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Sunday, February 24, 2008

That's why they play the games

I never would have guessed it. The people in attendance would never have guessed it. I even hazard a guess that Amity would have never believed it until late in the third quarter.
This was the biggest upset in the history of the Southern Connecticut Conference tournament, Amity, the No. 14 seed, beating Hillhouse, the two-time defending champion, 61-52 in the finale of the quarterfinals at East Haven High School Saturday night.
There's a reason why almost everyone, including some SCC coaches, left after Career beat Notre Dame in the best-played game of the day: because no one thought Amity could win. But Hillhouse blew a 11-point lead in the second half. Yes, I have heard the commentary that the reason why Hillhouse lost was because they slowed the ball down when they had the 11-point lead. That definitely had something to do with it and there is plenty of blame to go around.
But if you have watched Hillhouse over the last two years, they have slowed the tempo down to a crawl in the big games, especially the state tournament, and won. They also had the two best players on the floor in Michael Moore and Kwamaine McCarter, both of whom excelled in the half-court set. Hillhouse only has one player who can create his own offense, Freddie Wilson, a freshman, who missed the game due to illness. Jeremy Moore is a fabulous spot-up shooter, but he could not shake loose against Amity.
So in short, Hillhouse is in serious danger of going out early in its attempt of a three-peat.
But trying to break down why Hillhouse is still struggling in game No. 22 only takes away from Amity's accomplishments last week. I thought they were dead and buried after a triple-overtime loss on Senior Night against East Haven. Yet, those five seniors came back and won at West Haven last Monday to qualify for both the Class LL and SCC tournaments. Then, they won at Branford Thursday to set the stage for this monumental upset.
Let's put it in even simpler terms: the trio of Mark Skogg, Sam Markle and Bryce Watkins outworked and outplayed everyone on Hillhouse's roster Saturday night. So, because of that Cinderella lives.
And because of that, I stand corrected. I'm still not in favor of the expansion of the SCC tournament, but if it hadn't, Amity would never have even been in the tournament. So the format worked and proved why the NCAA Tournament is the greatest single sporting event on the planet (yes, even better than the Super Bowl) - upsets are what keeps people interested.
But now this puts even more pressure on Wilbur Cross, the top seed, to remain undefeated and claim its sixth SCC championship. Standing in the way is Lyman Hall in Monday's semifinals, followed by the Career-Amity winner.
Kudos to the four teams still standing.


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