It’s surprising that in a season when there were exactly no upsets—zero—during the regular year, on the eve of the playoffs coaches would be touting the likelihood of just such an eventuality.
“There are lots of good teams and it’s quite possible that someone in the playoffs will come out of nowhere,” Regiopolis Notre Dame Panthers coach said, at the conclusion of the Kingston Area Secondary Schools Athletic Association senior boys basketball season.
“It’s going to be an interesting playoff, every interesting,” echoed Frontenac Falcons coach Suche James. “Nobody’s got any bargains. Everybody’s got a tough quarter-final.”
Those sudden-death quarter-finals will be played Tuesday, when Napanee, 3-7, visits undefeated Sydenham; Holy Cross, 4-6, plays at Frontenac, 9-1, and Regi, 7-3, hosts Kingston, 6-4, all at 2 o’clock. The fourth game, where Bayridge, 8-2, will entertain La Salle, 5-5, will be played at 3:30.
Coaches have talked all year about how many good teams there are in the league. It’s typical for them to throw the word ‘parity’ around with little regard for its actual meaning—unless Webster has redefined the concept to mean ‘came within 20 points and tried really hard.’ In high school athletic circles, parity starts with ‘p’ and that stands for polite and in the absence of any validity, that’s all anybody’s really trying to be.
This year has been no different.
“The boys playoffs are always interesting, but not this deep,” said James, still trying to suppress the year when his first-place Falcons were ousted in the first round. He thinks it might have been by QE.
“This is as deep as it’s been in 10 or 12 years, back in the day when we got upset by somebody and Ernestown got upset somewhere. That was 10 years ago.”
This year more teams do seem to have more skill; the teams without a lot of basketball experience have tended to be athletic; teams that have neither seem to be able to shoot three-pointers. Every team seemed to have something going for it but a lot of them, even among the ones who made the playoffs, are vulnerable in some respect.
Perhaps it’s precisely because lesser teams all seem to have one exceptional component makes us think they may be better than they are. The trouble is, eventually those teams are betrayed by any number of the other things they can’t do well.
Kenney, whose team lost two of its last three games after a 6-1 start, vowed Tuesday’s four games will all be competitive.
“You can’t often say that about quarter-finals anymore, but there will be four good games,” he said. “Boys basketball has been our best league (in KASSAA) for a while. If you’re involved in the league, you see it week to week and, yeah, if somebody gets on a roll—it’s only three games (to win the championship).”
Here’s the rub: In the 55 senior boys basketball games played in KASSAA this year, in not one case did a lower-placed team beat a team with a better record. Never. Not once. Sydenham finished 10-0 (beating everybody, of course); Frontenac was 9-1, beating everybody but Sydenham; Bayridge was 8-2, beating everybody but Sydenham and Frontenac. Regi was 7-3. Guess which three teams the Panthers didn’t beat.
You can keep going right to the bottom, where Loyalist, 2-8, only beat Queen Elizabeth and Granite Ridge and QE, 1-9, only beat Granite Ridge, which, of course—if sadly—didn’t beat anybody.
Without precedent for upset, then, can we still expect one?
Of course we can. That’s the magic of sport, where every now and then a team will do the one brilliant thing it does so well that its five Achilles heels suddenly don’t matter: the team that normally can’t get out of its own way when presented with pressure defence, starts passing the basketball through the eye of a needle; or the team that couldn’t normally put a basketball in a swimming pool from beyond the three-point arc collectively finds the touch. Or, conversely, the team that has everything suddenly has nothing, and plans B, C and D don’t work any better.
So, yes, there could very well be the kind of upset Tuesday that everybody has been predicting. I wouldn’t count on it, but, as one learned coach once said, “That’s why we play the games.”