To steal a line from one of the greatest broadcasters of all-time Jack Buck, "I cannot believe what I just saw." Well, on what turned out to be an amazing Saturday of high school basketball in Vermont, I ended up thinking that phrase roughly 429 times in the span of two games.
I am still trying to digest what happened on Saturday. I started in Brandon for the boys Division II quarterfinal game between Otter Valley and Montpelier. At one point Otter Valley was up ten, but that was not the story as the Solons came back to bounce Otter Valley 87-85 in FOUR overtimes. Yes, four overtimes and this one could have very well gone five. Shayne Morrissey hit a running one hander with seven tenths of a second to go in the fourth overtime to win it in a game that still defies description. But, Otter Valley's coach called time as Montpelier rushed onto the court, so the Otters still had a chance to win it but a 60 footer went wide and Montpelier could continue a well deserved celebration. Coach David Moore was so overcome with his kids' performance that he was in tears after the game. Montpelier kids were in tears, and Otter Valley's kids were in tears. When the game went to a third overtime, both coaches were standing together at half court and shook hands with smiles on their faces. Yes, this was one for the ages with 24 lead changes, an Otter Valley kid who didn't play much hitting for 13 with a few clutch threes, and 24 kids who just refused to give up. When I talked with Shayne Morrissey after the game, the smile on his face was as wide as the arena. One for the ages this one was.
The second game of my doubleheader was in Barre for the Division II girls final between Lamoille and Mount Abe. On paper, this thing was going to be a blowout as Lamoille had beaten their tournament opponents by an average of 43 points going into the final. Mount Abe was a low scoring team who had beaten top seeded Vergennes to earn their trip to the title game. We all had Lamoille winning by 40 or more....Wrong answer, this is the post-season tournament.
Mount Abe came out tough, and when I say tough, I mean tough. Mount Abe played tenacious defense and actually lead Lamoille by one at the break. The crowd was as loud as I had ever heard as I was saying on air that we could have an upset in the making. Mount Abe finally fell apart a bit at the end and ended up losing 41-32, but that was not the full story. Mount Abe played their hearts out and just refused to give up. Jade Dingler, a late season call up from JV hit for 11 points, and those kids were playing the game of their lives but came up a tad bit short. But, even that was not the full story.
With about 30 seconds to go in the game, Lamoille coach Tim Messier pointed to the bench to make a few substitutions, and going to the scorers table was Mackenzie Pratt. Mackenzie has missed about half of this season after her second recurrence of cancer. Pratt has been the emotional leader of this team with the team playing this season for her. If this was a typical player and a typical kid, this would be a nice gesture. For Mac, it meant something.
Mackenzie has a spirit about her that makes grown adults admire her. She has an amazing attitude about her disease, and in the times I have spoken with her, she has been smiling, positive, and knows she will beat this horriffic disease. She could be seen before the semi-final game smiling, laughing, and clowing around with her teammates. Before the title game, she was the ring leader in keeping her team loose. Well, when Coach Messier put her in the game, there was not a dry eye in the house. She hugged her teammates when she was at the scorers table, and bounded onto the court to a standing ovation from both teams. She even got a chance to score and I remember Mac getting the ball underneath and saying, "Man, I hope she hits this!!!" She missed the shot, but got the rebound so at least she got a board. After the game, she was happy to be a part of the game, and told me that she just wanted to feel like she was part of the team. Well Mac, you did much more than that. Yes folks, this is what the post season is all about.