Game Of The Year may be too bold for last nights tilt between the Fargo North Spartans & the Shanley Deacons. If there has been a more exciting game in North Dakota High School Basketball this year, I'm not privy to it. This is the second I've been in attendance for, that has me just hoping I can do it a portion of justice but recognizing that to actually understand how good it was, you had to be there.
With under 25 seconds go in the game North was up four points and had been in control for most of the game. They lead by several buckets right out of the game, Shanley worked it's way back. North lead by 12 at the half, Shanley work their way back. #30, Cameron Sherrard took over for the North siders, Shanley had a response. For everything that North succeeded in doing, the Deacons managed to respond and they never let the game get too far out of hand.
One of the most cliche of cliches in fandom is blaming officials for an outcome. That's not my job and I don't want to give the impression that I'm falling into that right now but there seemed to be a marked difference in the officiating from the first half to the second. Honestly, it seemed like the Catholics spent more time at the line then they would have at an amusement park. In the second half alone, they dropped 14 freebies through, plus another six in extra time but that was when Sparty went to the foul game. That shouldn't be the story but was an undeniable advantage in the contest. Sherrard & Hyatt Martineau did all they could to keep their team ahead on the scoreboard and were mostly successful. But the two young men couldn't hold off the balanced attack of the home team.
Lead by #10, Jake Reinholz, who contributed with 8 of those second half free throws by himself, the Deacons contributions from through out their roster when it mattered most. A clutch three by #40, Jake Kava closed the gap and created the opportunity for #42, Kaleb Christmann to score his only basket of the half on a put back under 2 seconds left in the game to tie it. It was all Deacons in OT. They didn't have the moment for most of the game but in the closing seconds they ripped it away from their visitors and didn't relinquish it one bit in the extra time. The only way that it could have been scripted better is if Christmann & Kava had been a part of the senior night angle. They didn't let their teammates finish their time on the Shanley hardwood with a loss.
So on senior night, in an improbable outcome, the Shanley Deacons demonstrated what it means to not give up but also how to be a team. Playing sports is about learning lessons to apply to life and this was one that the victors should be able to look to in their futures as an example of persistence & cooperation.
For those on the other end, it was surely a tough loss to swallow. Down one of their best players, in a tough situation because of the second half officiating yet in control for most of the game, there are lessons that they will hopefully be able to extract as well. Things don't always go the way we want them to. Not to quit. To work as a team.
On this Friday night in mid February the Shanley Deacons got em & it may well have been the Game Of The Year too boot.
Players of the Game
Clutch counts for a lot so Kaleb Christmann is a deserving honorable mention. But that also applies to Jake Kava, who created the opportunity then did most of the scoring in the third half. The nod has to go to the guy who, one point at a time, did a whole lot of work to keep his team in striking distance of a tie and the lead.