated, #2 team in the state Saturday for the sectional championship.

But my game was great. It was at ECHS and the mostly full stands were split between the four teams playing that night. The were a few hundred fans for both schools, a few leftovers from the earlier game, and it was loud the entire time. It’s a big change from the 1/3-1/2 full crowds I see most nights.

The ECHS sectional is kind of strange. It is in class A, the smallest in the state. The three public schools are all from very small communities. Then there are three religious academies, the Christians and Baptists, and a Lutheran school. Finally, there is an inner city college prep academy from Indy that plays. I don’t know that there is another sectional like it in the state.

The best game I’ve ever done was in this sectional three years ago, when ECHS beat the inner city team for their first sectional title in almost 40 years. There were complaints by the inner city school of racial taunts from the crowd that night. Not that that can’t happen at any game, in any class, in any state. But the combination of semi-rural, inner city, and religious schools is just a weird mix.

It was a good hoops season. My final Total Margin Factor was +53. I had a few clunkers but, obviously, many more good games. Or at least games when my teams won by a lot. I saw a 40-point game, a 30-point game.

Saturday night I followed the sectional finals games from home, hoping my last team would win so I could work this weekend. Fox Sports Indiana was showing one of the better title games in Indy. The game went to overtime and was won on a 3-pointer with under 10 seconds to play. It was a back-and-forth, athletic game and fun to watch. What jumped out at me most, though, was how neither team sat on a lead. Both teams attacked, looked to get shots, and never hung back even if up four with 2:00 to play. When you grew up watching Raytown South suck the life out of the game with their Alley Cat offense, it was a strange thing to see coaches trusting their kids to go out and play.

On of my favorite things about covering basketball is looking at the track records boards that hang in the gyms. I’m not sure why I haven’t documented them some how. I think that might be a project for next year.

They’re fun to look at not because I’m a track geek or anything, but because of the history they hold. Almost without exception, the records will all come from the last 10-15 years. As in other sports, high school kids are bigger, stronger, faster, have better training methods, better equipment, etc. today than ever before. And we’re evolving so kids’ physical limits are greater than those of their parents, and their parents, and so on.

But, what really makes them fun is that there are almost always 2-3 outliers, a few records that remain from the early 80s or late 70s. They almost always involve one, maybe two, individual races, then a couple relays. I love looking at those numbers, reading the names, and seeing one person, or one family, that was clearly responsible for them. A once-in-a-lifetime middle distance runner who destroyed the 400 record and helped push two relay teams to historic heights. Sisters who, in the year they both ran varsity, lifted the entire team to levels untouched in almost 40 years.

My favorite part is, when the records were set in the late 70s, early 80s, thinking back to myself during those years. I was young, discovering sports, and thought even high school athletes were gods. There were people who are now my age, who sat in these same gyms as kids, and saw those records when they were shiny and new and thought they were the pinnacle of achievement. They were, in a way, right.

Finally, I worked a couple senior night games in recent weeks. Often schools will honor all their winter athletes, not just basketball players, at the boys senior night. I think it’s to bring the kids out in front of as many people as possible.

Anyway, the routine is pretty set in central Indiana. Kids line up with their parents. They are announced with a few highlights of their high school careers as a cheerleader brings them a balloon bouquet. Finally, the announcer shares each kid’s future plans. For the kids going to college, the expected course of study is generally listed. However, if a kid has no idea, they always say, “And her major is undecided.”

How can she be undecided when she hasn’t even graduated from high school yet? She’s probably worried about her calculus test next week, why her boyfriend didn’t return her texts that afternoon, and where she’s going to get her prom dress. If she doesn’t have a plan to go to IU then to medical school to be a surgeon, I think we can cut her some slack and not say she’s undecided. Lord knows a lot of us took our sweet time once we were at college figuring out what the hell we were going to study.

  1. Not sure why we only cover them in the postseason. Last year they had the second or third leading scorer in the state. This year, while their record wasn’t great, they played an exciting style of ball and played a couple very good games extremely closely. I guess it’s tough enough finding enough people to get to boys and girls games for six schools throughout the week without adding another school to the mix.