TRAVERSE CITY — The girls will crown four state champions Saturday.
The boys will be down to the Elite Eight in each class Wednesday night.
March Madness is heading down the home stretch.
And, as usual, it’s been an entertaining and unpredictable journey thus far.
Friday night reminded us how compelling March Madness can be.
Consider this: The Big North, Lake Michigan and Ski Valley champions failed to make it out of the districts, losing in the finals to teams they beat during the regular season. Alpena (20-1), Boyne City (20-1) and Bellaire (21-0) entered the night a combined 61-2.
Two other favorites, Cadillac and St. Francis, were taken to the brink. Cadillac was forced to overtime before disposing of Ogemaw Heights, a team it beat by 18 and 9 points during the season. St. Francis nearly squandered a 16-point lead at Manton. The Rangers missed a 3-pointer in the closing seconds in a bid to send that game to overtime.
To be fair, Alpena, Boyne City and Bellaire were playing teams that gave them battles earlier. Just three weeks ago, Alpena barely escaped at Traverse City West, winning 72-70 on a last-second shot. Boyne City slipped past East Jordan twice — once in overtime, the other by a point. Bellaire, meanwhile, had to rally from a late double-digit deficit to beat Boyne Falls back in December.
So to say West, East Jordan and Boyne Falls were big underdogs would be erroneous. The West win was impressive, though, since it came before a large partisan crowd at Alpena, ending the Wildcats 20-game winning streak.
The moral to this story: Games are not won on paper.
Welcome to the party
There’s nothing like a tournament run to excite a fan base and a community.
It happens every year.
For East Jordan, Friday night’s win ended a 19-year district drought. It came over its big rival and earned the Red Devils a police escort into town.