Thursday, March 13, 2008

2007-08: The Season That Never Ended

Most coaches, players, officials and fans of prep basketball will say, to a man or woman, the end of the season is bittersweet. The sore legs, long nights and endless amount of games gets old but the end of the season brings hope, spirit and the occasional miracle when the tournaments begin. The win-or-go-home battles renew the batteries of everyone involved.

But not this year. Not in Michigan, anyway. The season switch, fought to the bitter end by the associated high schools, came and went. Did doom and gloom envelop the state, region or, for that matter, Oakland County? No. The games went on, the season played out and by the end of this weekend, all the high school champions in both girls' and boys' basketball will be crowned.

Yet I haven't found anyone closely-associated with prep basketball that calls the season a positive change. Most girls' coaches and players lamented the change they were forced to accept. One public school in Detroit played just 15 girls' games this season and that included the district opener, a first-round loss. Maybe weather played a factor in that total, or maybe constraints dictated by an outdated facility with multiple uses meant less games. It's no secret that Detroit's public schools aren't operating with lots of loose cash to build new gyms with, but 15 games is a full 25% fewer than allowed by the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA).

Speaking as a working official, the season for me and many other officials had no rhythm to it. Under the previous seasonal configuration, we worked basketball on Tuesdays and Thursday, and many of us worked football on Friday and Saturdays in the fall. In winter, it was a Tuesday-Friday rotation. This year saw games played on any and all nights of the week for no rhyme or reason. One afternoon I worked as an emergency fill-in at a highly-competitive boys' game at Detroit Pershing High before working West Bloomfield's ladies as they hosted Troy's young Colts in the evening. The next morning I opened The Oakland Press to find my girls' game was the only girls' game in the entire three-county region.

Many officials who work basketball also work football, baseball or both additional sports. When football ended, basketball practice was in full swing. Many of us had just finished washing and putting away our white football knickers when we pulled on black slacks and matching shoes. Now basketball is ending and in 15 days, baseball starts trying to play games. That's simply not enough downtime and a case of prep sorts burnout, the likes we haven't ever seen in Oakland County, much less the entire state of Michigan.

Yet the skies aren't so gloomy after all. High school baseball is on the horizon, and soon we'll be recalling the all-Oakland County, Division-I state championship classic from a year ago that Lake Orion won over Farmington in their final at-bat. We'll have a few traditional Catholic League powers in Orchard Lake St. Mary's, Catholic Central and Brother Rice to contend for a possible title. Maybe the Farmington contingent will be back in the fray, and what's to say of Troy and Troy Athens, who play an annual game at Comerica Park, which still doesn't seem like the ole' ballpark. Heck, maybe we'll even let the 'Miracle Maples' of Birmingham Seaholm's 1988 championship enjoy a reunion -- it was 20 years ago the Maples rattled off four-consecutive wins starting in the regional final to win the Class A title. I guess we'll have to mention Royal Oak Kimball's four Class A state title game appearances in 10 years, too.

But if you still wish it was the start and not the end to basketball season, don't fret: We're only about 270 days away from yet another stirring Pontiac Central - Pontiac Northern tilt on the hardwood pines.

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Blogger rmhaggerson said...

The Seaholm Baseball team is having an alumni event this spring, May 17th at a DH. Many of the 1988 Maples will be in attendance.

April 1, 2008 at 6:56 PM 

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