Unexpected Barn-Burner

18 02 2010

February 17, 2010

It’s normally fitting to expect a 3-seed and a 6-seed to play each other fairly tightly.  However, this was not something I was expecting when I walked into a Districts quarterfinal match between the 2-16 Superior Bobcats and the 13-5 Missoula Valley Christian Eagles in Hamilton, Montana.  I’d explain my reasoning but my argument was well-stated when I mentioned the teams’ records just now.

The game started out exactly as I pictured, as the Eagles jumped out to a quick 22-6 lead.  However, the Bobcats began to scratch and claw the lead away during the second quarter.  The lucky bounces seemed to be blessed upon the Bobcats tonight as they were able to cash in on many second chance points while out-rebounding their opponent 43-24.  In fact, Superior was able to pull within 6 points at 25-19 before vacating the court for halftime.

The second half of action, and particularly the final quarter, was as close as any basketball fan can hope for.  Nearly every basket down the stretch caused a tie or lead change.  Every possession become more and more precious and every second gone made the mood more and more tense.

In the final climactic moments of the matchup, Superior in-bounded with just 20 seconds to go, down by two points.  Eric Steinebach, who had just hit a pivotal three moments earlier to give Superior a lead, threw up an awkward jumper that didn’t fall.  Teammate Ryan Bowers, who finished the game with 16 rebounds, grabbed the offensive board and converted the layup to tie the game up at 47 with just 12 seconds to go.

However just one quick breath later, Valley Christian’s Andrew Schmautz gets fouled while receiving the inbounds pass… taking him to the charity stripe for two attempts.  With ice in his veins, Schmautz drilled both his shots to put the Eagles on top 49-47.  The Bobcats were unable to even get a desperation shot off, turning the ball over out of bounds as they raced down the court.

A Bobcats squad that had suffered such an unimpressive season had been just one play away from making a very impressive upset… however at the end of the night the final score had to label a gutsy and heart-broken Superior team as the contest’s inferior team, as is the only duty a scoreboard knows.   The Bobcats can surely expect greener pastures in future seasons as they move forward.

As for Valley Christian, they are still puffing sighs of relief over their near-loss on the court today.  Short-term memory is a must for the Eagles however, as they will face an extremely talented 17-1 Florence Falcons squad in tomorrow night’s semifinal.