This column will be a long one.
This column will be a long one.
We've got a lot to cover.
Let's go through a few things to begin:
1) Slam dunk contest was as weak as the Super Bowl commercials.
The two ball dunk for Jeremy Evans takes talent. It was the best dunk of the night. Very special dunk. Derek Williams' 360 off the side of the board pass from Rubio was good.
Glow in the dark deal? The dunk was actually pretty nice even without the "lighting" tricks but it was good.
The contest was just missing something.
What it lacked...was star-power, flash, pop...thunderous dunks...charisma.
2) Should Lebron have taken the last shot in the All-Star game?
Here's the deal. Sports fans and critics love "Clutch". I do too, I'll be talking about some clutch performances from players in The Corner in this column.
But here's what I believe, clutch is not so much a heroic thing, as it is a genetic thing in large part.
It's not a matter of how great a player you are, it's about how your body processes stress.
I know, I know...to say something like this takes the "wonder" out of the moment.
I know it stands to take the mystique away from the Montana's, Jordan's and end game "heroics" throughout the history of sports.
But it's true.
It's about adrenaline response, blood pressure, etc...that's not something we can just control. For some, their heart rate, pressure, etc...just doesn't raise in stressful situation like others do.
Why do you suppose some people are able to "run into a burning building while others are running out".
It's genetics. Not everybody can be a fire fighter, police officer, armed forces...people who are the true heroes, might I add.
Not everyone can be in a position of leadership, not everyone can organize a major event, not everyone can process numbers...and on and on and on...
The famous cyclist Miguel Indurain had a resting heart rate of 28. 28! Compared to the average person's 60-72. You can't earn that.
One of my friends could play an entire game of basketball without ever truly getting tired, he could also run 10 miles faster than many could run 5. It's genetics.
47" vertical leap? genetics. Blake Griffin, RG3 (did you see his combine numbers), Usain Bolt? Genetic freaks (and I mean that in the nicest sense of the expression)
So...as hard as it is for us to accept, Lebron might have that gene or personality trait.
His personality is pass-first. That's who he's always been.
Lebron appears to be happier being a part of something as opposed to being the star. What's wrong with that? He's a pass first guy. What's wrong with that?
He's not the next Jordan and why should he have to be? I don't think he wants to be, I think "we" feel the need to compare him by that standard.
Also, it's possible that he's heard that he's not clutch so much, that he can't just relax and play anymore.
No doubt it'll be talked about until something changes...
The sports world always looking for the story, just asked Tebow or "Linsanity".
3) "Isaac, you got anything to say about Jeremy Lin?"
4) Can we please give the Lebron a pass on the joining Wade and Bosh deal?
Former NBA players commented that they would have never called up other NBA stars and tried to get on the same team.
Well good for them...but Lebron doesn't have to do things the way they would have done it (more on that in The Buzzer Beater from The Corner).
Lebron, be who you are...strive to just be you...it'll probably help you relax in those pressure situations.
But to criticize him for "joining" forces with other stars? The claim is, even if he wins a championship(s) it won't really be his doing.
Hey, let's write a little revisionist history, shall we.
Here's a bold statement: Jordan didn't win those championships alone!!! Nor did Magic, Bird, Shaq, Kobe...
Jordan played with not just Pippen (who was and still is a top 50 player of all time) but he also had an all-star power forward in Horace Grant for his first set of 3.
And for his second set of 3 they brought in Dennis Rodman who, like him or loathe him, is the guy I would draft first on my all time fantasy team if Shaq was already off the board even ahead of Micheal.
Dennis Rodman changes games like few people could. During his prime, his teams always won because he does all the little things so well. Dennis Rodman is one of the Top 10 players of all time.
He's #4 on my personal list. I'll expand on this topic in another column if you want me to.
And both Horace Grant and Dennis Rodman are (at the very least) in the same class as Bosh.
And Pippen is still in a higher class than Wade in my book as of today.
Let's also throw in Toni Kukoc (6th man of the year in 1996, second leading scorer behind Pippen when Jordan retired), Ron Harper who was an all-star caliber player for the Clippers before joining the Bulls...
Magic had Kareem and James Worthy...both perennial all-stars. I'll take Kareem over Bosh, Worthy and Wade are a draw in my book right now. Not many were as clutch as Big Game James.
