The State Tournament, the Sweet Sixteen, and Opening Day

Shots in the Darke

According to the calendar Spring has sprung although a few days seem more winter like  than you would want! High school sports of the spring variety take the spotlight locally with  the end of the boys basketball tournament this past weekend at UD Arena so it’s time to break  out the lawn chairs, sunscreen (wishful thinking!), and unfortunately some blankets for the first  few weeks of competition in baseball, softball, tennis, and track and field. 

Looking back at the state basketball tournament (I attended three games Friday; it helps to  have an understanding wife as it was our 49th wedding anniversary date!) several thoughts  come to mind: 

—UD Arena is the perfect setting for the high school showcase. Ease of access, convenient  free parking, great seating and sight lines, a professional staff that is experienced is hosting  such events, etc. With attendance at the twelve games registering anywhere from  approximately 3,500 to 7,000 the lower bowl of the facility is perfect for the contests whereas  those crowds would be lost in the vastness of the Schottenstein Center on the Ohio State  campus in Columbus. 

—Some fans will express concerns as to the tournament being held in Dayton instead of more  centrally located but I would say that Canton, the site of the seven football playoff championships, isn’t convenient for a lot of fans and followers either! 

—The only drawback to the Arena is that there are no restaurants, eateries, etc. within walking  distance for those who stay for more than one game. However that does make for some  interesting tailgate opportunities in the parking lot between games! 

—Russia and Preble Shawnee ran into buzzsaws in the form of defending champions  Richmond Heights in D-IV and Cleveland Lutheran East in D-III respectively in semifinal  matchups. Russia played the Spartans tough, even being tied 42-42 early in the fourth quarter,  before falling 65-52 while the Arrows were shocked by East’s athleticism and talent early, falling  behind 19-2 at the end of the first quarter, before righting the ship and playing the Falcons even in an eventual 63-44 loss. 

—Russia and Shawnee had great seasons with tremendous community support. You have to  feel for the teams as they were up against quite a few college D-I signees and future prospects.  It kind of makes you wonder how so many talented players all live in the same fairly small school districts doesn’t it? 

—Ohio’s 2024 Mr. Basketball lived up to the hype that goes with being an Ohio State recruit.  Ottawa-Glandorf’s Colin White put up 32 points to go with 13 rebounds in the Titans D-III  semifinal loss to Harvest Prep by a 61-59 count. White and O-G made it to four straight state  tournaments before running into another one of those teams with an all-star roster. 

—After defeating Greenville in a first round game, Alter’s Knights marched down the D-II  tourney trail and won their fourth state title in school history by beating Maysville 68-54. The  championship game saw the two teams combine for 22 three-point baskets, an all-time, all-division record in the Final Four while Maysville amazingly didn’t have a single free-throw  attempt! 

—Finally, Centerville made its fourth consecutive appearance in D-I, falling in the final game to  Cleveland St. Ignatius by a score of 66-56. The Elks finished the season with a 20-9 record  while the Wildcats concluded the year with a 26-3 mark. 

Quick hitters— 

—The NCAA Men’s Sweet Sixteen is set with fourteen of the schools from the Power Six  conferences joined by Gonzaga and San Diego State, former title finalists. I like staying with 68  teams in the field rather than expanding as long as the so-called mid-majors are more  represented. Have to feel sorry for the likes of Indiana State while thrilled for the Oakland  Grizzlies and three-point phenom Jack Gohlke who made ten threes in the upset of mighty  Kentucky and with Yale defeating SEC tourney champion Auburn. Those types of events are  what make March Madness special!! 

—UD’s Flyers were ousted by Arizona in a second-round game after overcoming a 17-point  difference in the final seven minutes or so to defeat Nevada 63-60 in opening round action.  Does anyone other than me think that Nevada Coach Steve Alford is way over-rated? 

—Ohio State’s second-seeded Lady Buckeyes lost a 16-point lead and were defeated by  visiting Duke in the second round of the women’s tournament 75-63, ending what was a stellar season.  

—Opening Day is Thursday for the Reds as they host the Nationals. The Reds will start the  season with eight players on the injured list as they seek to better last year’s 82-80 record. 

—When the Dodgers beat the Padres in South Korea last week to “officially” open the season they had three MVPs batting 1-2-3 in the lineup with Mookie Betts, Shohei Ohtani (bet you  didn’t get that, tongue-in-cheek!), and Freddie Freeman, the first time since 1983 that  happened. The Reds did it twice, in ‘76 with Pete Rose, Joe Morgan, and Johnny Bench and  in ‘78 with Rose, Morgan, and George Foster!! 

—Finally, hats off to the Darke County Board of Elections for another well-run primary election.  The folks who work the polls are conscientious, thorough, and friendly in ensuring that each vote is properly collected and counted. It’s a long day for them but well-done and important to  the democratic process! Have a great week!!