Nothing beats a deep tournament run

Mark Hazelwood
Mar 18, 2014

There is nothing like it.

We've seen it bring the communities and entire region together, and now it is happening again.

No one can forget Port Clinton's memorable ride to the Division II state championship game in boys basketball in the 2009-10 season, or most recently Bellevue's run to the Div. III football championship game in football in 2012.

We've seen the successful programs like Huron, Norwalk and St. Paul make regular trips to the Final Four in volleyball, or the special memory 30 years ago when Willard and Monroeville went to Columbus together in boys basketball.

Now, it's Norwalk's turn to experience the boys basketball state championships. The Truckers (27-1) face Dayton Thurgood Marshall (22-5) at 10:45 a.m. Thursday at the Jerome Schottenstein Center on the campus of Ohio State University, the first of 12 games over the weekend that spans four divisions.

The boys basketball championships in Ohio have always carried a mystique about them. Sure, it's a football state, and it's still the undisputed king of the Buckeye state. No argument from me.

But there is a uniqueness to the basketball championships that stand alone. Many father-son combinations have often made a weekend of it, a tradition spanning several generations, more than likely. It's the heart of Ohio, being in the state capital of Columbus on the campus of one of the largest and most popular colleges in America.

And let's not forget, the games are indoors where weather isn't a factor. Hey, after the winter we've had, it's an even bigger deal. The memorable upsets, buzzer-beating baskets and individual standout performances carry a lasting memory.

I still sit here in disbelief today when I recall sitting in the 300 level at 'The Schott' and watched LeBron James and the Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary mega powers get shot down by unheralded Cincinnati Roger Bacon. It cost James and his teammates the chance to achieve the historic 'four-peat' string of titles.

As a writer, I was fortunate to be sitting courtside as Port Clinton's Allen Tigner drove to the lane and let go of his floater that stunned Zanesville with 3.3 seconds left. The 51-50 win sent the Redskins to the championship game in 2010, and a rabid fan base into a state of delirium.

Now, it's Norwalk turn to create memories at Columbus, win or lose. It will be quite a moment for many to see Norwalk lit up on the scoreboard at Ohio State Thursday.

The public school in the city of roughly 17,000 residents hasn't had much success in team tournament sports, with the exception of a state title in football in 1974.

It's been a tough go for much of our region in Erie, Huron, Ottawa and Sandusky counties on a number of fronts. No secret there, whether it is job loss or criminal and drug activity.

But in Norwalk, within the last seven months, three major employers announced they were closing up shop, which is leaving 433 workers without a job. The Norwalk school district is staring down $943,000 worth of cuts if another levy fails in May.

But unintentionally, a group of teenagers simply playing a game, even if only for a few months, weeks or even a day, can help take the sting of reality away. Much like the communities of Port Clinton and Bellevue were able to do recently, Norwalk is rallying around a feel good story.

These are the memories that you not only never forget, but they never fade. It was refreshing to see Norwalk sell nearly 1,500 tickets in just 16 hours in advance of Saturday's wild 54-53 regional title win vs. Lima Bath.

It again shows that sports still matter at a crucial age. Yes, it is all very cliché, but it's also very true.

So as we watch the 10th different area boys basketball team play in the Final Four on Thursday, I cannot stress it enough: Enjoy and embrace it.

Because there is nothing like it.

Comments

bleushell4

What a great article Mark! You hit the nail on the head! Always love reading your stuff, keep it coming!!

keystone

Mark, great article. Couldn't agree with you more.

It's too bad, though, that all of Norwalk can't enjoy this because of the decision of one person.

What memories are the kids in Norwalk going to remember about the state playoffs if they aren't allowed to attend.

I am willing to bet that Port Clinton and Bellevue gave all of their students and staff the day off.

btls

keystone great point they should have gave all the schools the day off

DaPlane

Thanks Mark! Great job. Go Truckers

A Young Adult's...

Fantastic article Mr. Hazelwood.

High school sports are truly remarkable. The support shown for these 15-18 year old athletes brings communities together (err, most of them at least).

The Sandusky High School community should take note of this. The fan support for their athletic programs is downright sad. Personally, I believe this severely limits their abilities to succeed.

A Young Adult's...

One more thing, Go Truckers. I have zero affiliation with the program or school, but it is fun to pull for the area teams. Thurgood Marshall won't know what hit them.

peaceandlove

Please do not forget Edison Softball's trip to state in 2012! Congrats Truckers!!!!