my earliest experience with any sort of march basketball tournament time was in 1992, when the pacelli shamrocks unexpectedly went to the class A state tournament. we lived in austin, my parents were both pacelli alums, and school spirit seemed to be at an all-time high. i was 13 and had been managing both girls’ and boys’ basketball teams for my class, but nothing could prepare me for the speed and knowledge needed for a high school championship game. the boys won, and life went on its merry way, dumping me in a little, unimportant high school by the name of new london-spicer. little and unimportant except when it came to its basketball teams.
i came to nl-s during its powerhouse years. every single year i was in that high school, at least one of our basketball teams went to state. i can’t recall what years, but there was at least one year when both girls and boys went to state. i have two very distinct memories from tournament times.
first, you have to realize i was in the pep band. since part of our grade in band was based on participation, it was expected that a person attend at least some basketball and football games to get your points. this also meant that if the team traveled, the pep band traveled (except one time). what better way to get into a game for free?
the first memory i have was traveling to a boys’ quarterfinal the same day as a girls’ tournament game. this had to have been a saturday in 1994. we left late morning to be at williams arena on the UofM campus to play for the girls, who came in 2nd, once again (they won second in the state in 91,92,93,94). then we turned right around and went up to st cloud state for the boys’ quarterfinal. we got back to new london around 11 p.m. that was a crazy day.
my second memory is of the most exciting basketball game i’ve ever been to. we were at halenbeck hall at scsu for the boys’ finals to go to state (could’ve actually been the game referenced above – who knows). after playing before the game and at halftime, we pep band people were allowed to go sit wherever. a bunch of nerds and i (yes, there are a separate sect of nerds within the band nerds who are more nerdy) went to the second floor balcony to watch the game. the game was close, and we were always behind. but, like i said, this was the beginning of the boys’ powerhouse team – 4 sophomores who were extremely good at basketball who were already starters for the team. can you imagine? 4 sophomores starting?? anyway, the game was close, and as the clock wound down, we were 3 points behind. with barely any time at all on the clock, one of the sophomores, jaime olson (?) threw a mad hope 3-pointer toward the basket. we all held our collective breath, and it went in, pushing the game into overtime. i don’t think i’ve ever screamed so loud at a sporting event – the whole nl-s side of the bleachers was an ecstatic mess. seriously, it was something out of a movie. overtime went quickly, and we stayed 1-2 points ahead the whole time and won the final. amazing.
those boys never won a state title, and the year they could’ve done it was the year the captain of the team caught a cold – one of the powerhouse players we couldn’t do without. he played, but poorly.
the girls finally won their state title in my senior year. at that point, the powerhouse boys’ team had graduated, and since none of the current seniors got any real court time prior to that year, the team didn’t do as well.
there are other memories – our pep band tshirts (woo!), always having to get a vanilla shake a fries on friday night hardee’s stops because it was during lent (boo…), having minneapolis north come to new london to play a game to a COMPLETELY packed gym, missing playing games because i had chickepox (thanks, aunt kathy), the pep band deciding not to go to a tournament game because of weather and taking the fan bus instead, watching movies on the coach buses, listening to “we are the champions”, watching mighty ducks, etc. good times.
the bleachers were always packed for those games. the rctc men’s team went to NJCAA nationals, and as i looked at pictures, you could see the bleachers were sparse. where is the excitement of high school basketball? what is it about those teams that puts people’s butts in bleachers?