The 08-09 Saga Begins

Shopping? Who cares. Prep Bowl? I don't need no stinking Prep Bowl (though congrats to go out to Caledonia and Houston for their state titles from my old stomping grounds). We've got real live regular season basketball and the Czar is fired up (in more ways than one which we'll get to momentarily) and ready to go. Therefore it's only fitting that we begin the big 08-09 adventure at The Birthplace of Intercollegiate Basketball, Hamline's historic Joe Hutton Arena, for the 9th annual Pat Paterson Memorial Thanksgiving Tip-Off Tournament. If you believe the Pioneer Press Metro top 10, we have the top 4 teams in the metro playing in all 4 games. Here we go.

Game 1: Centennial vs Highland Park
George Washington signee Megan Nipe doesn't start but comes off the bench rather quickly. After a quick 17-4 Centennial lead HP cuts the lead to 25-13 with 8:21 left in the 1st half. Centennial then runs HP out of the building to a 53-23 halftime lead. We get our 1st look at the mercy rule in the 2nd half as Centennial rolls 79-38. Megan Nipe and Megan Waytashek with 20 points each. Interesting concept with the mercy rule. If you're at the line with the clock running and game ends, you get your free throws with everybody off the line. Centennial will need to defend better in the halfcourt but they do understand how to run. Nice job passing the ball ahead (as opposed to dribbling) to get easy baskets.

Game 2: Rosemount vs Central
Nice job by Rosemount to survive a bunch of 1st half turnovers vs the Central pressure to be within 36-32 at the break. Central struggled vs the Rosemount 2-3 zone but a nice adjustment by coach Taylor to put Theirra Taylor at the top of their zone offense to get more touches in the 2nd half vs being a baseline runner in the 1st half. The 2nd half is a rout as Central wins 78-49. Taylor with 26 points. Rosemount with no answer for her. Keep an eye on Central frosh Jen'Von'Ta Hill. 16 points in the game, a quick guard who should develop nicely.

Game 3: South vs Andover
South gets the 1st 18 points and Andover goes the 1st 9:15 without a field goal. Taylor Hill with 20 points at the break. She goes on to have 39 points in a 69-25 rout. The bigger story here is the mercy rule. I'll leave that until the end. Tons of scouts in attendance for this game and the Central game.

Game 4: Hopkins vs North
Mpls North started 2 8th graders and played another. Hopkins is relentless with their defense and the waves of players they bring at you. After seeing these 4 teams, give me Hopkins. They took control of the game with a 16-2 run in the 1st half. They never really blew the game open but the outcome wasn't in doubt either. The Royals go on to a 78-59 win. Rodney Williams and Freddie Burton of Cooper make a 2nd half appearance. Marcus Williams and Marvin Singleton in the front row watching their Hopkins schoolmates.

X and O of the Day
A new segment in my game articles. In this segment we'll describe and talk about an X and O element from the game. In today's segment we look at "X" from Hopkins. Start with a Box Set. Bottom guard pops out to the wing for the entry pass. Weak side high post dives through the lane and then out to the ball side corner. The backside post then sets a back screen for the ball side high post looking for the lob on the cleared out backside for an easy 2. Nice variation of the play where the point guard enters the ball and then goes and gets the handoff for the lob off the high post.

Why the Mercy Rule doesn't Work
As I mentioned I'm fired up. I made my distain for the mercy rule clear back in April. Here's some hard data to back that up. In the Centennial game, they emptied their bench with 5 minutes left and running time (clock ran all 9 minutes that it could run). Thanks to 2 fouls and the substitutions that went with them, 90 seconds of playing time was lost on those 2 items alone. 30%+ of the playing time for the end of the bench was lost. I was an end of the bench guy and loved my seat, but if we were up 20 with 4 minutes left, that was a rare chance for me to get some PT. These kids have worked too hard and see too little PT to have their time taken away. After all, kids join the team to play games, not practice (especially on Thanksgiving day, that's right AI, we're talking about PRACTICE!, not the game, PRACTICE!)

Then again, you could be Ahmil Jihad (South head coach) who left Tayler Hill in with 4 bench players all the way to the final buzzer. Let's just say I wasn't the only fan "unhappy" with that. I don't know if I'm more appalled by that or the fact that the officials and scorer's table didn't implement the mercy rule. With 3:25 to go, South made 2 FTs to push the lead to 61-25 (36 pts which should trigger the mercy rule). Running time NEVER happened and its inexcusable, especially when it was used in the 1st game of the day. Here's the exact text from the MSHSL site.

"When the point differential reaches 35 points or more, with less than nine minutes to play, the clock will go to running time. The clock will only be stopped for time-outs (team or official). Regular timing rules will be used if the point differential drops back to less than 30 points. Running time would resume if the differential goes back to 35 points. This rule must be enforced in all varsity games – the rule is not optional."

Today was a picture perfect example of why the mercy rule is a total farce, it doesn't prevent coaches from showing terrible sportsmanship by not pulling starters soon enough or not at all which is the exact problem. In fairness, Coach Jihad isn't the only one who's guilty. Far too many instances like this have happened in the 5 years I've followed metro basketball. I would suggest that the coaches association take this up with their members because its gotten out of hand and the solution lies with the coaches setting the example for their kids.

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