sectional 47, game 2

a barnburner right to the end.

Okay, before I get into a few of my “day-after” thoughts about last night’s sectional battle at North Knox, I want to set a few ground rules and make my intentions clear.

First, I’m not intending to be critical of anybody’s individual play, any coaching decisions or strategies, the referees, etc. I did not play basketball in high school so I can’t pretend to know exactly what the heat of the moment feels like in a game like we saw last night. I have, though, watched a ton of basketball (at all levels) and hope you’ll find my thoughts at least interesting even if you don’t agree 100% with all of them.

Secondly, I don’t have the box score in front of me, so my commentary here is essentially based on my recollection and the “feel” of the game as it ebbed and flowed throughout the evening.

Last but not least, even though the outcome did not end up the way many of us would’ve liked, it was a hell of a game to watch.

With that out of the way, let’s get started…

This was nearly the signature Keylee Hudson game, so early in her high school career. It was “MJ flu game”-esque. A “Lebron overcoming a 3-1 NBA Finals deficit” type of game. Down by between six and ten points for virtually the whole game, the 4th quarter essentially tightened up because of Keylee’s relentless defense and nose for the basket. She dove for loose balls to generate jump ball calls, was battered and bruised by the end of it, and had she not fouled out with ~12 seconds to go in the game, would have had a legitimate shot to win the damn game by putting the rest of the team on her back.

Now, I know what you’re all thinking, “Paul – basketball’s a team game. We play as a family, for and with each other. Everybody contributed to us having a shot to win or at least force overtime at the end.”

Yes – absolutely. I don’t disagree one bit.

With that said though, you could see and feel a different level of intensity and grit radiating off of number 22 for virtually the whole contest. It was something that you won’t get to witness very often, and we should all be thankful for the opportunity.

“The game honors toughness.”

– Coach Brad Stevens

Intensity and grit, in my estimation, are the two intangibles that ultimately win or lose games when you get into postseason play in IHSAA basketball.

The team that makes the crisper passes, gets on the floor the most, is more physical down low with and without the basketball, and is willing to impose their will on the other team for all four quarters will win a sectional basketball game. That’s how upsets happen. That’s how little schools beat bigger schools before the class system was installed. That’s how 13-10 teams defeat 17-6 teams.

These intangibles are hard to coach into a team. A team typically uses a loss like the one last night to develop them and then cauterizes it into their DNA using the camaraderie and chemistry they have with one another as a catalyst. South Knox had six seniors and one junior on their roster who had I’m guessing been through plenty of those losses before to know what it would take to win a game like the one that was played last night. No amount of AAU competition can really put you through that development process because there’s just something uniquely different about the atmosphere of a sectional competition.

Four schools all descended upon one gym in rural Daviess County for two games of basketball with the intention of making the other three schools have as miserable of an evening as possible. Not in an evil, unsportsmanlike way, but more in a “you’re going to have to do everything right and put up with us getting under your skin for the entire game” type of way.

For a young team, I’d imagine that was a very real challenge.

The good news is, you guys nearly overcame it. Literally so close to defying the mystical odds of the intangibles.

Looking ahead to next year, you’ll have a roster with at least four seniors and three juniors. That’s incredibly exciting. Put in another offseason of conditioning, getting stronger, improving your skills, and talking/thinking about last night’s loss, and I bet next year’s results in games like last night will be significantly different.

To wrap this rambling up, I know that losing an early sectional game is an incredibly hard pill to swallow for everyone who played. I played varsity baseball in high school and man, it sucks when you don’t live up to the pressure, hype, and expectations of your community. I would encourage each of you to remember that what you’re doing today is building upon what’s been done in the past to create future success. Not long after I graduated from Bloomington South in 2009, our varsity baseball team made it all the way to semi-state and had a very real chance for a crack at the 4A state championship. As I said before, the future is bright, and the best is yet to come – I’m sure of that.

Keep your chins up. Don’t forget that there is more to life beyond winning every contest. Learn from last night’s game, and all will be well. I can’t wait for next year’s season.