Joel Reichenberger: Teams have right to lose |

Joel Reichenberger: Teams have right to lose

— The Hayden High School girls basketball team isn’t likely to trade any flowers with its foes from Holyoke, not after the Dragons bounced the Tigers from the Class 2A state tournament Friday in crushing fashion, with a buzzer-beating 3-point shot giving Holyoke a 41-40 victory.

Set aside the heartbreak, and local fans should see that Holyoke’s story is a great one. In the Dragons, the best of March basketball can be found.

This year’s Class 2A state bracket was stacked in an unusual way. There was no supremely dominant team. Seven of the eight teams in the field were muddled around “pretty good,” none “great.”

The Holyoke Dragons were the outlier, however, and entered the state tournament with a 9-14 record.

Holyoke’s inclusion is interesting not only for the Cinderella factor, but also because it points out a glaring fault with the Class 4A and 5A basketball tournaments.

Holyoke was neither great nor good for much of the season. It was most frequently bad. Still, the team was at its best when it counted the most, and it won its regional tournament to earn its way to Pueblo for the seventh time in eight years.

Holyoke took advantage of one of the great rules of March Madness: You play until you lose.

That’s the rule in NCAA Division I, where, aside from the Ivy League teams, each of the 347 teams can go into its season-ending conference tournament knowing the season is alive as long as it can keep winning.

Of course, most teams at the high school and college level that aren’t very good most of the season aren’t very good in their conference tournaments either.

Sometimes, though, you have a Holyoke, who defies the rules and makes the tournament with a losing record.

Not so in Colorado’s Class 4A and 5A, where a statewide 32-team bracket is chosen after the regular season.

There’s something to be said for the thrill of a massive statewide bracket and for the kind of drive it takes a team to reach the end of such a marathon. What can be said for that method is drowned out by the grunts and strains from players on even bad teams, working hard in practices all the way through the season, always thinking “maybe … just maybe.”

The end may have left the Hayden girls frustrated. But they need to remember they have a lot to be proud of, and they need to be thankful they at least got an end, and that they always will.

The Steamboat Springs High School girls basketball team didn’t make the state tournament this year. The squad was sometimes good but never great. A mid-season losing skid all but assured the Sailors they’d miss the Class 4A cut, and they played the last weeks of their season knowing that they didn’t have a realistic chance and that their season was over.

That, in the great month of March, truly is madness.

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