Nobody asked me but...with all due respect to golfer Francis Ouimet at the 1913 U.S. Open, but the greatest game ever played was at the Sikeston Field House last Friday night...well, maybe for local high school hoops action anyway.
Sikeston and Notre Dame boys put on a show in the Class 4, District 1 championship game. It was a shame one team had to lose. Both teams had leads, only to see the other rebound and quickly comeback.
The winning 3-pointer by Notre Dame's Abe Dirnberger at the buzzer was indeed clutch, but Ryan Willen's pass was very heady. The play was designed for Willen to get the shot. He recognized right off that a good shot was probably not going to happen. Willen wisely found Dirnberger for the longer, but more open shot.
Most players at the high school level would have gone into panic-mode and forced a shot with only 2.9 seconds on the clock. Say what you will about Notre Dame, they play smart.
As for Sikeston, it is a tough loss. Scratch that, tough doesn't begin to describe it. The players fought hard and left everything out on the court. It was indeed a classic game. One Sikeston fans would like to forget, but probably never will.
Even more difficult to swallow is that Notre Dame will roll to the final four in Class 4 and have a good opportunity to win a state title while Sikeston can only watch and wonder what might've been. These were two evenly matched teams. Truth be told, neither is superior over the other, but a clutch shot from an unlikely hero kept Notre Dame's season alive.
* Speaking of tough losses, I tried to come up with some in recent high school boys hoops history. In 1995, Charleston lost a bid to make the final four in the Class 3A quarterfinals after St. Francis Borgia's Josh Holtz hit a half-court prayer as time expired. Borgia ended up claiming third.
The Bernie Mules know a thing about tough losses. In 1993, Bernie, led by current Notre Dame coach Paul Hale, lost to Portageville by four points in a Class 2A district final. Portageville went undefeated that year at 31-0. Portageville stormed through the rest of the state playoffs, eventually defeating Brookfield 63-41 in the finals. Bernie had two losses that year, both to Portageville.
Interestingly, the Mules finished No. 2 in the final state poll. I hear Bernie fans are still waiting on that second place trophy.
In 1992, Caruthersville lost a tough game in the district finals to eventual champ Charleston. That year, the 'Jays went 31-2 and rolled to a state championship, beating Eldon 43-19.
* I will give myself a half-hearted Barry Horowitz pat on my back with the prediction of a Notre Dame sweep in the boys and girls district tournament. Last week I said Notre Dame would win with clutch perimeter shooting.
And finally, nobody asked me but...former Portageville standout Willie Hassell is having an outstanding sophomore year at Mineral Area College. Hassell was looked at by Mizzou before going the junior college route. It sure would be a coup by SEMO if they could land this area talent. They have dropped the ball on the last two great point guards from this area. Dereke Tipler from NMCC went to Arkansas State and Dominitrix Johnson of Bell City shipped off to Illinois State.