Let the “Madness” begin

There’s just something about this time of year.

As February winds down and the snow (hopefully) starts to thaw, a sports phenomenon spreads throughout the country into every gym, every park and every driveway with a hoop.

Some call it “madness,” but I call it just plain fun.

Get out those brackets, because it’s time for the basketball tournaments, from high schools all the way up through every college level; boys and girls; men and women.

The area’s section girls’ basketball games started last night, only the beginning of a month that’s truly a high school sports fan’s dream — or a high school sports reporter’s, for that matter.

This will be my first postseason in the area, and I’m looking forward to it. The Section 3A girls’ bracket contains 10 teams in our coverage area, so a lot of our focus will be on those matchups. Southwest Christian fought its way to the South bracket’s top seed. The Eagles earned a first-round bye, along with Edgerton, Adrian and Fulda — and if the section games are half as exciting as some of those schools’ regular-season matchups were, it’s going to be an exciting tournament.

State gymnastics also get under way this weekend, and five local athletes will be competing — Tara Svalland from Worthington, and JCC’s Briel Hendricksen, Brandi Sether-Hassing, Morgan Halverson and Sydnee Donnelli.

Don’t forget about wrestling!

The state team competition brackets are already set, with Jackson County Central and Adrian each earning trips in their respective classes. This weekend, the individual sections take place, and most of the action will take place on Saturday at Worthington High School — the designated site for the 3AA individual tournament.

So that’s basketball, gymnastics and wrestling tournaments all taking place on one Saturday. Needless to say, we’re going to be busy. But we wouldn’t want it any other way.

It’s non-stop, do-or-die action, where the price of a ticket to the next round can only be met with a victory. It’s also bittersweet, especially for the athletes and their parents.

The postseason, with all its hope and heartbreak, brings with it a ruthless equation — divided by two with every advancing round.

Very few athletes get to go out with a win. The ones who do are a rarity, and will retain a special place in school history framed in a trophy case, or perhaps hanging from the rafters for the next generation of that school’s athletes to aspire to.

For many, it’s the last time they’ll see their son or daughter suit up and take the court, or the ice, or the mats (hockey tournaments are in full swing as well).

Whether it’s a first-round section matchup or a state championship game, it’s always going to be somebody’s final contest. Emotions usually run high, making it easy to get caught up in the moment.

But I’d ask all fans, parents, athletes and coaches to get caught up in the moment in a positive way.

There’s a saying, “Win with grace, lose with dignity, play with pride.”

Easy to say, a lot tougher to actually do.

Good luck to all the athletes in the upcoming section and state competitions!

Saturday provides busy sports day

Three towns.

Three games.

One day.

It was a busy day in the life of the Daily Globe sports editor Saturday.

There are many perks to working sports for the Globe, and one of the biggest ones is being able to watch sports.

On Saturday, I had more than my share.

My day started at noon with a boys’ hockey game.

The Trojans were hosting Morris/Benson Area in Worthington’s final home game of the season.

For six seniors, it would be the last time they would skate in the Worthington Ice Arena.

Kyle Hain, Cody Reese, Taylor Wiener, Mitch Benson, Mitch Jensen and Jake VanGrouw each played well for WHS, but the Storm proved too much in a 7-3 victory.

But while the Trojans’ regular season is complete, their season is far from over. Just like last season, WHS is looking to play spoiler as the section tournament rolls around.

Following a quick break, it was time for me to catch the Trojan boys in Fulda.

The Raiders played well, hanging with the Trojans for most of the game. But in the end, Travis Meinders’ 33 points and the inside presence of Jalen Voss and Mitch Weg was too much for the smaller Raiders.

With the snow starting and the road conditions ever-worsening, KWOA sports director Jared Rademacher and I made the journey to Marshall to see the Trojan girls.

I’m glad we went.

The Tigers came out of the gates firing, connecting on six 3-pointers in the first half as they opened up a 44-34 lead at the break.

In true Trojan fashion, WHS didn’t fold. They didn’t panic.

Instead, they put on one of their best performances of the season in the second half.

Marshall made four field goals and scored nine points in the second half.

In part, the Tigers couldn’t make the few open shots they did get.

But mostly, the Trojans played stifling defense, causing turnovers and bad decisions on Marshall’s part.

After a slow start — and a 10-point deficit — WHS ran away with a 69-53 victory.

Then, it was time to again brave the roads and snow to retreat back to Worthington.

Leaving Marshall a little after 9:30 p.m., we arrived safe and sound 11:15. A hour trip turned into much, much longer, but my day was complete.

In all, I saw three different sports in three different towns all in a span of 11 hours.

Not a bad way to spend a Saturday.

National Signing Day brings 14 players to Minnesota West

Wednesday might as well be a national holiday.

It’s not, officially, but to die-hard college football fans, there isn’t a single more important off-season date than National Signing Day.

The weeks and months leading up to signing day have been full of anticipation. Wednesday, fans had the first glimpse of the future of the programs. Our local colleges aren’t much different.

Signing 14 players on Wednesday, Minnesota West took its first step toward next season.

Taylor Andrews (Blue Earth), Joseph Weispfennig (Buffalo Lake-Hector), Taylor Ovrebo (United South Central), Nathan Bierman (Red Rock Central), Justin Larson (Worthington), Octavio Jimenez (Southwest Star Concept), Josh Steffl (Edgerton), Chace Hulstein (Edgerton), Gregory OTolle (Sibley-Ocheyedan), Jordan Schroeder (WHS), Jeffrey Curtsinger (Bennington, Neb.), Kevin Logan (Lawrence, Kan.), DeCorey Martinez (Topeka, Kan.) and Jonathan Milton (Topeka, Kan.) all signed a letter of intent with West.

Not only did head coach Jeff Linder land a talented class, but a class made up of local talent.

“It’s a huge advantage for anyone that’s close to us,” Linder said. “It saves them so much money. It saved me so much money, and the credit hours aren’t near as much as it is now, and the cost of renting an apartment isn’t what it is now. Those kids that are staying close to home are going to save themselves a lot of money in the long run. That’s the name of the game, especially the way things are going for everybody. Our administration has done a great job of being very competitive.”

While MW is made up entirely of freshmen and sophomores, recruiting seems more important at a junior college.

Bigger colleges can redshirt and develop players. JUCOs need players to make an immediate impact, and Linder believes all 14 can do just that.

Jimenez, who played football for Southwestern United, will look to provide kicking depth for West.

Larson will provide versatility for the Bluejays. He will fit in at either running back or a slot receiver position.

Bierman, who played on both sides of the ball for the Falcons, projects to be a linebacker for the Bluejays.

Steffl, a big, physical lineman, can play either offensive or defensive line for MW.

Hulstein and Ovrebo will give Linder depth and defensive end, while Andrews will see time at either linebacker or fullback.

On the national scene, large colleges are landing top 100 recruits. The big name schools (Florida, Texas, USC) are making impacts, as always, and are landing four- and five-star recruits like it’s going out of style. Even local colleges are looking to improve through recruiting. Minnesota and Iowa again have solid classes, proving just how much talent the Midwest has on the gridiron.

One of the biggest names in the region, Cretin-Derham Hall’s Seantrel Henderson, has signed with the University of Southern California, ending months of speculation.

And while West didn’t sign any five-star recruits on Wednesday, the job done by Linder and his staff gives fans just as much reason to be excited.When football season rolls around in the fall, only a few big-name recruits will even see the field on Saturdays.

But the 14 who are now Bluejays will not only see the field, but will be counted on to lead the 2010 Minnesota West team to what Linder hopes is a very successful year.