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State Tournament Round Two Preview: #1 Granville vs. #17 Linden-McKinley

That’s right folks….the Blue Aces America's Team survived their Round 1 scare and advanced to the program’s fourth consecutive Elite (One Hundred And Twenty) Eight of the Ohio High School Athletic Association’s girls basketball state tournament. And now I’m in a tough spot…..because the largest pillar of our program is that We > Me, and we do NOT recognize individual statistics like points scored, but I also know that we’ve just gained an incredible amount of support from across the country, and you guys deserve to know how the team played!

I’ll give you guys a few numbers, but I swear to god ladies, if I see one ounce of selfishness to look better on the blog in today’s game, this is OVER and we’re running afterwards.

Game 1 Highlight Video and Recap: 

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Stat Lines for the Top 7:

Harper: 17 pts, 10 rebounds, 6 assists (20 minutes)

Elle (freshman): 9/12 from the floor, 18 pts, 8 rebounds (18 minutes)

Aliyah: 12 points on 4 threes, 2 assists (18 minutes)

Katie: 6 pts, 6 assists, 4 steals, team high +59 on the +/-

Delaney: 4 points, 4 assists, 4 rebounds, 1 murder

Hanah: 6 points on 2 threes

Taylor: DNP (Shoulder) – Get well soon, T!!!!

Special shout out to one of our Freshmen players, Lils, who dressed for the first time and scored her 1st career Varsity points on a 3 from the corner!!

Also, I must point something out to the people questioning why the score was so lopsided and why the defense was so bad in the clip I tweeted of Delaney being afraid of Big Cat flaming her: Every school in Ohio that fields a basketball team qualifies for the tournament, so seeing as we finished 9th in the state AP Poll and #1 in the Columbus area, our first game was against the very last ranked team in the Central Ohio. We chose to play on 4 days rest instead of taking a week or more off, so unfortunately, that meant Marion Franklin, who had the last selection on the bracket, had to make the drive to Granville in a game that really shouldn’t have been played. We man-to-man pressed the 1st possession of the game, got a 10 second call, and then went to a 2-3 zone for the rest of the game when we realized what it was going to be like. I think our girls did a great job of being respectful, taking time off the clock, and not pushing in transition to keep this to what it was. Marion Franklin lost a game 93-3 earlier in the year (asshole move). This could've been 193-3 if we wanted.

Anyways, here’s the updated District bracket:

There are now 8 teams remaining in each of the 16 districts across the state. Some schools will choose to cut down the nets after today’s round as they are technically “Sectional Champions”, but we will forgo that because we feel net cutting is a privilege great teams must earn, and beating #17 and #20 in the district doesn’t feel like a big enough accomplishment for such a prestigious action of climbing up on a ladder with a pair of scissors. 

Okay, that brings us to today’s game - Sectional Final, Round 2, vs. #17 Linden McKinley.

One thing I absolutely hate is that due to contracts between OHSAA and NFHS, we are not allowed to broadcast this game to you all free of charge. You can pay the $13 to watch a silent camera of the entire gym if you want, but there is hope that starting next Wednesday in Round 3 that we will have a free livestream with announcers, multiple camera angles, and mic'd up players/coaches. I cannot believe the technology is readily available today for that to happen, but our school is bound to the rules. I'm sorry about that. Additionally, open invite still stands for Big Cat, Dave, and Jake Marsh to come call the next game. Or maybe Mark Titus and Brandon Walker want to start their high school tour and do this 3 Point Contest live from the Granville High School gymnasium?

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Okay, enough about all the hoopla. We have a state tournament game today. Here's the breakdown of this afternoon's matchup:

So this team is clearly better than Marion Franklin. They do play in the same Columbus City League though, which aside from the one school (Africentric) that attracts the best players in the city and wins state title after state title, is generally not very strong in girls basketball. I've watched a few of this team's games, and while I do feel good about our chances, I'm more enamored with the fact that they beat a team 77-0…..

…..and also lost to them 37-36……?

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I can't comprehend it. I need answers (couldn't obtain the film of the loss, but the state information page confirmed the score) as to how this happened. I mean, if we beat a team 77-0, you could take our top 14 players off the roster and we'd still pull one out in the rematch with our crew of 4th grade ball girls (shout out Leighton, Gabby, Taylor, Malory, Nadia, and Larkin). This can't be a one or two kids were sick type of thing. 77-0!!!!

…and wtf are you doing beating another school 77-0? I'm not going to act like the nicest guy in the world, but everyone in our program knows that if we find ourselves in games like that, we allow shots from the top of the key and/or foul to get those girls in the scorebook. That's horrible. And I hate to get too fired up about it before today's game, but if Linden is okay with beating teams 77-0, someone might need to give them a taste of what that feels like….

Keys to the Games

1. Control The Chaos

Both teams want to play fast, but are we going to let them speed us up? When we are at our best, we're covering every inch of the court with our man-to-man defense, but we are also controlling the opponent as to where we want them to go. Can we force their ball handlers to the corner to allow a chase down trap from the back side, or is this going to become a track meet?

2. Effort and Energy

Saturday afternoon, not a highly anticipated game, and the weather is really shitty right now. I would take the Under on whatever the attendance line is set at today. So this is a classic BYOE (Bring Your Own Energy) game for us. I except Delaney and Maddie to be overdoing it on the high fives, chest bumps, etc in pregame to get the rest of our team ready to go. Despite the dead gym it will likely be, we still need to find a way to bring the juice and play hard.

3. Stay Crisp

This is the last one! Obviously, anything can happen, but we knew as the #1 seed that our first two games would likely be against inferior opponents. However we can either choose to come out here and "get ours", or we can stay crisp, score in ways that will work in the next round, and get a good day's work in against someone not wearing a Granville reversible practice jersey. I thought we did a good job of that on Wednesday. Continue to play how we will need to play, starting next Wednesday.

4. Protect Home Court

Okay, this is cool. And you may not know about it (yet), but our seniors certainly do. Harper, Aliyah, Taylor, Hanah, and Haley came into Granville High School four years ago having just placed 2nd in the Licking County League 8th Grade Tournament. It has nothing to do with me and all to do with how hard they've worked over their careers, but this group (me included, as their first year was my first year) has NEVER lost at home. 51 straight, dating back to November 24th, 2020 when we narrowly escaped Olentangy Orange in our first ever game together. We've had some big moments, we've had some close games, we've had some league championships, but one thing we've never had in this gym is a loss…..

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We are 1 win away (and today is our last ever home game together as the tournament moves to neutral sites in round 3) from being able to complete this graphic:

The Aces….52 cards in a deck…..52-0 in their careers at home….because when you come to The Casino (our gym), you always go home BROKE! I think Harper, Aliyah, and Taylor are already shoe-ins for the Hall of Fame with their incredible athletic careers, but how could you keep a group out that never lost at home? Let's get it done today, ladies. One more and no one can ever take that away from you.

Alright…gotta go! Me, Coach Kellon, and Coach Mags are heading to London (an hour and ten minutes away) to scout our next round's opponent….then coming back to coach our game….then heading off (after a few victory beers) to Centennial to watch who we would play in the District Final, should we make it. 

What a day. What will I do on the weekends when I'm done with all of this….? I'm honestly afraid that I'll have too much time on my hands. Whatever, enjoying every second of this last ride with this team, this staff, and especially these Seniors. GO ACES!