Bird had Robert Parish and Kevin Mchale...both first ballot Hall of Famers. Along with Dennis Johnson, yes a little older, but a one time NBA MVP and he was still pretty darn good with the Celtics. Throw in Danny Ainge and an aging Bill Walton among others for Boston.
Shaq had Kobe and Wade. Kobe had Shaq and Gasol...
NOBODY DOES IT ALONE! NOBODY. Not even Micheal Jordan. And stating this assertion does not take away from Jordan's greatness...it just proves that it takes more than one All-Star at the NBA level to win a championship.
So let's stop with the "hating" on Lebron's "decision".
Yes he probably could have handled the announcment differently and the party where the 3 of them came out like rock stars but...that's over.
By the way, you know who probably deserves the most credit for winning championships without an all-star cast around him: Tim Duncan (for the one's without David Robinson)...
Ginobli and Parker are very good but they never really reached big time all star status.
Now let's be fair, championship is a part of the equation.
The reason Dan Marino isn't mentioned as the greatest quarterback of all time (which skill wise I think he is) is because he didn't win the big one.
Clutch or not, you are measured by how you fair in the big ones. And yes Lebron is still lacking there. He needs to win on the big stage to change that.
And I think that's totally fair.
5) Sports needs a "Golden" child.
That's what Lebron has been cursed with.
The need for the next big thing.
Each generation needs a great one.
Each generation wants to be able to say "I saw the greatest play".
It's like it brings validation to us because we saw them.
The same is true with music. Each generation wants to say they had the best music...I am now one of those people myself. 90's R&B was killer good, yo. 90's rap best ever. 80's pop and rock too.
But here's the deal...you can't manufacture that greatness.
Greatness doesn't come from duplication.
Greatness is unique. Different. You want to be great? Be different. Be you.
Otherwise you'll just hear people say, "he/she plays a lot like ________ (fill in the blank)", "he/she sings a lot like ________"
But you'll never get to be great...only a close copy of the great one.
People have tried to duplicate The Beatles, Elvis, Micheal Jackson...Jordan, Montana, Bird, Magic, Babe Ruth...
You know what you get when you try to duplicate somebody else's greatness?
The Corner All-Star Team
Let me remind you again, it's a fictional game
Let's look at the breakdown again:
Northern Division Teams: Thomas Jefferson, McAuley, Carl Junction, Webb City, Jasper, Carthage and College Heights
Southern Division Teams: Diamond, East Newton, Joplin, Sarcoxie, Neosho, Mac County, and Seneca
Disclaimer: This is not based on the talent of the player alone. I put the teams together the way the NBA does based on actual positions. I gave some grace especially with distinction between Center and Power Forward because they are not clearly defined in high school. I also noticed that we do not have a lot of true small forwards so I tried to reward the kids that fit that mold rather than just giving the spot to a third guard. I tried to factor in how I thought a fan would vote. Many times fans vote by location, stats and entertainment value. This does not necessarily reflect who I think the best players at a particular position are. It's just a fun little deal...hope you enjoy it.
Northern Division Girls:
Vic Foley, McAuley
What? Hey don't get mad at me. It's a fan vote. And even though she's only been eligible (after transferring schools) since Feb. 16, She's already had 26 and 29 point nights.
She's the best post player in The Corner...period. And she's fun to watch. Jumps well, rebounds, blocks shot, super athletic!!! Great touch, gets a ton of "and-1's".
Rachel Bausinger, Jasper
She's tough inside. Very good year. Knows how to work it inside, good moves...very underrated talent who can play at the next level.
Chloe Shepherd, Carthage
Leading vote getter in the North. MVP kinda year. Very versatile, very athletic...very talented. Comes up big in big games. I don't think she has any idea how talented she truly is...
Mikaela Burgess, Webb City
Haven't seen anybody, boy or girl, shoot the 3 as well as she did. Scary thing is she's got 2 years left in high school. At about 17 per game, I'm guessing she probably was the leading scorer on the girls side in The Corner...Webb always keeps their stats updated on Max Preps, I appreciate that "Dub C"! (I'm gonna try to get some stats from other teams if I can. If anybody out there can help me, please do...)
