Friday, February 13, 2015

Championship Week (Episode 3): Laney vs Josey; WACO vs Butler and more

Every morning, starting Wednesday and ending Sunday, I will release an episode of "Championship Week," which will chronicle all the region tournament action I can see!

Laney's Zep Jasper will likely draw his customary
"double duty" Saturday: run the offense and guard
Washington County's AJ Gray!
A general rule of thumb is that close basketball games are the best kind.  But mistaking Laney and Washington County's region 3A tournament semifinal blowout wins over Josey and Butler, respectively, for a disappointment would miss the point.  The point is that at the end of a thrilling season, and at the beginning of what we all hope will be a great post season, Thursday's winners played, in my opinion, their best games of the season.  What more could coaches Buck Harris and Carlos Hope hope for?  And what more can we fans want? Two great teams, each playing great basketball, will collide Saturday in the championship game of the region tournament of the best region we have seen in a long time. This season's "championship week" is a special one!

WACO's AJ Gray had the best individual performance
I've seen this season Thursday in a win over Butler
Coach Harris and I must see the game with similar eyes.  During a Friday morning phone conversation, he took the words out of my mouth (and off this screen), saying that Thursday's 92 point offensive explosion is noteworthy because it has been a while since the Wildcats "made a bunch of shots" in a game.  "Making shots" is coaching short hand. It is understood that almost all teams are good when their shots are falling.  But great teams win when they aren't.  That Laney has won 25 consecutive games against the most difficult schedule any of us has seen, and that those wins have come even during stretches of time when shots aren't falling is the reason I call the Wildcats the greatest high school team our area has seen... at this point in the season.

Even Coleman's 34 points were not enough
against WACO in Thursday's seminfinals
And Harris didn't object to my saying Washington County's AJ Gray put in the best individual performance of any area player this season in his team's semifinal win over Butler. Gray played like a "point-power forward" and absolutely picked apart the Bulldog defense, finding teammates for easy baskets and seemingly scoring at will with an array of drives and finishes.  The area's (and state's) best football player has been one of our five best hoopers all season.  At times I have thought he has been our BEST hooper.  Last night I know he was.

With two great teams peaking at the most important moment so far this season, we should be in for a real treat Saturday.  That would be a fitting end to Championship Week, and to the past two months of thrilling region 3A basketball.

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