February madness on now in high school hoops

of The HeraldFebruary 19, 2014 

March Madness is one of the most popular sporting extravaganzas in the world.

While that title belongs to college basketball, high schools have their own version in February, when league, district and regional tournaments take place. State tournaments as the various classification levels typically take place during the first weekend of March.

I covered the Emerald Ridge-Auburn Riverside winner-to-district, loser-out boys basketball game last week, and it was the most exciting game I’ve seen this season. The game, which went three overtimes, epitomized what sports are all about. It was a clash of styles all the way.

Emerald Ridge favored a half-court set and relied heavily on senior guard Marcus Harris to create open shots and get to the foul line. On the other hand, Auburn Riverside scored the majority of its buckets with 3-pointers and drives to the basket that resulted from full-court pressure.

Neither team gave up. The lead changed hands seven times during the three overtime sessions. Emerald Ridge finally sealed the win with five free throws down the stretch.

While the fourth quarter and the extra sessions exciting, my favorite part came late in the third quarter, when Harris had a breakaway and attempted a dunk in the open floor. The ball caromed off the back of the rim, but the Jaguars regained possession after the ball went out of bounds.

Emerald Ridge head coach Pat Mullen was visibly upset when a easy layup was all the team needed at that juncture.

From the bench, Mullen yelled emphatically: “This is a playoff game.”

Harris nodded with approval, and on the very next play, he hit a 3-pointer from the top of the key to extend the Jaguars’ lead to 37-26.

Harris dominated the rest of the game.

Mullen has coached Harris for three years, and it’s obvious the duo has a great bond on the court. With the game on the line, Mullen put the ball in Harris’ hands on nearly every possession. His trust propelled the Jaguars to a district-tournament berth for the first time in school history.

It was a special night for the Jaguars, and it’s something they will remember when they tell their grandchildren about their days of high school hoops.

Sports Editor Shaun Scott can be reached at 253-552-7002 or by email at shaun.scott@puyallupherald.com. Follow him on Twitter @herald_shaun.

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