COLUMN: Bearcat season reminds that things don't always seem fair

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Reliance on team a major part of Lady Bearcat success

By John Herndon

One of the best life-lessons that sports teach is that sometimes things just are not quite fair.

That might be taking what happened to the Anderson County boys' basketball team this year just a bit far. After all, the Bearcats put themselves in the unenviable position of having to play the 30th District's top-seeded team, Collins, in the first round of the tournament when they failed to win any of their district seeding games.

From this corner, seeding is a good thing. Even with shortcomings, such as Anderson having all three district games on the road this year and playing them all at home next year, seeding based on regular-season results is far preferable to a blind draw. Things were settled on the court, as they should be.

But you could understand if the Bearcats ask, over and over, “What if?”

What if Ross Cox had not gotten sick right before the district tournament? He was, after all, Anderson's best inside defender. And as Bearcat coach Glen Drury noted, Cox was a good ball handler and passer. Taking him out of the lineup forced the Bearcats to go with a scoring guard, Christian Estes, running the point. Anderson suffered, no question.

What if Estes had not gotten chicken pox the day before the Spencer County game on Jan. 28? That one really hurt because Anderson was probably a better team than Spencer. A win that night would have pushed the Bearcats to the No. 3 seed in the district, away from Collins.

It would be wrong to assume Anderson would have won either game if the Bearcats had been full strength. Collins was a better team this year, with more talent.

And if Anderson had been the No. 3 seed, the Bearcats would have gone against a Shelby team that whipped them by 23 points in the season and went on to win its first district title since the Collins split Friday night.

But it's also difficult to dismiss the fact that in games where the Bearcats were full strength, they were 12-1 this year. In all other games, the Bearcats were 1-8.

Anderson probably did not experience any single thing that was much different than any other high school team. Yet, the issues never stopped. As Drury noted last week, “It was the timing of everything. We couldn't get any continuity.”

It might have not seemed fair that so many things happened to the Bearcats at crucial times this year, but life never claimed to be fair either.


Girls continue dominance

You have to love the spunk the Anderson County girls display. Friday had to be one of the worst shooting games I have seen from the Lady Bearcats over the last few years, yet they still forced the issue and won comfortably over a decent team.

Stats said the Lady Bearcats shot 36 percent but it sure seemed a lot less. On free throws, a team that had been pushing 80 percent over the last few weeks hit only 10-of-23.

Something else stood out after the game when I talked to all four of Anderson's All-Tournament team selections and asked each one about what winning a district title every year they have played varsity basketball meant.

Every single one talked about accomplishing things as a team.

“The big thing is I am proud of my team,” Stewart said.

“It means a lot that as a team we have accomplished this,” said McKee.

That attitude is probably why the Lady Bearcats have had an incredible record over the last five years.


Weather issues won't go away

Monday, the Commonwealth got the latest blast of the unforgettable winter of 2014. Even before the fate of Monday's girls' Eighth Region Tournament games had been decided, I had received several inquiries about back-up plans.

As it turned out, tournament officials moved all games back one day and had another contingency plan in placc.

The Eighth Region, like most, coordinates the boys' and girls' tournaments so there are no scheduling conflicts. It allows students and fans to attend both tournaments, which is good.

The downside is that if weather intervenes, things really get messy. It has happened several times over the last few years.

In the 2008 girls' regional, a snow storm hit the day of the semi-finals. Delays meant the semis were played on Sunday afternoon with the championship game on Monday night. Simon Kenton defeated Anderson County that night, then had to play in the Sweet 16 in Bowling Green on Wednesday.

Last year, there was another snow delay in the girls' tournament, postponing the final a day. That game, also between Anderson and Simon Kenton, was played after the boys' Sweet 16 began.

A couple of scenarios could help with scheduling in the event of bad weather.

One would be to award first-round regional games to district winners. I like that set-up, which is being used in the Louisville regions this year after a brief hiatus.

Such a format gives district winners a little reward and allows all the first-round games to be played on the same night. Having that option, especially if used in both the boys' and girls' tournaments, gives a lot of scheduling flexibility.

The downside to that format is that the tournament atmosphere created when teams all descend on one place is just not there when there are multiple sites. Like any format there are plusses and minuses. The one you like depends a lot on your perspective.

Another option to prevent regional overlap would be for whichever gender plays the last state tournament to play all of the first round games during the day on Saturday. The first tournament could be played on Monday through Friday and even have the option of playing the final on Saturday night, if needed.

There could be other formats available, but some alternatives need to be examined.


Give girls time to celebrate

There's another change I would like to see would come in the district tournaments. For years, I have advocated having the girls' and boys' finals on different nights, or at least having more time between games.

As it is in the 30th now, the girls' final is usually played at 6 p.m. and the teams have to get off the floor for the boys' game. There is no time to celebrate immediately after the game and by the time of the girls' awards ceremony, they are overshadowed.

When the district tourney has been at Spencer County, that school's small gym capacity prompted officials to schedule one game a night. Some other districts have the girls' awards ceremony right after the girls' final, then schedule enough time for the champs to cut down the nets and for school personnel to put up new ones before the boys' game. It only adds about 20-30 minutes to the evening.

Hopefully, the 30th will adopt one of those scenarios in the very near future.


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