Anything can and will happen in March

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It’s one thing to say you don’t enjoy basketball. I find it hard to believe you can say that after watching basketball in March.
It doesn’t matter what level it is -- whether it’s high school, college or even the NBA. Basketball is just better when the calender flips to March.
There isn’t any rhyme or reason to it. Funky things happen when the stakes are higher. I can’t count on my hands already the amount of stories I’ve seen on social media just this year about how a team lost the state championship game on a buzzer-beater or a mistake that gave the opposing team the victory. I’ll give you a prime example.
Back when I was covering Wayne State College while I was in school, the women’s basketball team was a national powerhouse. They went to the Elite Eight in 2011 and were primed for another appearance last year before stumbling in the regional final (In March, see how that works.)
Anyway, Wayne State was playing in its conference tournament in 2014. The date was March 1, if you can believe that.
Wayne State led by three with six seconds to go as the University of Sioux Falls was inbounding with a chance to tie.
The inbounder’s name was Bailey Bauman, a name scarred on my brain since that night. After throwing the ball in, she received the ball back for a three-point shot.
The ball bounced off the back side of the rim, flew high into the air and bounced three or four more times on various parts of the rim. This is where it gets interesting.
The ball literally rolled off the backside of the rim but somehow spun in reverse over the top of the iron and through the net, tying the game.
For those who think this is too hard to believe, the video is on my YouTube page called “The shot that defies physics.”
It’s a shot that doesn’t happen November through early February. It’s a shot that makes heroes and crushes dreams in March.
Look no further than last weekend at the girls state tournament. Even if only looking at the championship games, it’s hard to deny the level and intensity of the moment.
Start with the first title game of the day Saturday. Emerson-Hubbard won its first state girls basketball championship since 1989 on Saturday with a 41-38 win against Howells-Dodge in the Class D-1.
Howells-Dodge was oh so close to eliminating a nine-point deficit in the final four minutes, but the rally ended when a three-pointer bounced off the rim at the buzzer.
The run was successful because Emerson-Hubbard was not able to put the game away from the charity stripe. I mean, they call it that for a reason, folks.
In Class B, Elkhorn South did what the Lady Huskies could not -- defeat Waverly by a 43-33 score.
Elkhorn South used a 12-0 run in the second quarter that catapulted  the Storm to its first girls state championship.
But maybe the best game all day was the Class A championship game.
Lincoln East’s Grace Barry found an open Alli Roh for the winning basket with 5.5 seconds left as the Spartans defeated Millard West 48-46. It was Lincoln East’s fourth title and first since 2004.
Or, was the best game of the day in Class C1, where Kearney Catholic’s Michelle Messbarger raced past a Lincoln Christian defender on the endline and knocked the basketball off the glass and through the net into history with a 39-37 win.
Kearney Catholic trailed 35-28 after three quarters and was able to hold Lincoln Christian to just two in the fourth. The Crusaders attempted only four shots in the period.
If you think that’s all, you’d be wrong. Wynot’s Cortney Arkfeld buried a triple with 7.6 seconds remaiing  in her team’s 41-40 victory over St. Mary’s in the Class D-2 title game.
It almost didn’t matter as St. Mary’s had a beautiful look to win the game at the other end, but unlike the shot I described earlier, didn’t make it as it bounced off the front iron and out.
Let’s not forget Class C2 as Crofton earned its fifth consecutive state championship Saturday with a 46-43 win over Guardian Angels Central Catholic. Only two other girls teams have won more consecutive titles — Sandy Creek (1996 to 2001) and South Sioux City (2000-2005). Each won six in a row.
For those of you counting at home, the total points margin in each of the six championship games added together was 21. For perspective, the Aurora boys team, who’s record stands at 24-1, won nine games this year by a margin of 21 or more points -- nearly a third of its total wins.
Speaking of which, the Huskies have a date with the Red Raiders of Sidney Thursday in the first round of the boys state tournament. It looks to be a big game that could feature several variations of basketball.
Aurora coach Tom Leininger told me that Sidney can be successful in both a fast and slow-paced game. It doesn’t really matter what they do, because the Huskies can do both. They’ll be fun to follow thoughout the tournament.
There’s more, however, as High Plains and Giltner each qualified in Classes D-1 and D-2.
High Plains earned one of two wildcards and takes on Dundy County-Stratton. They have a target being the returning defending champs.
Giltner faces an uphill battle, taking on the No. 1 seed of Mead. Don’t think it’s impossible, as Kenesaw upset Friend in the girls tournament in the same scenario.
Believe me, anything can and will happen in March on the basketball court.

RICH RHODEN can be reached at

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