Thursday , 21 June 2018

Mike Bruu: Top 10 Things I Learned From the High School Basketball Season

By Mike Bruu, TSB Sports Editor

Basketball season has officially ended in the ol’ MISD, and what a year it was. From a renewed crosstown district rivalry to four of six McKinney programs making the postseason, this basketball season was quite an adventure to cover as a sports reporter.

This year was my first full season covering the basketball beat from the beginning to the end, so there were quite a few things I learned over the four months about the high school game. Here are the top 10:

10. High school student sections need to work on their cheers and subsequent timing. While the three crosstown games for the MHS-Boyd boys games and most of the playoff games had fantastic turnouts from the student sections, there were still moments that showed most of the students didn’t know how to properly root for their team. Some of the chants like, “You can’t do that!” when the other team fouls your point guard on a drive to the basket just come across as weak and not that creative. I understand that you can’t be as vulgar and explicit with your chants like you can be in the college game, but the students can do better than that. Having large turnouts and students actively tuned into the games are fantastic, but you can be more influential in affecting the other team if you are smart and more timely with your chants. Exhibit A: North fans chanting “Overrated!” to Kimball’s Kevin Frazier in the Regional Semifinals game while the Bulldogs are trailing by five with one minute left is poor, poor timing.

9. Girls games get about 25 percent of the crowd that boys games get. To be honest, 25 percent might be a little too high. Seriously, often it would take me one minute to count every person in the gym for a girls game, which was extremely disappointing given the competitive stakes for each girls squad down the stretch in district play. However, the crowd would pick up late in the fourth quarter of the games, but only because the fans and students were arriving to get a good spot for the boys contest a half hour later.

8. Texas has some tremendous basketball facilities at the high school level. Most people who have been to a high school game at any of the three high schools understands how nice each gym is in its own respect, but some of the gyms that I checked out during the district season or playoff stretch were just outstanding. There was Lewisville High School, with its two story seating and hanging scoreboard above the gym. There was Emory High School and its old school, warehouse environment that kept the noise at court level like you would not believe. Yes, there are some pretty cool gyms around here. And I know that it is an event center, but Garland’s Curtis Culwell Center is a breath-taking facility. Two thumbs way up.

7. District 13-4A presented many problems in keeping up with scores and standings. With Sherman, Denison, and Greenville as members of 13-4A along with McKinney North and four other programs, often times it would take a call or two to acquire about a score from a game on Tuesday or Friday night. Let’s just say keeping up with District 10-5A was a much, much easier task.

6. Speaking of District 13-4A, almost the same programs for the boys and girls made the postseason and practically finished in the same order in the standings. For the boys 1-4 in the standings, it went Lovejoy, North, Wylie, and Sherman, with Royse City finishing fifth after losing a tiebreaker. For the girls, it went North, Lovejoy, Wylie, and Sherman, with Royse City finishing fifth. And yes, Greenville, Wylie East, and Denison finished 6th through 8th in both standings.

5. Never overestimate non-district success. While the Boyd boys finished in fourth place in 10-5A and made the postseason, there was a time that the Broncos were 16-2 and ranked in the top-10 in the area. They would go on to finish 20-10 with a playoff appearance, but I remember thinking back in late December that the Broncos could compete for a district championship with their roster. As it is with any sport at any level, never overestimate the success that comes from non-district results. District play is just another beast that cannot be matched with any tournament or random Monday night contest.

4. The three-point line is a team’s best friend. Basketball has changed over the last decade or so, and no longer is it the norm to see a team feed the ball on the block and work on an inside game to beat teams. Nowadays, assembling a backcourt full of sharp shooters who can stand along the perimeter and jack three’s can win many games and take you fairly deep in the playoffs. However, every team that defeated a McKinney school in the playoffs won with a tall, lengthy post player that could present size problems for the MISD program. While the three-ball is certainly nice to have in a coaches back pocket, I still must believe having a strong post presence is No. 1 on the list of goals a coach would like to fill this offseason.

3. The “Four Corners” Offense. I have never been the guy to dive into the history books of basketball and learn all that I can about the game, but I did after the North Bulldogs topped Mansfield Legacy in the playoffs 23-21 in an overtime contest by playing “keep away” with the ball for most of the second half. After doing a little research, I discovered that the basic concept of this offensive strategy is known as the “four corners” offense, made famous by basketball Hall of Famer Dean Smith. While I won’t go deep into the history of the philosophy (you can click here to read my column on the offense,) I will say that it is a topic of great debate amongst fans of the game about what they think of this offense. Because there is no shot clock in high school, there is nothing in the rule book that prevents a coach from running this offense to hold the ball and keep the other team, who is likely bigger and “better” that you, from scoring. I can see both sides of the argument and why fans would hate to see it, considering you are basically watching a kid dribble a ball in a stationary position for minutes at a time. But unless the UIL and the coaches agree to make a rule change to add a shot clock, you will continue to see this style of ball periodically throughout the season.

2. Crosstown games were downright awesome. I know that was very eloquently put, but there is no other way to say it. The five MHS-Boyd contests for the boys and girls teams were so fantastic to be apart of, mostly because of the energy that could be felt in the gym. While neither side truly hates the other, a good rivalry needs that tension between the two sides that gives the impression the outcome of the game will be the highlight of the year for the winning side, and the low point of the year for the losing side that will take weeks to heal from. Hopefully, there can one day be a time when all three McKinney schools will be in the same district again, because there is nothing cooler for the fans, students, players, and coaches than to play the crosstown team on a Friday night.

1. If there were one high school in McKinney, both the boys and girls teams would be serious state championship contenders. Simply click here to read my All-McKinney teams and say that these teams wouldn’t be downright nasty to play against.

With basketball fully in the rearview mirror, we can turn our full attention to the spring sports for the next three months. You have got to love high school sports. Until next time, ladies and gentlemen.

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