If you love – or even just like – high school basketball, and/or you enjoy seeing young people giving everything they have, then you’ve arrived at your favorite point of the season, by far.
It’s called tournament time, as in the annual Ohio High School Athletic Association-sanctioned postseason tourneys.
The girls got through sectional – opening-round -- play last week and have moved on to the districts play this week.
Running a week behind, the boys are staging their sectionals this week.
Some fans – a lot of them, really – have their favorite teams for which they root. Others just root for good games.
In the end, nether group is disappointed.
Make absolutely no mistake about it, the regular season is great in that, in a schedule that now spans an all-time high of 22 games (if weather issues don’t nix one or two of them), most teams compete for league championships. And for those independents without league affiliations, they try to gel, mature and develop into what and who they want to be. In both regards, it’s a lot of fun to watch.
But no matter what happens, win or lose, there’s always a tomorrow. There’s always another game to play. There’s always an opportunity to correct problems and get better.
That period lasts a long time – seemingly forever. But it’s not forever. There is an end to it, and that time has come. Actually, it’s come and gone. Now we’re on to the tournaments, where the stakes are much higher, and much more definitive, and final.
With the tournaments, tomorrow is not guaranteed – unless there is success today. And success is not necessarily playing well as much as it is simply winning. By one point, five, 10, 15, 20 or whatever, it doesn’t matter, just win and you move on. Lose and you go home.
There’s a cruel, bottom-line name to this: one-and-done, the one being a loss. In Ohio’s four divisions based on enrollment, the tournaments end with just four teams – the state champions -- that are not done yet.
The pressure of that – seeing an abrupt end to seasons and, for seniors, perhaps careers – makes all student athletes play as hard as they possibly can. They leave nothing to chance by leaving it all out on the floor.
It’s good – no, make that great -- theater. Get to a game -- or, better yet, games -- and take it all in some greatness.
But don’t wait, for, unfortunately, it will soon be over.