By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor
1. What an unbelievable week it has been in the local sports scene. With the UIL agreeing on Tuesday to adding a classification in high school athletics, the McKinney North Bulldog basketball team advancing to the regional semifinals, and McKinney and McKinney Boyd meeting up for the first of two matches on the soccer pitch, this week has been fascinating and intriguing to say the least. There is so much to talk about this week, so I say we get right into it. Let’s discuss some sports, shall we?
2. The biggest news on Tuesday was that the UIL would add a classification, forming a Class 6A beginning in the 2014-2016 realignment. Instead of placing all the big name schools in this class, the UIL will split up Class 1A into two classes, bumping up every class one number. So in effect, if all three MISD schools stayed in the same class as they currently are now, MHS and Boyd would move into 6A and North would move into 5A.
According to the MISD athletic director Shawn Pratt, the moves should not impact the three MISD schools much moving forward, besides bumping up the classes by one number.
For a state that is known for big time football and the “Friday Night Lights,” I always found it odd that Texas did not have a Class 6A already. With states such as Oklahoma, Alabama, and Florida, all of which are known for competitive football and other athletics, it seems like a smart thing to do by the UIL and Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams to expand the classifications to 6A.
The next realignment period for the UIL will be next February.
3. If you didn’t make it to Coppell High School on Tuesday night to watch the McKinney North-Mansfield Legacy boys basketball playoff game, I don’t quite know how to explain it. Here are five interesting facts about the Regional Quarterfinal win for the Bulldogs that might help tell the story of their 23-21 overtime win:
• The Bulldogs finished the game on a 5-0 run that extended from the fourth quarter through overtime.
• After Jola Otubu converted the old school three-point play to tie the game at 21-all with 5:03 to go in the fourth, there was not another point scored until the game-winning Colin Curran free throw with five seconds to go in overtime. By the way, that is 8:58 seconds of play without a point.
• In the fourth quarter and overtime, the teams combined for eight total possessions.
• There were five timeouts in the overtime period, compared to just two points scored.
• In the 36 minutes of play, the teams combined for 44 points. That is an average of 1.2 points per minute, if you were wondering.
The “keep-away” strategy for North head coach Darryll Craft and his players worked to perfection, earning the Bulldogs their first regional semifinal trip since 2007. After the game, Craft said he commended his players for staying focused throughout the game and for not getting over-anxious with the offense. Going into the game, he said he did not plan to slow the game down like that, but Legacy’s size and length on defense “forced his hand” as a coach to go in that direction as an offense.
“So what do you make of the stall tactic in basketball?”
That was the question asked by many who were present at Tuesday night’s playoff game, as both teams used the strategy at some point during the game. In high school basketball there is no shot clock, and the only thing to prevent one team from simply dribbling the basketball in a stationary position until the final seconds of the quarter is the “five seconds closely guarded” rule. For those who don’t know the rule, when a defender is within an arm’s length away and is engaged with the offensive player holding the ball, if he can maintain the engagement for five seconds to the liking of the referee, the defender can force a turnover.
But like many people witnessed on Tuesday, if a defense plays back and allows the offense to stay stationary while running out the clock, high school offenses could ultimately take one shot a quarter and win the game. This style of offense is called the “four corners offense,” where four players stand along the perimeter and the point guard dribbles the ball at or near half court. Sometimes the corners switch around and backdoor screen their defenders, but the ball is only being passed around when either a defender engages the player with the ball or the offense wants to seek a “safe” shot.
Head coach John McClendon created this strategy, but the offense truly received popularity and recognition when legendary North Carolina head coach Dean Smith began to implement the “four corners” in the 1960s. Smith would hold the ball for as long as the last 12 minutes of the game in order in nurse a small lead, because until the NCAA introduced the “five seconds closely guarded” rule in the 70s or the shot clock in 1985, there was nothing but failed execution by the offense to stop a team from holding the ball the entire game.
While the offense can be used to hold onto a lead late in the game, teams at the high school level, like McKinney North, run this style in order to reduce the number of possessions by the other team, giving them a better opportunity to pull off an upset against a bigger, stronger opponent.
“I think the more shots Legacy took tonight, the better their chances were to win,” said Craft. “We just couldn’t block them out, because they were too big and strong, so when we had a chance to get the ball and play for one in order to win, that is what we were going to do.”
From an entertainment standpoint, Tuesday night’s game was ultimately boring on several fronts. While the insanity of the Bulldogs winning in the final five seconds off a steal and two free throws is riveting, watching a player dribble while the other nine players stand around is just too weird to see. Maybe it is my generation that grew up with the shot clock, but watching a team play prevent offense for the final minutes of each quarter just doesn’t seem like 21st century basketball.
However, an entertaining game doesn’t guarantee you a trip to the Regional Semifinals, which North does have as the Bulldogs prepare to face No. 8 Dallas Kimball on Friday night. Craft and his players stuck to the “four corners” offense and executed it to near perfection, and as the Bulldogs coach said himself after the game, his team couldn’t have won the game any other way.