Gabbie Gannaway, Webb City
Had a great year as it was, but injuries kept her out of a few games. Has a great combination of perimeter game and ability to attack the basket. She's got that fun factor also, a definite fan favorite. Great skills, great attitude...I'm gonna miss her :(
Kaitlin Beason, Webb City
Hannah Blount, Carthage
Bryce Boyd, Carl Junction
Natalie Herrod, College Heights
Brenlee McPherson, Carl Junction
Kaylee Morgan, Carthage
Vanessa Pawlak, Carthage
Abby Pekarek, McAuley
Bri Shores, College Heights
Shea Wells, Jasper
Southern Division Girls:
Cady Littlefield, Diamond
There's a lot to like about Cady! She was the most consistent force for the Lady Cats.
Kourtney Brewster, East Newton
Young and deadly. This freshman standout has incredible touch in and around the basket.
Kenzie Dill, McDonald County
She really impressed me this year. So athletic, such a competitor. Too much a fan favorite to be left out of the starting lineup.
She carries herself well on the court. She is a joy to watch play. Leading vote getter by a hair over Gilion.
Ashley Gilion, Neosho
Definitely a fan favorite. Accepted the role as a scorer and did really well in it. She's tough. It seems like I've been watching Ashley play ball for 10 years. She plays the right way, hard not to cheer for her. Great intensity, leadership, spirit. She's a winner. Clear eyes, full hearts...can't lose.
Ashton Pratt, McDonald County
This young lady was probably the biggest and most pleasant surprise for me this year. Great on both ends of the floor. I had no idea how good an athlete she was. I like her game a lot.
Mollie Cooper, Seneca
Haley Helig, East Newton
Megan Meyer, Sarcoxie
Hanna Million, Diamond
Morgan Rathmann, Neosho
Preslea Reece, McDonald County
Bailey Skelton, Seneca
Bailey Taylor, Joplin
Whitney Thomlinson, East Newton
Casee Wheeler, Joplin
Boys line-up next week...
Even More Signature Wins for The Corner!!!
Ladies and Gentlemen, I proclaim this, The Best Year of Basketball The Corner's seen in 10 plus years.
Now don't get me wrong, we've seen state championships and high finishes for individual teams. State rankings, all-state caliber players...but I'm saying
Collectively, this has been our best year. If The Corner were a college conference, we'd be in line for some "at-large" love.
The "signature wins" segment has become a regular fixture in this column. Sweet!
Carthage girls beat Webb City for the 3rd time...this time for District Crown! 47-43.
"Chloe just put us on her back at the end of the game", expressed an elated and exhausted Coach Moore.
Let me set the stage. Carthage is down 42-40 with just over 30 seconds in the contest, Webb City misses a free throw...Carthage corrals the board
Kaylee Morgan makes the decision to push the ball, splits 2 Webb defenders, drives, draws the help side, dishes to Chloe Shepherd for the hoop and the harm!
Shepherd steps up and knocks down her free throw to put Carthage up to stay.
What an amazing play! I thought it was the play of the game. So did Coach Moore. "That was a big time play on Kaylee's part to attack the way she did".
I affectionately call Chloe Shepherd, "Chlo-Worm". A nickname I've had for her since 8th grade I think. I had a "glow worm" toy as a little kid (shut up...I was afraid of the dark ok!)
Well she didn't just glow on Saturday afternoon, Chloe Shepherd shined and shined bright. With Carthage down late in the fourth quarter Chloe simply took over. Scoring with her back to the basket, slicing to the basket, finishes with contact, knocking down clutch free-throws...
Shepherd scored 7 of her 12 points in the final 3 minutes along with grabbing some key boards.
I'm sure you've probably read newspaper accounts of the game so I won't bore you with all those.
I asked Coach Moore what this meant to him, the program to win districts.
"I knew it was going to take time to get the girls used to the new system". (Coach Moore is in just his second year at Carthage).
"But you could see the girls bought into what we were trying to do and we knew it would just take time...I like to play up-tempo".
"It's been fun to watch these girls grow...today is a big day for us".
Hannah Blount led Carthage with 16. While the Lady Tigers had to fight off 4 three point baskets from Webb City's uber-dangerous sophomore Mikaela Burgess who led all scorers with 20.
Miguel Morales provides one of the greatest stories in Corner basketball history. Leads underdog Mustangs to district championship.
