Friday, February 15, 2013

The Rule of Three

I've heard my daddy say it a hundred times. "It's hard to beat the same team twice."

And he's right. I've seen it over and over again in football games. And the same concept applies to basketball. I call it the Rule of 3.

In basketball, teams typically face each other twice during the regular season, trading home and away. Then, the season ends with an area tournament where teams will meet for a third time. By then, everyone knows what to expect from the other team on the floor. You're familiar, you're ready, and sometimes, you're looking for revenge.

Ranburne's 2012-2013 basketball season has been hit and miss. At times, the boys in purple and white look like stars. Other times, they reveal their youth. Without a Senior on the team, the Dawgs have relied heavily on 14 and 15 year-olds. Which is nothing new. These guys have been the Varsity team for a while. So, what looked like a mediocre-at-best 7 wins entering the area tournment takes on a whole new meaning when you realize that it's double the win total for the past 3 seasons.

Coach had his work cut out for him, but he's had some great tools to work with. The 12 guys that fill Ranburne's roster are some of the best. They work hard, and what's more...they actually love basketball.

They had to love it not to quit after the first week of Bailey-style practice. They didn't quit. They ran and sweated and sucked wind and ran some more. And they did it with smiles on their faces. You couldn't ask for more effort or better attitudes. Even if they weren't winning every game.

Winning every game, they weren't. They seemed to be trying to invent new ways to lose, like blowing a 26 point lead over Ohatchee at home. The Indians beat them again at their place. Both times, I was sure ours was the better team. And the Dawgs were going to get a chance to prove it at the area tournament.

The tournament braket had the 1 seed Pleasant Valley facing Woodland, who earned the 4 seed by virtue of a play in game with Wellborn. Ohatchee and Ranburne would play the 2/3 matchup. So, everyone headed to PV last Friday night to watch the Rule of 3 play out like clockwork.

Ohatchee took a lead in the first half of game one, but it wouldn't be enough. The Dawgs had learned their lesson and shut down the Indians' duel 3-point shooters. They tried cover our scoring leaders as well, but ours isn't a two-man team. Ranburne did their job and put OHS out of the tourney.

Then it was time for PV, with their 8-0 area record, to take on Woodland, with only 4 wins all season. But, basketball is a funny game. It's all about matchups. Ranburne beat Woodland by 30+ and 15+. PV beat Ranburne by 20+ both tines. But, Woodland played PV closer than any area team had all season, taking them to overtime once. So, it came as no surprise when 4-win Woodland came out 8 points better than the Senior-laden Raiders.

And, because truth is stranger than fiction, Ranburne would face Woodland for the Area Championship. Got to love irony.

Except, I didn't love it. I hadn't considered the possibility of playing them again. Nor did I want to. That whole Rule of 3 thing again.

The Dawgs had seen the trend and had been warned that they'd be in a dog fight. Even so, Woodland took a 7-point lead in at the half. If it were still the first half of the season, that might've been enough to get our young bunch rattled, make them force shots, get them frustrated and then panicked. But, sometime over the last three months, these guys had grown up some and had learned to win.

The Dawgs took control in the second half. The game remained close, but you could tell by the body language of the players which team was chasing. We played calm and smart and aggressive. Every player made his contribution. Each one equally significant. An entire team playing unselfishly. It was, indeed, a dog fight, and the Cats didn't really stand a chance. And, at night's end, the area championship belonged to the Bulldogs.

For every rule, there are exceptions. Coach's team has been described as consistently inconsistent. And it's true, they've looked like a hot mess at times. But when it truly mattered, they were exceptional.

Congratulations to Coach on his first ever basketball area championship and to the 12 exceptional young men on his team.

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