Jets achieve rare feat
How rare of an achievement was the North Central Jets regional championship? Turns out it’s pretty considerable.
North Central (25-0) had to win consecutive games in overtime, over two of the top five teams in Class D in the Upper Peninsula no less, to win its second straight regional title. That puts them in exclusive company.
They are likely the only team in Michigan, of any class to accomplish that this season, and perhaps the only team in surrounding states as well.
I spent a good two hours Wednesday reading about Wisconsin and teams that played one overtime game, in some cases a double or triple overtime game to win a regional title, but not two straight extra period games.
I found schools in the midwest that played in two consecutive overtime games in a regional, but didn’t win both of them.
This doesn’t mean there wasn’t a school out there that achieved the same feat the Jets, it may just mean there wasn’t much written about it, available online, so here’s a couple of the better stories I did find that compare to North Central’s amazing run.
Illinois: 3A Regional Tournament, Woodstock girls basketball
The Woodstock High School girls basketball team had lost nine games by five points or less entering postseason play this year, and were seeded fifth out of six teams in their region, so they certainly fit the description of underdog.
The Woodstock Streaks defeated rival Woodstock North 54-50 in double overtime in their regional quarterfinal, before surging to a come from behind 55-51 overtime victory over No. 1-seeded Marian Central Catholic in the semifinal. Woodstock trailed by as much as 17 points in the second quarter of that game.
In the regional final, Woodstock defeated Richmond-Burton 43-36 in a game that didn’t require the extra period. In December, Woodstock fell to Richmond-Burton by three points, in overtime. In the final, the Streaks turned the tables, rushing out to an 11 point lead in the first quarter.
“We learned from that loss,” Streaks coach Marty Hammond told the Woodstock Independent. “The freshman coach that we added to the staff added in a new press breaker which was critical in getting that lead early in the game.
“The first game, they trapped us and got easy layups. This game, we didn’t give them opportunities to get easy layups. We made them work and challenged them.”
Wisconsin: Division II Regional Tournament, Sauk Prairie boys basketball
Sauk Prairie’s seniors entered the regional tournament this season having never won a postseason game, yet they beat DeForest in a 48-45 overtime thriller for a title game berth.
One night later in the final, they faced rival Reedsburg, which Sauk Prairie had already lost to 41-37 in overtime and 62-61 during the regular season (and you though North Central and Forest Park played each other close during the regular season.)
Sauk Prairie raised the stakes even higher for the regional title, beating Reedsburg 62-58 in double overtime to win its first title since 2010.
“To win two games in a row, on back-to-back nights, in overtime and double overtime, they’re elated right now. Their emotions are all over the place,” Sauk Prairie coach Levi Massey told the Reedsburg Times Press.
Reedsburg had opportunities to win the game at the end of regulation and after the first overtime period, but neither went in. It was a stunning reversal of emotions for Reedsburg, which had beaten Portage in overtime to make the regional title game.
“The game is cruel in that you get a good look at the rim, the ball hangs there, and if it falls in, you’re on top of the world, and when it doesn’t fall in, you’ve got to dig deep and go battle through another overtime,” Reedsburg head coach Brian Bestor told the Reedsburg Times-Press.
“I love the look that we got, an opportunity to win at the end of the first overtime. The shots didn’t go down. They made good plays to defend them, and that’s the game of basketball.”
North Central can relate. In each of its regional victories, the Jets had to come from behind to force overtime and then make a big play on defense to preserve the victory.
But whereas Sauk Prairie beat Reedsburg in the third meeting between the two teams, after losing the first two, North Central had to win all three meetings against Forest Park.
It goes to show how tough a task it can be, and even tougher to manage the emotions and pressure of playing consecutive overtime games. As a sportswriter, I can’t imagine the pressure the Jets feel, carrying a 25-0 record, playing in front of jam-packed gyms, carrying the expectations that last year’s team set for them.
I’m just enjoying the things they gave me to write about, a more dramatic game each time they go out. What more could you want?