This will be a week of reckoning for high school boys and girls teams. The regular season of playing two to three games a week is over. Conference races have been established. Regular season records are now history, and it is time to see which teams will peak and reach their goal to advance to the final four of state play.
Any team can get hot at this time of the year and blaze their way through the state tournament. Nearly every year a team will come out of nowhere and make a big playoff run. Often the heavy favorites with glossy records of only one or two losses will give in to the pressure to play perfect. It is not uncommon for a dominant team to choke.
I considered checking the state rankings but realized that would be futile. Any basketball team can beat any other team on any given day. A football team has 22 players to rely on for a win. With just five basketball players to mesh, emotion can either carry the team to a hot streak or carry a team to an upset.
That is probably what makes March Madness such an exciting event. The ring is always up for grabs. In Missouri high school basketball, the MSHSAA tournament is the high school version of March Madness. There are a lot of good high school boys and girls teams in all classes this year. The games I have witnessed and broadcast this year have been highly competitive with the game outcome teetering either way.
A key factor can be injuries. An injury to just one key player can quickly eliminate a team from the tournament. Team chemistry can also dictate the ability to continue in the tournament. If that chemistry is tested, it could spell defeat even for the most talented team.
Another factor is whether a team is fresh and peaking. Successful coaches who have driven their teams hard all year can find those teams out of gas at the end of the season. High school basketball practices begin the first week of November and teams grind from then until district playoffs. Even a young high school basketball player has so many miles in their legs to be fresh after four months of pounding on the hardwoods. This can be particularly true in players who play basketball the entire year on AAU and competition teams.
Many teams have enough talent to beat anyone. High school basketball athletes have never been better. They are more athletic than ever before. They look like young gazelles running the floor. Many high school offenses center around the 3-point shot or a fast-break transition game. There are currently very few high school teams that rely on half-court offenses.
A player must be extremely quick or big and athletic to have the skill set to play on most high school teams. It is all about getting the ball down the floor and a quick shot. On occasion you might see a couple of pick-and-rolls or give-and-go plays, but most high school basketball half-court offenses are some variation of dribble and drive and then kick out to shoot the 3.
If a team has five guys who are willing to lock down on defense and hit the boards, they will be the team that has a shot at winning a ring. There are a lot of good and competitive high school teams in the area this year. Get out and watch some games. It will be money well spent on excellent entertainment. It may be the last time a lot of players will ever play a team sport.
• Derrick Johnson was as good a linebacker as anyone in the NFL during the prime of his career. He has been equally as great in his life off the field. He has been a positive influence in the entire Kansas City community. Hopefully he will find a place in the Chiefs organization after retirement. He is a leader.
• My quote of the week come from former NBA champion and Boston Celtics great Dennis Johnson: “I’m probably the worst shooter of the five players on court. But when the game is coming down to the final seconds I want the shot. It’s not a point of accuracy: it’s poise, confidence and loving the pressure.”
– Tim Crone, a William Chrisman High School graduate, is a former activities director and coach for Blue Springs High School and is a host of a weekly radio show, “Off the Wall with Tim Crone,” on KCWJ (1030 AM) 6 p.m. every Monday. He writes a weekly column for The Examiner. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.