Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Big Game 3-17-12: Championship Saturday: Da Girls

The girls played 4 championship games today and the favorites--Maranatha, Providence, DeLaSalle and Hopkins--pretty much made mincemeat out of their respective fields.

Hopkins spread-eagled the Class AAAA field by an average of 61-36 to successfully defend its championship won last year by an average score of 66-47.

DeLaSalle repeated as Class AAA champion, winning three games by an average of 68-48 compared to last year's average of 55-38.

In Class AA, last year's runner-up and this year's favorites--Providence--won its title by an average margin of 55-35.

And in Class A, defending champion Maranatha won three games by an average margin of 63-52.

Across the four champions, the average was 62-43.

No wonder that attendance is plummeting. Pure basketball fans are not intrigued by a series of games in which the outcome is a virtual certainty before the opening tip. But wait, pure fans have not been a particularly significant part of the audience for the state tournament for a long time. Fans who have a rooting interest in one team or another, that's where the attendance comes from. And this year, the fans of Eastview, Edina, Hopkins and Osseo made up the bulk of the attendance in Class AAAA.

Except that "bulk" would be a misnomer. The attendance at Class AAAA Friday night was nothing less than scandalous, pitiful. There can't have been 3,000 people in the hall. There was no "bulk." Even fans of the participating teams are staying away in droves.

Well, except Richfield, giving credit where it is due. But the vast wave of red-clad Spartan fans only served to highlight the small numbers of their counterparts who showed up to cheer on the other teams.

So, what is to be done? Nothing. The idea that the MSHSL can drive attendance was put to rest 15-18 years ago now with the Sweet 16 experiment. The key feature of the tournament during the golden age of the 1940s through the 1960s was the opportunity for small-town teams to beat big city teams, and providing that opportunity again in the Sweet 16 was expected by some to stimulate "a return to the glory days." Well, it didn't happen. Besides, small town teams had the opportunity to beat the big city teams, but the fact is that they fairly rarely actually did.

Why was the tournament the hottest sporting ticket of the annual sports calendar back in the day? It was not caused by the David vs. Goliath games, rather the David vs. Goliath games and the huge attendance were both a happy result of the same factors. The biggest is the relationship of the schools to the larger community. Once the school was the primary source of civic pride. Today that is most clearly and emphatically not the case.

Today much of that loyalty goes to sports teams represent larger communities--I mean, of course, the Twins, the Vikings, the Wild, even the Gopher men and (to a lesser extent) women. Other than the Gophers, none of these existed during the tournament's golden age.

Still, the lack of suspense has to be a factor. In the 21st century Hopkins has now won 6 boys and 4 girls titles. DeLaSalle has 5 boys and 2 girls titles. Providence and Maranatha went wire to wire, rated #1 and favored for the 2012 title from October to March.

Just for the Record

Hopkins 77 Osseo 55. Hopkins led by 33 earlier. Nia and Sydney Coffey each scored 15, T.T. Starks 10, Nia added 11 boards and 3 blocks, while Taylor Anderson had 9 points and 4 assists. All 4 made all-tournament, deservedly so.

DeLaSalle 65 Richfield 45. Allina Starr had 24 points, 9 boards and 3 assists. Tyseanna Johnson 16, 10 and 4. Mia Loyd 9 with 16 boards. Mariah Adanane 8 and 11. All 4 made all-tournament, Adanane becoming that very rare non-starting all-tournament honoree. Of course, she was a starter before sustaining a fractured skull in a practice session last December. That she got back this season at all was a surprise, much less that she could play as well as she did. Still, her appearance on the all-tournament team speaks to the lack of talent in the rest of the field a little bit, too.

Providence 46 Sauk Centre 40. Praise be! A close game! Sauk led by 7 in the 2nd half, and Providence only took the lead for good with 2:19 to play. AnneMarie Healy and Katie Nordick dominated inside with 18 and 15 points for Providence, and Healy also led with 9 boards and 4 assists. Healy, Taylor Finley and Natalie Ratliff made all-tournament. Nordick is a serious oversight. Nordick scored 33 points in 3 games with 16 rebounds, Finley 24 and 12, and Ratliff 20 and 11.

Maranatha 49 Mountain Iron-Buhl 37. This one was closer than it sounds. Maranatha led just 37-35 with 5 minutes to play, but scored 9 straight at that point. Alexis Long scored 15 points, Onye Osemenam 10 with 9 boards and 5 blocks. They were joined on the all-tournament team by Maddie Lee.

Player of the Day

Allina Starr

Coach of the Day

Jeff Buffetta, Mountain Iron-Buhl

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