Sunday March 10, 2013

If you are a basketball fan, this is the best time of the year.

High school basketball championships were decided on Saturday, while college championship tournament week is rolling into high gear.

Western Massachusetts high school fans are the most fortunate in the state because we have our title games at the Curry Hicks Cage. The venerable arena on the University of Massachusetts campus is the best place to watch the best high school basketball players compete.

It's small enough so fans aren't lost in it, and it's big enough to put a good crowd inside. That crowd makes noise, and the feeling is electric.

Which leads me to a suggestion to Jeremy Jacobs and the folks at Delaware North. Can you give up the TD Garden for the state finals? After all, the Eastern Mass. semifinals are played there. Why not the state finals?

Be like the Krafts at Foxborough, who let the MIAA stage Super Bowl games at Gillette Stadium. You make a ton of money from the arena. One more day donated to the high school kids of the Commonwealth would be nice.

The DCU Center is a nice enough arena and centrally located, but I guarantee you that if any of the Berkshire County teams who played for Western Mass. titles on Saturday are fortunate enough to play for a state title next weekend, none of them would be complaining about driving to Boston to play on the parquet floor.

Just a thought.

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If you are a hockey fan, the news of last week had to bring a smile to your face. Realignment, long an issue of contention between the Players Association and the League, is one step from becoming official -- for now.

The NHLPA has approved a plan whereby Detroit and Columbus will move from the Western Conference to the Eastern Conference, and Winnipeg will move west.

The Jets, formerly the Atlanta Thrashers, have been stuck in the East when the team moved from Georgia to Manitoba.

If you are a Bruins fan, the move of Detroit into your division has to make you smile. After all, you are now in a division with three of your Original Six rivals. The Eastern Conference's Central Division would have Boston, Detroit, Montreal and Toronto in it. What could be better?

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There is much to like about the NCAA Division III basketball tournaments. The quality of play is outstanding, and the athletes do play for the love of the game.

The 126 teams that played in the men's and women's tournaments have nicknames that run the gamut from the typical to the very atypical.

For every Falcons or Spartans, you have the Battling Bishops of Ohio Wesleyan on the men's side. For every Bearcat or Cardinals on the women's side, you get the Cobbers of Concordia-Moorhead College of Minnesota. We even have the University of New England women's basketball Nor'easters.

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Then there are the Lady Missionaries of Whitman College, who had quite the journey to Williamstown.

Whitman trailed for all but the final 40 seconds before beating Emory 67-62 in the first of Friday's Sweet 16 doubleheader at Chandler Gym.

"Our whole motto this year has been ‘To find a way,' " Whitman forward Meghan White said in a postgame press conference.

The team from Washington state found a way both on and off the court to get to Saturday's Elite Eight game. Whitman's coaches and players took a bus 160 miles from Walla Walla, Wash., to Spokane (Wash.) International Airport, where they caught a flight to Minneapolis -- a distance of 1,166 miles.

From Minneapolis, it was another 1,052 miles and a flight to Bradley International Airport in Connecticut. The ride to Williamstown was 92 miles.

That means coach Michelle Ferenz and her players had to travel 2,470 miles just to play in the Sweet 16. And it's not the first time this team has made the trip. Whitman lost to Williams 59-56 in the first round of the Ephs' season-opening tournament in November, 2011.

"I think it was an advantage because we knew what a long trip this was," Ferenz said in a postgame press conference after Whitman beat Emory 67-62 on Friday. "We were much pickier about our travel plans. The last time, it took us about 24 hours to get from Walla Walla to Williamstown.

"This year, we cut it to about 13 [hours]. We're pretty proud of ourselves."

Now, do they all get credit for frequent flier miles?

To reach Howard Herman:
hherman@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6253.
On Twitter: @howardherman.