Saturday, March 19, 2011

Girls Tournament Sidebars

You can find out who won the girls tournament(s)--all 4 of them--elsewhere. Here are some things that the ink-stained drudges on press row were talking about tonight as the tournament wound down with the last 2 championship games.

1. The #1 controversy was, "Is Rebekah Dahlman a dirty player?" or "Is Ray Finley a sleaze bag?" You may have heard that coach Finley of Providence complained about Dahlman throwing elbows in a televised interview at half-time of the Braham-Providence semi-final on Friday night. In fairness, I never heard anybody say Rebekah Dahlman is indeed a dirty player, but 90 percent of people who saw her play in person at Target Center say, yeah, she throws elbows at opposing players more or less constantly, dozens of them in a game. One Providence girl caught one in the throat and was removed from the game. Some Braham partisans justify the whole thing by pointing out that the girl returned to the game in the 2nd half.

A former coach who was there said, "Never in 40 years have I ever seen a player--either a boy or a girl--use her off-arm to punish the defender and to cause them real pain like Dahlman does." It's elbows, it's karate chops, it's anything to protect the ball and create space.

On the forums, the consensus runs more toward the Ray-Finley-was-so-inappropriate position. How dare he attack a high school sophomore? He got fired at Blake! He this, and he that. Well, I have no idea what kind of person Ray Finley is. But I do know that elbows were thrown and, frankly, I'm with another former coach who was there and said, "She has to get control of this, right now."

2. What happened to Tessa Cichy? A year ago, she scored 34 points in the tournament semi-final to lead a Hill-Murray win over DeLaSalle. Suddenly, Cichy was the darling of Minnesota girls basketball, and Duke and Notre Dame, it was said, were courting her.

Tonight in the AAA title game, Cichy scored 2 points with 10 turnovers. When was the last time a player of her caliber was left off the all-tournament team? But indeed, her teammates Claire Van Dyk, Corinne McCallum and Beth Doolittle all made it and she didn't.

Her performance reminded me of Brittney Chambers. You might recall she scored a tournament record 47 points in the 2008 Class AAA semi-final. She didn't score another 47 in 4 more state tournament games--the 2008 final and 3 games in 2009. The burden of that great game was just too heavy to carry.

Likewise Cichy? After her 34 point game, she managed 24 in last year's final. But this year, in 3 games: 9-for-39 shooting, 35 points and 25 turnovers.

Meanwhile, Tyseanna Johnson of DeLaSalle is now the diaper dandy that Cichy was a year ago. She (Johnson), a 5-11 sophomore, was the MVP of AAA with 23-for-47 shooting, 58 points and 35 rebounds. The one thing she doesn't do yet is pass the ball, with 2 assists and 7 turnovers.

3. Those darned all-tournament teams remain a challenge. The MSHSL fired the media, and who could argue with that? Instead the all-tournament teams are now selected by a panel of coaches. That should result in a more rationale and defensible set of selections for sure! Well....

The fact is the ink-stained drudges would have voted Sydney Coffey of Hopkins on to the all-tournament team, and they would have been right. The coaches left her off and that was a mistake. The coaches, on the other hand, had the courage to leave big name Tessa Cichy off, and they were correct. The ink-stained drudges would have elected her, and that would have been based on her previous body of work, not her play in this year's tournament.

But the basic formula for all-tournament selections remains intact: 3 each from the 2 finalists, 2 from the semi-final losers, and nobody from the 1st round losers. Granted, only 2 of the classes ended up exactly that way--those being AA and AAA. In Class A, Ashlyn Muhl of Minneota made the team at the expense of 4th place Hancock. Muhl scored 33 points with 23 rebounds in her team's 1st round loss to Maranatha, and she was pretty clearly the best individual player in her class. So thank goodness the coaches picked her.

But not a single other 1st round loser was so honored. Not Liz Hoglo of Northern with 21 points and 14 boards. Not Katie Huttunen of Sebeka with 26 points. Not Emily Lueck and Kylie Beltz of Pequot Lakes with 23 and 21 points, respectively.

But the fact is that the basic formula for all-tournament selections is false. The presumption is that the 3rd best player on a finalist, and the 2nd best player on a semi-finalist, is better than the best player on a 1st round loser. And, this is almost always false. Almost every team has at least one player who is better than the 3rd best player on the championship team, or surely than the runner-up. But the 3-3-2-2 formula assumes what is demonstrably false.

And then, in the other case where it chose to deviate from the formula, it left Sydney Coffey off the all-tournament team just in time for her to dominate the 2nd half of the AAAA final with 15 points. And among the girls who did make all-tournament, there are Hannah Dahlman who scored 17 points in 6 halves of basketball. But, hey, gotta have 3 girls from the champions. And you've got Leah Szabla of Providence who scored 25 points in 3 games, but no room for Emily Lueck of Pequot who scored 23 in 1. And in Class A you've got Maddy Lee of Maranatha who scored 26 points in 3, but no Illisa Koehl of Hancock who scored 49.

Like I say, the ink-stained drudges were up to this kind of selections.

4. Some jerk said Hopkins was a "terrible shooting team," and I guess we showed him, as the Royals shot an eye-popping 58 percent from the field, and 5-for-5 from 3-point range in the 2nd half. 31 percent in the 1st half, 52 percent from the FT line for the game. 37 percent against White Bear Lake (27 percent in the 2nd half). 38 percent against Buffalo, not exactly an elite defensive team (hey, Buffalo shot 47 percent against a world-class defense, i.e. Hopkins'). But when it really counted....

Look at the shooting percentages in the media guide:

Gracia Hutson 48 percent vs. Jackie Johnson 55 percent
Brianna Williams 42 vs. Aubrey Davis 43
Julia Wiemer 40 vs. Shayne Mullaney 58!
Nia Coffey 39 vs. Morgan Van Riper Rose 49
Sydney Coffey 37 vs. Claire Willeck 42
Mikaala Shackleford 43 vs. Taylor Uhl 53

Hopkins wins other ways. And put together one remarkable shooting half when it really counted. No question about that. They won 5-of-7 against their arch-enemies Eden Prairie and Lakeville North. They are the best. You wouldn't think they'd be so bent out of shape about what some jerk said on a Web site.

5. Next year: Can anybody compete with Maranatha, Braham, DeLaSalle and Hopkins? The best anybody could come up with was, well, maybe Providence in AA. But I doubt if we've ever had all 4 champions as young as these.

Maranatha gets everybody back except Mackenzie Lee. who scored 7 points in 3 tournament games.

Braham loses 3 seniors--Liz Anderson, Hannah Dahlman and Katie Nickles--but gets its top 2 back, and what a top 2 they are. Plus everybody's favorite 5-foot-3 player, Austyn Eng.

DeLaSalle gets everybody back except Britts and Dickinson--specifically that amazing 3-some of Mariah Adanane, Tyseanna Johnson and Allina Starr. Plus hopefully the injured Mia Loyd.

And Hopkins. Who else could lose seniors like Brianna Williams and Wiemer and Jacox and Livingstone and not miss a beat. Who's coming back? 2 Coffeys, Starks, Sam Trammel, Hutson, Shackleford.... Now, I'll say this. They will miss their senior guards, Williams and Wiemer, who are the glue (or is it, the mortar?) that held this young group together at times. But, seriously, who is really going to challenge the Royals next year? Maybe Osseo. Nobody else.

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