It must be tourney time

Tourney time is when the underdog shines and it reminds us all why we love sports.

Tournaments resurrect that anything can happen atmosphere and often times, we really can expect the unexpected, even at the high school level.

Parity doesn’t often exist in high school sports at the same level as they might in professional sports, now influenced by salary caps and free agency. So when parity does occur, it makes for quite a scene.

With a Class D regional tournament that included undefeated Superior Central, a 2012 Final Four team in Forest Park, an upstart North Central Jets team and a Lake Linden-Hubbell team that hadn’t reached this level of competition in decades, it was all but a foregone conclusion which two teams would play for the title.

But the Jets flipped the script and turned things upside down when they knocked off the vaunted Cougars in the semifinal Tuesday night.

For the Jets to have even reached the regional tournament, they had to get by a Bark River-Harris team that had won the last 10 meetings between the two teams, on the Broncos’ home court no less.

Tournament time is when legends are born and the Jets have senior guard Darcy Rochon. Always a solid guard throughout her high school career, Rochon took her game to a new level in her final postseason. On defense she was tenacious, hounding the opposition’s top player and offensively she broke her previous career high, twice in the five postseason games she played.

But the most obvious difference in these Jets from the beginning of the season was their level of confidence which visibly smashed right through the roof.

You simply don’t beat Superior Central if you’re intimidated when you step onto that court. Though the Jets lost Thursday night, you can rest assured it was a fearless team that took on the Trojans.

Tournament time is a chance for teams to rise above their sub-par regular seasons and prove that they belong with the elite.

Enter the 2012-13 Gladstone Braves.

This was a team that had lost five of six heading into districts. They had the talent but lapses of scoring droughts and misdirection plagued the team during that regular season-ending skid.

To top things off, their first opponent was a Kingsford team that had beaten the Braves by over 30 points during the season.

Gladstone rose to the challenge and showed what a team can do when it realizes its max potential.

Entering the district tournament, at least based on the regular season, Gladstone appeared the least likely of the four teams to advance.

They call it March Madness for a reason.

On their home court in the district final, the Braves eliminated a Menominee team that had beaten them twice during the regular season. They rallied to force overtime. They rallied from three points down twice in overtime. They hoisted their first district trophy in three years.

Funny things happen when you have a senior led team playing in their final postseason. Something must have clicked in those Braves, none of whom wants this run to end anytime soon.

Tournament time is a chance to right the wrongs of previous seasons.

In a 2012 district semifinal game that has now reached legendary status, the North Central Jets were done in by a red-hot shooting Carney-Nadeau team and an infamous pop bottle.

The Wolves went to the final four at the Breslin Center in East Lansing while the Jets may have wondered what might have been.

Wednesday night, once again in the district semifinal the two rival teams clashed once again, but this time the Jets had the key.

Playing beautifully executed defense, the Jets shut the Wolves out from the perimeter where they often make their home. They circled around the net like hawks, blocking multiple shots when Carney-Nadeau drove inside.

Defense, they say, wins championships. Defense also wins games against Carney-Nadeau, as it turns out.

Tournament time is also when career performances happen and stop and pause moments occur. Unfortunately, tournament time is also when careers come to a close.

Two recent five-year high school careers ended. Each played on their respective varsity teams as eighth graders, an incredible achievement.

Mid Peninsula’s Brett Branstrom went out in the district opener against North Central having scored 41 points in his final game, a career high. Wade Schetter’s career also ended against the Jets. In his final game, he eclipsed the boys career scoring record at Carney-Nadeau, held by Jan Stage and set in 1982. He scored 18 points in the fourth quarter alone, playing with all the intensity he could muster.

Both leave as school record holders at their respective schools, ensuring they will never be forgotten.