Howard Herman | Designated Hitter: Remembering Winter's peaks before Spring sports settle in
I know it's Spring, because I've already watched a live baseball game. But Winter didn't seem to want to let go quite yet.
Yeah, that was snow on your lawns on Friday. Always nice to have some snow five days before the Red Sox home opener.
So, while it doesn't quite feel completely like Spring, it gives me a chance to look back on the Winter season and a few of my memories.
The two best sporting events I covered were both college basketball games, and were both NCAA Tournament games.
The first was a month ago, on March 8, when Williams upset Whitman 84-81 in an NCAA Division III Sweet 16 game.
All season long, Whitman was either the No. 2 or 3 team in the country. Williams had started the season ranked eighth, moved up to second, but had slid back down the D3hoops.com Top 25 prior to the start of the tournament.
Most Division III basketball experts anticipated Whitman getting to the Elite Eight in the Hamilton Sectional, and more than likely getting through to the Final Four in Fort Wayne, Ind. On a Friday night in early March, Williams had another idea.
Bobby Casey had an old-fashioned 3-point play with 5 minutes, 28 seconds left in the first half, putting Williams up 34-31. But while Williams led by as many as 13, the Ephs needed to make 5 of 6 free throws down the stretch to secure the victory against what was believed to be the top-seeded team in the 64-team field.
But it was the box score that stood out in this game.
Whitman made 30 shots to 29 for Williams. The Blues attempted 77 to 43, and 30 from 3-point range to 11 for Williams. Seventy-seven shots in 40 minutes is not easy to do.
It's also hard to commit as many turnovers as made shots and win. But that was the formula for Williams on that Friday night. I don't recommend your team try it at home.
But it worked.
Unfortunately for Williams, Christopher Newport beat the Ephs in the Elite Eight game, and earned a spot in Fort Wayne.
It doesn't take anything away from the most exciting game I saw all year.
Maybe the best-played game I saw took place in Albany, N.Y. a week ago today.
UConn and Louisville played for a berth in this weekend's Final Four. It was a game between two of the giants in Division I women's basketball.
UConn actually led for 36 minutes and Louisville led for only a minute and a half. But UConn did not run away with this game.
Every time Geno Auriemma's women built up a lead, Louisville came roaring back.
In fact, with 1:47 left to go in the fourth quarter in Albany, Katie Lou Samuelson hit two free throws to put UConn up by 11. That many points and that little time, it should have been easy enough for UConn to lock up the win. The Cardinals would have none of that, and 1:20 later, they had outscored UConn 10-1 and trailed 75-73. Louisville did not score over the final 26 seconds.
It was another basketball game at the highest level.
For pure emotion, Hoosac Valley's victory over St. Mary's of Lynn in the MIAA state Division III championship game could not be topped.
The Hurricanes lost to St. Mary's 74-36 back in 2014 in the state title game. It was a somewhat unexpected outcome.
"[St. Mary's] is a better matchup for us than an Archbishop Williams, which has three or four girls over six feet [tall]," Hoosac coach Ron Wojcik said back then. "What it will come down to is whichever team executes better."
In 2014, it was St. Mary's that executed better. Last month, it was Hoosac that executed better, winning 66-49.
In March, St. Mary's led 22-20 early in the second quarter. The Hurricanes responded with a 11-0 run, and never trailed again.
Ever since the Tom Cinella-Gary Wellington Lee Wildcat era, state championships had been hard to come by. In fact, the last girls basketball state championship was Lee's back in 2010.
Hoosac had been the Buffalo Bills (if you are too young, Google it) in the Super Bowl. The Bills got to four straight and lost four straight. The Hurricanes had gone to four and lost them all, one to the foe they vanquished at WPI.
And with that, the Winter season is officially in the history books.
Bring on Spring.
Howard Herman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @howardherman on Twitter, or 413-496-6253.
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