I honestly cannot think of a better story in my 10 plus years in The Corner.
Neosho boys beating Kickapoo back in 2001 was pretty big (His coach was a part of that game...more on that later).
Webb City girls winning state a couple years back?
I'm putting this right up there. "Are you serious, Isaac?" I'm serious
M&M's 3 game performance in the Class 4 District 12 playoffs is a thing of legend.
It's not about how many points he scored (25, 21, and 25) ...but how and when he scored them. 3 games in a row.
Morales scored 20 of his 25 in the 4th quarter to lead Mac to a comeback victory in the title Game. The Mustangs were down 15 points in the 4th quarter.
The game tying 3 pointer was a bomb with 29 seconds to play. Some say it was 28 feet deep, some 30...it will be a thing of legend.
Legendary playoff run.
Morales went all "Kemba Walker" on them dudes!
He's definitely got the "clutch gene"!!!
Add to his performance, a Chance Buttram buzzer beater to win the championship game over host team (#1 seed) Carl Junction...Wow.
Jordan Wells put in 21 in the championship game. As a team, Mac scored 32 fourth quarter points....Oooo weeee!!!!
McDonald County was the only team to make the Class 4 state playoffs with a losing record. What a ride!!!
Webb City boys settle the score with Carthage, take the district 55-45.
As I said in previous columns, if they got a chance to meet in the district finals, we'd get a final answer on who gets the head to head edge.
2 wins (in a row) for Webb, 1 for Carthage. Advantage: Webb City.
Defense (and free throws) was the name of the game...The Cardinals refused to let Desmond Buerge get a clean catch.
They face guarded, blew up screens, played intense help side defense.
The super skilled Buerge still finished with 21, but along with having to work so hard for those buckets, he also had to deal with some foul trouble in the third quarter that definitely changed the game.
And then there were free throws. Phoenix Johnson was perfect from the stripe (10 for 10, all in the second half).
Johnson and Breckin Williams had 18 a piece to lead Webb City.
Seneca boys tell Mt. Vernon "not so fast"...take down the Mountaineers on the road to claim share of Big 8 crown! And then Clever goes down next 54-42.
Seneca didn't steal this game. They won it, from start to finish.
Coach Will King, a defensive specialist, held a great shooting Mt. Vernon team to 49 points and scored 22 fourth quarter points to defeat the Class 3 state ranked Mountaineers.
Balanced scoring was the order for the Indians as they received 13 from Eli Wolenhaus, 12 from Daniel Noah, 10 from Dalton Lindsey, 8 from Zach Kelly and 7 from Kyler Ng.
The win gave Seneca (16-9, 7-1) a three way share of the Big 8 title (along with Mt. Vernon and Carl Junction).
Where does this rank on best signature wins for the season?
Actually I think I'll put it at #1. Why? I think it was the toughest win anybody's had, it was on the road (in a super tough place to win), against a state ranked team, with the conference title on the line (high stakes).
Here's the close runner-ups:
Carthage boys win vs Kickapoo (neutral site), Diamond boys win vs. Wheaton (road game), Webb City boys win vs. Carthage for district crown (road game)
Most impressive/dominant win of the year (thus far): Carthage boys win vs. Ozark
And then, Seneca further announces it's arrival with a strong signature win over Clever (16-8) in the first round of districts. Kyler Ng led Seneca with 20 points.
With the win the Indians run their record to 17-9 and they earn a rematch with guess who? Mt. Vernon...Friday night, 6PM at Mt. Vernon (again)
"retirednavychief", I had considered the possible outcomes of Seneca's game with Mt. Vernon before posting my final regular rankings.
Yes it's a huge win...a huge win! The biggest any teams had all year. A win over a state ranked team in a true road game. Yeah it's huge.
But I still would have given CJ the nod due to their 2-0 record over Seneca. It's just too much to ignore. But it made it awful close.
Had that 2-0 advantage not been there, I would have waited an extra week before posting my final regular season rankings.
But I got your back, "Chief", it will be hard to keep Seneca out of my final standings. I'm loving your Indians right now!!!
Webb City boys beat Willard in OT 61-52 in district semi-finals to get (aforementioned) rematch with Carthage
Kohl Slaughter put in 16, while Phoenix Johnson and Breckin Williams put in 15 a piece as Webb City outscored Willard 13 to 4 in the extra period to secure the win.
