The Big Game was a Big Game

January 3

[That morning, Jefferson Street in Alexandria where the old high school used to be.]

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[I was given to understand the JV was down 12 in the first half?]

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[Oh, we were playing the Fergus Falls Otters, last year’s state runners-up in class AAA.  Here the Cards Justin Balcome (43) warms up the shadow of the girls’ basketball team photo banner.]

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[Footballers Robert Anderson (3) and Jaran Roste (31) . . . ]

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[Ready for the first battle between these ranked teams, hoping to overturn last year’s close loss to the Otters in the section final.]

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[Robert, all 6′ of him, jumped center for the first time.  Well, I suppose because during warm-ups he executed a two-handed dunk off both feet.  The Otter center, Matthew Monke (of the long line of Otter Monkes), jumped the tip on him.]

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[Ref signals “3” on the Otter shot.  The scoring began with a 3 by the Cards Spencer Hockert (15), then the Otters, as they are prone to do so rattled off 11 straight points, then the Cards, as we are prone to do so rattled off 8 straight points, and we had an 11 – 11 game and were off and running between two top 10 teams in class AAA.]

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[The Otters Nathan Rund (3), all-state last year and still only a junior, was 12 – 12 from the free throw in this game.  The Cardinals, as a team, were 2 – 5.  Apparently, there is a state ordinance restricting the number of free throws the Cardinals are ever allowed to shoot.  I was amazed to hear during the archived broadcast that our leading scorer, Spencer, an offensive slasher, has only shot 9 free throws all year?]

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[And swish.]

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[Still waiting for Robert to do one of these baseline drives and go up and stuff it, even on a 6’5″ center like Mr. Monke.]

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[A rebounding machine, Jake Drew (33) is a bit challenged from the charity stripe.  Just keep getting there Jake!]

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[Choreography by George Balanchine.]

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[Sophomore point guard Trey Hoepner (1) defends an Otter.  We expect him to make a lot of “treys” in his career.  (Too easy?)]

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[The Otters No. 11 is a returnee from their state tournament team.  He’s also still only a junior.]

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[The Cards try to trap Monke in the corner.]

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[And Balcome goes for the steal.]

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[And Robert was unsuccessful on the “and one.”]

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[And so we turn to the real athletes.  I can’t so this because:  1) They can’t lift me to the top of the pile; and 2) I’m afraid of heights.]

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[And imagine the balance.  If I bend over to tie my shoe, it will either end up as a headstand . . . or a somersault.]

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[Meanwhile, back at the game, another footballer, Michael Empting (11), drives through the hole on the right side of the line for a lay-up.]

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[The Otters employ the old hidden ball trick.]

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[Oh, there it is!]

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[6′ and 6’8″, our two leading 3-point shooters on the night.]

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[Dee-fense!]

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[Hey, watch out for the guy sneaking in the back door!]

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[Yeah, that guy.  Way over there!]

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[I guess this was meant to be Spencer time.  From the football ong ball wide receiver, to the guy who added the “3” to his mid-range game.  Spencer had 18 points in the first half, including 4 “3’s.”

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[Leading the Cards to a 39 – 31 halftime advantage.]

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[Jake was our tallest starter at 6’4″ (Justin came in off the bench for this game).  He is unique in that he plays the point on defense and is still our leading rebounder.  Maybe he has an idea of where the ball is going to go from being a football free safety.  He just always seems to be in the right place, amidst opposing players, to get the rebound . . .]

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[Speaking of which, there he is with the best rebounding position surrounded by four Otters.]

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[And a truly terrific half it was.]

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[Then it was time for the half court shot melee at center court . . . ]

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[The girls’ basketball team was sitting a couple rows in front of us.  I gave a buck to Emma Schmidt to take a shot at it.  It started the ball rolling.  First, Macy Hatlestad. . . ]

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[And a little body English . . . ]

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[Then Emma . . . ]

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[Oh, in and out!]

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[Then Kendall Kohler . . . ]

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[Then Kelby Olson-Rodel . . . ]

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[A near miss.]

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[Jake says bring on the 2nd half.]

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[Spencer chases Rund . . . and vice-versa, kinda went on all game.]

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[The designated shot of the back of a ref’s head.]

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[Rund launches a “3.”  It appears this may have been the time Trey accidentally bumped into him.  Despite apologies, Rund was awarded 3 free throws and, of course, he made them all.]

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[The designated fan’s head in front of the camera shot.]

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[And there’s Jake again – ready to gobble up any rebound.]

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[And Jake on the point of the defense again.]

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[An Otter jumped in the air; he came to earth I know not where . . . ]

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[And Rund on Spencer.]

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[A switch puts 22 on Spencer.]

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[The move is made.]

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[And finally as the game is winding down, a Cardinal gets to the free throw line.  The Cards held a one-point lead when Spencer went to the line . . . ]

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[The first of a one-and-one, rattled in.  The first Card made free throw of the game.]

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[And the 2nd . . . ]

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[And . . . in!]

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[The little boys in the corner couldn’t watch!]

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[The Otters had about 5 seconds to make a 3-pointer to tie the game . . . ]

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[The ball is inbounded . . . ]

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[The tension evident on the little boys faces . . . ]

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[Rund got off a long, contested “3” – no good!  The Cards win!]

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[By a consensus survey of the attendees, the best high school game we had seen in years!  We have to play them again in about 3 weeks – at their place.]

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I have contempt for a game [football] in which players have to wear so much equipment. Men play basketball in their underwear, which seems just right to me.   ~  Anna Quindlen

Up Next:  More basketball.

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