Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The Hardest Thing To Do In Sports

It’s often said that the hardest thing to do in sports is hitting a baseball.
But I’ve always agreed with whoever wrote that the hardest thing to do in sports is to go into the locker room at half time of a championship game and completely change the strategy that got you there, because it isn’t working anymore.
So, while it wasn’t a championship game, you have to give Pierre boys basketball coach Terry Becker a lot of credit for being willing to change gears midseason.
The Govs’ new run-and-gun offense — combined with a constant full court press — allows Pierre to force other teams into contesting what they feel is their biggest strength: Athletic ability. And it also allows Pierre to get a lot of kids involved in the game, which gives them confidence and a deeper bench.
The advent of the shot clock in South Dakota AA basketball makes this style of play even more attractive, because opposing teams can’t really avoid running with the Govs. Gone are the days when ESD coaches could hold the ball for minutes at a time and keep scores in the teens and twenties.
At 3-9, the Govs are sitting at the bottom of District 3. But Pierre played Mitchell tough twice and lost at Aberdeen when the Golden Eagles shot out the lights.
The Govs have eight games left in the regular season to fine-tune their up-tempo style before the playoffs. And, as is also often said, anything can happen when you get to the playoffs.
The Pierre Capitals have three big games at home this weekend. The Caps play host to the rapidly improving Rapid City Thunder.
Pierre won Junior Gold tournament in Grand Forks, N.D. over the weekend, while Rapid dropped three games at Brookings — but played the Rangers tight in two of them.
The Thunder have played a lot of teams close this year, but have found a way to lose a lot of those close games. That’s another of the hardest things to do in sports: Learning how to win.
While Sioux Falls is running away with the league and Brookings is coming on strong of late, Watertown has suddenly lost four league games in a row.
With the league shaping up to be fairly wide open at the state tournament, the Capitals will want to stay in the 3-6 range.
Pierre stands in sixth place right now, one point behind the Thunder. But Rapid City has played three more games to this point than the Capitals.
Long story short, Pierre likely wants to take at least four of six possible points from the Thunder to put themselves into at least the fifth slot at the state tournament in March. A sweep, and the Caps would be right in the hunt for a top-four finish.
The Pierre Lady Govs will try and set a team record for consecutive wins when they take on the Brookings Bobcats at Riggs Gym on Friday night.
While Steph Paluch has grabbed headlines lately in becoming Pierre’s all-time leading scorer, she’s only part of what makes the Lady Govs fun to watch.
Coach Lisa Kannegieter’s squad is aggressive on both ends of the floor and transitions smoothly. They play tough man defense and even throw in a zone from time.
Against Brandon Valley, in perhaps as dominant a performance as they’ve given all season, the Lady Govs put all facets of their game together.
Katie Lingle dominated defensively, eventually turning the Lynx into a team of jump-shooters. Alexa Berg pushed the ball on the point and had a very tough game defensively. Tristan Rogers creates a lot of matchup problems for opposing teams and seems to hit plenty of timely 3-pointers. And Pierre has a bevy of players who contribute off the bench without the team missing a beat.
All told, the Lady Govs play aggressive, physical, up-tempo basketball that makes for a fun evening, whether you’re covering the game or not.
And they’re about half the way to doing the hardest thing in all of sports.

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