March Madness is alive and well ! After what I witnessed the last two weekends in person, I’m very much looking forward to what’s ahead the next three weekend on both the men’s and women’s side. Let’s start with the Final Big East Women’s Championship Game Tuesday. Notre Dame was the better team in the first half, UConn was the better team in the second half. It came down to who would make the big play, or who wouldn’t. The last play that resulted in Natalie Achonwa’s layup with 1.8 seconds left pretty much summed up what this season series has been like for the Huskies. Just when you thought it couldn’t get anymore excruciating, it did.
One thing the Big East Tourney showed, the potential of Breanna Stewart. Had UConn pulled out the win, Stewey may have been the tourney MOP. All three games she showed the aggressiveness and talent that she displayed early in the season. She’ll be called upon to be a force in the NCAA’s. And Bria Hartley is starting to come around. She did a lot of good things as well that bodes well for the next three weeks. On the flip side, it’s a credit to the Irish to what they did defensively on the perimeter. By far a season low 5- 3pt attempts and none of the attempts came from Kaleena Mosqueda Lewis. That is surprising and alarming. However, it’s proof that this potential All American has work to do. Big time players find the ball. KML’s getting there, as she said on camera after the Notre Dame, more work is needed in the gym, she’s had enough of this. Not only are the next three weeks key for her, the off season will be as important as Stef Dolson’s was last summer.
There are some who feel that with three losses to ND, UConn may drop to the 4th #1 seed overall with the added info that Stanford’s RPI is #2 and UConn’s is 4. Personally, the rout in Palo Alto and UConn’s pasting of Duke in January trump all. And besides, who wouldn’t want to see round 4 of the Huskies and Irish in New Orleans ? I’d think right now, the most likely opponents would be the Patriot League champ or St. Francis of PA if they beat Quinnipiac in the NEC Final.
There there is this past weekend at the High School Basketball Finals at the Mohegan Sun Arena. I had the pleasure of calling the Friday “M” Doubleheader where we saw the Cromwell Girls complete a perfect run to the state title and the young men of Valley Regional win it’s second state crown in three seasons with a win over the upstarts from Weston. I won’t lie, I slept in very late Saturday morning, turned the TV on just in time to see Granby hit the three to force the first of what would be a pair of OT’s as the Bears, known as a Soccer Powerhouse, wins their first in hoops. Then there the stories of Woodstock Academy and Mercy. The quiet corner isn’t known for basketball, but the Day’s great columnist Mike DiMauro told me after the Sentaurs beat New London in December, the New London coach thought Woodstock WAS a championship contender. After wins over Bunnell-Strattford and Trinity Catholic of Stamford, they made believers of everyone. And I think the entire town showed up at Mohegan Sun Arena. The atmosphere was fantastic.
I thought that excitement of that game would be hard to top in the “LL” Girls Final between Lauralton Hall and Mercy. I was sadly mistaken. With the tied game late, both teams first had turnovers. The last 17 seconds were wonderful. First Michelle DeSantis of Lauralton, the daughter of ex Quinnipiac Star and Coach Joe DeSantis, made a great drive and spin to the bucket for a potential game winning layup with 3.8 seconds left that had us thinking, oh no ! Not again to Mercy, who had lost the last thee LL Finals by 2, 2 and 3 points. Coach Tim Kohs’ called for the play “homerun.” Think Bryce Drew and Valparasio. It ended with Senior Maria Wesleyj hitting a game winning three from the right wing as time expired to give the Tigers the dramatic win. I guess with all the heartache the Mercy Senior class has felt the last three years, it was only fitting that they win the way they did. Congrats to ALL the teams who played this weekend. As good a weekend of basketball as you’ll ever see.
Don’t forget, Joe D’ and I host the Women’s Selection Special Monday Night from 7-9p. Joe in studio and I’ll be in Storrs. We know it’ll be Storrs and Bridgeport..Could this be the year the committee puts Tennessee in the Huskies’ bracket ? Will Delaware show up too ? And the more important question ? The third or fourth top seed ? We’ll all know tomorrow night.