Webb was down 6 going into the 4th quarter but held Willard to only 7 points to force the over time.
Webb City girls control Willard to reach district finals, 54-38.
In one of the most unbelievable defensive performance in a playoff game. Webb held Willard to 4 first half points. 4!
This is a Willard team who beat the Lady Cardinals 68-57 on Feb. 6 at Willard.
Sweet revenge for Webb City as they held Willard's star player Brooke Duncan to zero points. She had 25 in their first meeting.
What a job!
For their offensive part, Webb put 4 girls in double figures led by Kaitlin Beason's 15. Gabbie Gannaway 13, Mikaela Burgess and Megan Heman had 10 a piece.
Controversial endings! Let me get the negative out of the way first: I was very disappointed in the way a few of the district games ended. I can't deny that.
But I said it in this column a few different times/ways, If the game is close, strange things can (and often do happen).
On with our show:
Evan Belk knocked down 5 three pointers on his way to a 19 point senior night effort as College Heights defeated Golden City 58-32. Freshmen Josh Woodmandsee added 4 treys of his own on his way to 15 points. Spencer Ming added 9 more for the Cougars. The Cougars ended their season with a lost to Purdy in districts. Congrats to Evan Belk on a very impressive 4 year career. You'll be missed more than you'll ever know!
The College Heights Lady Cougars received 12 for Bri Shores as they were victorious over Golden City 48-16.
Carthage boys defeated Joplin 55-50 in district semi-finals. Joplin senior Sam Williams played one of his best games of his career on the last night of his high school career, leading the Eagles with 20 points. He made big shot after big shots, including 3 treys, to try to pull off the big upset. But the Tigers, led by Desmond Buerge's 27, were not to be denied.
Thomas Jefferson boys go undefeated against the Joplin private schools as they defeat McAuley 73-41. The Cavs had 3 (almost 4) guys in double figures: Justin Brown 19, Alex Oserowsky 17, Tyler Thurman 16 and Jake Hockman added 9. Cole Lowry led McAuley with 18.
Speaking of McAuley, the girls got a win over Wheaton 47-42. Newly activated Vic Foley scored 29 in the win (unofficially she had over 10 rebounds as well).
CJ boys defeat Monett to reach district finals 64-50. Travis Vogt led the Bulldogs with 18, Payton Walker and Matt Magee had 13 a piece in the win.
Carl Juntion girls won one of the most exciting district games of the year, defeating Cassville in OT 57-45. Bryce Boyd came up clutch with 23 big point and 7 for 8 from the charity stripe in the extra session. The story was the unbelievable defense defense CJ played to comeback from a double digit deficit.
#2 seed CJ girls lost to #1 seed Aurora in district finals. No shame in that. That young team had a very good finish and earned that #4 spot in The Corner's final regular season standings.
Diamond boys finish the regular season 23-2 after another lopsided win (on senior night). The Wildcats beat Lockwood 83-35 to cap an undefeated first place finish in the Spring River Valley Conference (9-0). Kyle Heman put up a big 33 in his final home game and fellow senior Jared Huffman added 18. Both Heman and Huffman were honored on senior night for eclipsing the 1,000 point mark in their careers. Congrats to both.
Diamond boys win first round district game over Corner-rival East Newton to move to 24-2. But East Newton gave them all they could stand as Diamond escaped with a 57-53 victory.
Diamond moves on to face #2 seed (and state ranked) Southwest on Friday night at 7:30PM at Mt. Vernon High School.
I give major respect to the job Coach Yocom did with East Newton in a rebuilding year. The team will only get younger (so to speak) next season as do-it-all senior Tucker Anderson graduates.
But I believe Coach Yocom will find a way. He always gets the best out of his boys.
Speaking of respect, no matter what happens for Diamond's boys the rest of the season, I'm super proud of them in handling what they've had to go through the past week or so. Hold your heads up young men and go play like Champions! Cuz no matter what, that's what you are!!!
