Whether it’s at the high school or the collegiate level, it doesn’t matter. Coaches will be the first to admit that when the postseason arrives, anything can happen.
Cinderella has made its way to the Ball on numerous occasions where an underdog that has no business to be on the same court or field as a top-seeded squad somehow pulls off a miracle and produces a victory or at least a legitimate scare to their favored opponent.
The R.I. girls’ basketball playoffs proved the “records-often-mean-nothing” theory the last few days with our local squads. During a five-day span, three “playoff mismatches” came down to the final few minutes (or seconds) before it was clear who would walk off the hardwood with the victory.
The first of the nail-biting trio occurred this past Thursday in a Division II preliminary contest where No. 1 seed Mount St. Charles Academy, a squad that posted a 17-1 record in the North, had to dig down deep before finally ridding itself from Warwick Veterans, a No. 6 seed from the South with a 4-14 mark - the worst record among the 16 teams in the tournament. The Mounties won with a score of 52-45, pulling away from a 45-all tie with just 1:32 remaining.
In a Div. I quarterfinal matchup at Rhode Island College on Saturday night, it was East Providence, a fifth seed from the North, that made its superior opponent sweat it out until the end. The Townies, who finished at .500 during the league season at 9-9, made undefeated and No. 1 seed Barrington (20-0) rely on a late rally in the closing minutes before eking out a 51-43 decision.
Finally on Monday night, it was Davies Tech’s turn to try and play the spoiler in a Div. III semifinal contest at RIC against No. 1 seed Middletown. The fifth-seeded Patriots, who were 9-9 in the league, were beaten handedly by the Islanders in their last league contest – a 41-15 rout last month.
But it was a different story in their playoff showdown as Middletown, a team with just one blemish on its 17-1 league record, had to rely on a basket with less than a minute left and hold off a gutsy effort by the Patriots before securing a 30-29 triumph.
Like the coaches before him, Davies’ longtime mentor Gerry Suggs was overwhelmed with pride with how his squad nearly pulled off the mammoth upset. Davies tallest player was a mere 5-foot-6.
“We did everything imaginable, except get in basket in the end to win it - 30-29 to the No. 1 seed in the tournament after being blown out two weeks ago, it was a great, great effort,” he said. “What can I say? You look at a situation where we didn’t have a prayer; where we were not going to beat this team. But we’re going to dig down and say every single possession is critical and we are not going to concede anything. We are going to fight and claw.”
“We got kids diving for loose balls. I got a kid over here,” continued the 6-foot-7 Suggs, pointing over to his saddened players after the game, “that’s smaller than my leg and she’s battling on the boards, she fighting and diving. We are not going to concede. It’s a typical team that I coach. We are not going to quit.”
The basketball tournament continues this week with Mount St. Charles the remaining survivor of our 11 area playoff teams that still has a chance to earn its ticket to the Ryan Center this Saturday for the championship finals. The Mounties will face Rogers in the semifinals on Wednesday night at RIC. The Vikings, a No. 2 seed from the South, held off fifth-seeded East Greenwich in the quarterfinals by a score of 54-51 Sunday night. Mount won its quarterfinal contest, also on Sunday, by cruising to a 56-43 verdict over Mount Hope, a fifth seed from the South.
Wednesday’s matchup will be the first time that the two rivals face each other this winter.
“We came earlier (Sunday night) and watched their game,” said MSC coach Nina Morey. “From what I see, they have very good and quick guards. They are really tall and have a lot of height. They are a good team.”
“We need to play like we played (Sunday) as opposed to that first playoff game,” she added. “We are going to have to rebound. They are very good on the boards. We are going to have to work harder to get the rebounds. They are very quick, so we are going to have to stop their fast break. They have a lot of weapons.”
Morey, who was in attendance at Monday’s Div. III semifinal matches, was cautiously optimistic about her squad’s chances of defeating Rogers.
Perhaps, more so after watching Davies’ near stunner.
“I am happy with the way we are playing,” she said. “As long as we are consistent and playing that way, we should give them a good game. I don’t think I am ever confident in a playoff game. I am too nervous.”
That’s a lesson that has been learned from several coaches throughout the years.