Win or go home

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Why my first experience covering playoffs is one I will always remember

By Les Abbott

 Is there a better time of year then playoff basketball? If there is, I don’t know it.

With both Collins and Shelby County boys and girls’ basketball teams entering district play, the stakes have never been higher, and the presence was more then felt throughout the course of the game.

In my first district playoff game as a reporter, I drove to Spencer County High School to cover the 30th District matchup between crosstown rivals, Collins and SCHS boys.

As if the first “win or go home” game of the season wasn’t enough to fuel those involved, it was only fitting that game one would feature the two biggest rival schools in the area.

In one corner you had the 20-11 Titans, who after their run in the King of the Bluegrass Tournament Jason Frakes, high school reporter for The Courier-Journal, put the Titans in his top five teams in the state of Kentucky.

Led by All 8th Region players Dayvion McKnight and Marcellus Vail the Titans are poised to make a deep post season run.

In the other corner you had the 8-20 Rockets coached by first year head coach Eddie Oakley. Despite what the record may say, the Rockets had made improvements all year to set the foundation for competitive basketball for years to come.

The two teams had faced each other twice in the regular season with Collins taking both games. However, in the postseason the record is 0-0 and your regular season accomplishments are all but irrelevant.

I arrived at Spencer County around 6:30 p.m., approximately 30 minutes before the opening tip.

When I entered the gym, fans repping their school colors had already filed in and found their seats. The small gym was already so packed, I had to move three or four times before gravitating to the stage in the back of the to set up for typical game coverage.

When the players took the court, you could see in their eyes they were not about to let their season end tonight.

From the opening tip to the sounding buzzer, the two teams played their butts off to win and advance, and that same intensity was felt by each fan base that was rocking the gym.

The Rockets led by senior TJ Robinson and sophomore Noah Gordon set the pace, whether it was Robinson hitting mid range shots and setting strong screens, or Gordon flashing his improved versatility and erasing shots at the rim – pitching them back in to the stands – the Rockets sent a message that they were not going to go down without a fight.

Despite their efforts, the Titans pulled a way in the end in large part to Vail taking over in the fourth quarter scoring nine of his team high 20 points to push the Titans to victory 54-43.

As a reporter, you’re not supposed to get emotionally involved, but getting to know the players and coaches from both teams and knowing the hard work they put in from start to finish, you get emotionally torn heading in to post game interviews.

On one side you are happy to see the players from Collins excited to move on to the next round. On the other you feel for the Shelby County players as the realization hits them that their season is over.

Overall, my first game covering the district playoffs was a memorable one to say the least.

Seeing the passion from the players and fans was a fresh reminder on why the game of basketball is a hard one to beat.