McDonald County girls had one heck of a season! Coach McClain had a true "Coach of the Year" kind of season. She led Mac to a 14-13 season dealing with tons of injuries and...as I've stated before...no conference to play in. To keep these girls together the way she did was phenomenal. It's not all about awards and stats, it's about what you do with what you have. And McDonald County girls played the hand they were dealt with heart and class. They were probably my favorite team to watch. Incredible chemistry!!! I'm not saying they are the best girls team in The Corner (I believe that distinction belongs to Carthage), but I would give them my vote for "Team" of the Year. What they did this year...was special.
Diamond girls finished their regular season 12-12 after a win over Lockwood on Friday night Hanna Million put in 12 and the Lady Cats got 11 a piece from Megan Wilson and Cady Littlefield. Kudos go to Coach Brimacombe on keeping his group together through a very difficult year with player injuries. Torn ACL's, concussions, etc... I would venture to say the Diamond girls had more "lost player games" to injuries than any other team in The Corner if not the state. And they still finished 12-12, 5-4 in conference, that's Coach of the Year material as well. If Hannah Dodson (ACL injury) had been able to play this year, we're probably looking at a 17 to 19 win year, seriously.
In my talk with Coach Jim Moore, Carthage girls coach, he told me that he teaches his girls "Defense wins games but rebounds win championships". I agree and I back up the statement with this stat, go look up the last 3 Men's NCAA champions, tell where they ranked in rebounds nationally.
Back to Coach Barrett, Mac County boys coach. Coach Barrett, I applaud you for letting your player play. I think you know a thing or two about winning, after all you were a part of the best boys team of the last 20 years in this area (Neosho 2000-2001). I took coaching classes in college; you know what the first line in our text book says, "Superior talent beats superior coaching".
(One of the first rules of psychology is don't over analyze.)
Superior talent beats superior coaching. Let me give you another nugget: Do you know that since its inception, every Men's team to win an NCAA title has had a McDonald's All American on it. Look it up. Jim Boeheim was always a great coach, Carmelo Anthony made him a great coach with an NCAA title.
I don't believe it's about your system. Any system can put you in position to win games. Players have to win them. I go to coaching clinics and meet coaches who are ready to scrap everything they've done before because another coach presents them with a new offense/defense. I must admit, those clinics can give you that kind of fever, but we must be careful of changing what we know. Me personally, I can't teach something I learned once or got from a video. I don't understand it well enough. Most of my sets come from what I've learned in high school/college or what I've made up in my living room based on the players I have. I have to be able to teach it without hestitation/doubt, I have to know it like the back of my hand...otherwise I don't think my kids will buy into it.
Miguel Morales was struggling from the field in the district championship, Coach Barrett, told "M&M" if he stopped shooting he'd be on the bench. Brilliant coaching. Let your player play. Give them freedom to make mistakes. Give them wings. They'll end up giving you championships.
Coach Ponce (Neosho) is another guy who knows how to utilize the players he has and empower them.
Buzzer Beater from The Corner:
Young people (and older ones alike),
You should never have to apologize for being who you are!
You don't have to walk in another man's foot steps...
You will often find misery and emptiness trying to be someone else.
(I've mentioned this before but)
I made a choice in coaching.
I made a promise to God and myself that I would not "recruit" kids for my traveling teams.
I made a decision that I would never dismiss kids to add more talented ones.
I made a choice to accept anyone who wants to come.
Yes, the choice I made may create criticism.
Yes, the choice I made will keep some people from joining.
Yes, the choice I made might mean losing some games other traveling teams win.
No. I never have to apologize to anyone for making that choice.
No, I never have to apologize for not being "cool".
No, I never have to apologize for what I believe in.
No, I never have to apologize for being in chorus in high school
...or collecting comic books and baseball cards, or not going to parties, or not being very attractive in the eyes of the girls in my middle school or high school
Nor do I have to apologize for having emotions that may seem to make me less manly, for crying all the time (which I do), for speaking my mind even if people hate me for it
or choosing ministry over pro basketball opportunities, enjoying watching The View or romantic comedies, choosing never to "dress up"
I don't have to apologize.
Neither do you.
You are who you were meant to be.
You are not a mistake.
You don't have to be ashamed of how you look, you think, you act or you dress.
You don't have to be like somebody else's...
You don't have to apologize for choosing to be yourself.
Your past will be your future's blessing, your weaknesses will be your strengths, your setbacks will be your breakthroughs,
...the things that make you "weird" are the things that make you...well...
Don't lose that.
And for God's sake, don't apologize for it.