And while a shot clock would prevent offenses from stalling the entire game, a defense that is aggressive and can force the guards to make crisp passes have the chance at forcing a turnover and having the strategy backfire. Just look at what happened to Legacy in the overtime period: after stealing the ball with two minutes to go, the Broncos were intent on holding the ball for the final shot. But because the Bulldogs were aggressive on defense, the cross-court pass was unsuccessful and Curran picked it off for the play of the game.
While the slow down offense might frustrate the heck out of fans in the gym, the simple fact remains that the McKinney North Bulldogs executed the “four corners” to perfection, leaving them two wins away from a state final trip to Austin.
North will face Dallas Kimball on Friday night at the Garland ISD Curtis Culwell Center, beginning at 6 p.m.
4. If you were interested with the current standings in Districts 10-5A and 17-4A for soccer, here are how they check out as the calendar flips to March:
District 10-5A Boys:
1. Boyd 5-0-02. Allen 2-1-2
3. McKinney 1-1-3
4. Plano East 1-2-2
4. Plano 1-2-2
6. Plano West 0-4-1
District 10-5A Girls:
1. Plano West 5-0-0
2. Boyd 3-1-1
3. Allen 2-1-2
4. McKinney 2-3-0
5. Plano 0-3-2
6. Plano East 0-4-1
District 17-4A Boys:
1. Prosper 5-0-0
2. North 3-1-0
3. Denison 2-3-0
3. Sherman 2-3-0
5. Anna 0-5-0
District 17-4A Girls:
1. North 4-0-0
2. Prosper 4-1-0
3. Sherman 1-2-2
4. Denison 0-3-2
4. Anna 0-3-2
5. I know we are a couple days removed from the Oscars, but I have to put in my two cents before I get out of here for this week. First of all, I cannot be objective about the greatness of Seth MacFarlane. As one of my comedy heroes, I think some of his work is the funniest content around nowadays. And while I admit that the comic can go over the line at time (but seriously, which comedian hasn’t crossed “that line” once or twice,) MacFarlane was the only reason myself and thousands of other people tuned into the snooze-fest that is the Oscars.
Overall I thought he did a fantastic job as a host, and for those who thought he was offensive, sexist, or whatever you want to label him as, understand that he toned himself down to about 10% of what he could have been. Did the opening monologue run a couple minutes too long? Yeah, I’ll give you that one, but were you really that excited to get to the award for Best Animated Short Film that you just couldn’t stand one more musical number?
Having Seth host was quite intriguing as a Family Guy and Ted fan, but I am glad he doesn’t want to host the Oscars again. His line of humor just doesn’t sit well with the high and mighty Hollywood crowd, who seemed stunned that he would make a Lincoln assassination joke 150 years after it happened. If liking Seth’s humor and jokes from Sunday night is a crime, then I will spend considerable time in the clinker for it. Bravo, Mr. MacFarlane.
6. By the way, Argo is a fantastic film. While I haven’t seen Zero Dark Thirty or Lincoln yet, which might ultimately change my decision, I can definetly see why the Academy gave Argo the Best Picture Award.
8. One of the most fascinating Spring Training stories is Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Juan Sandoval.
Sandoval, 32, is a right-handed pitcher from the Dominican Republic, and is blind in his right eye. He lost sight in the eye after a 2006 incident in his home country after being an innocent bystander to a restaurant shooting.
Sandoval was a Double-A prospect with the Seattle Mariners before the accident, and following extensive surgery to the eye and nearly a year off the mound, he played four more seasons with three different MLB organizations, reaching as high as Triple-A. The past couple of seasons Sandoval has played in the Mexican League, allowing him the opportunity to play on a consistent basis. He made 67 appearances in 103 in 2012, producing a 7-3 record with a 2.97 ERA.
While depth perception makes fielding ground balls difficult for him, Sandoval says he has grown accustomed to pitching out of just one eye. Although his peripheral vision is gone, he still manages to throw strikes on a consistent basis, while many scouts and executives believe the only reason he has not reached the major leagues is because he is blind in one eye.
Although Sandoval will likely break Rays camp and sent to Triple-A Durham due to the team’s strong pitching staff, the one-eyed right-hander is a hard guy not to root for. In two games this spring, he has allowed one run in 2.1 innings. If you want a person to root for during the long grind of Spring Training, take a long look at the Rays’ Juan Sandoval.
9. If you want to hear a little high school baseball over the radio, tune into CCIR.us to hear me do the play-by-play broadcasts of the McKinney Boyd Bronco baseball team over the spring. I promise to not stink too much.
10. I think that about does it for this week in local sports. And if you missed my plea last week around this time, please help in the effort to make the Harlem Shake videos extinct. Please and a might big thank you, McKinney. Until next time, ladies and gentlemen.