Pressure is on for title chasers

Published 8:59 am Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Column: Second Thoughts

Winning a conference championship is tough. Ask Glenville-Emmons, United South Central or Luther College, Iowa. All three schools currently have basketball programs atop their respective conferences, but all three programs have a long way to go before hanging up a banner and ending a title drought.

That’s because to win a championship a lot of things have to go your way, things you can and cannot control.

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First you need to win. It’s nearly impossible to go undefeated through the conference schedule so you need to win the close ones and gut it out in overtime. You need to beat the good teams but more importantly you need to beat the teams you’re supposed to — and with so much focus on a championship, the easy ones are the hardest to win.

The Glenville-Emmons Wolverines boys’ basketball team cruised through their first 10 Southeast Conference games before losing to Hope Lutheran 40-37 on Friday. The Wolverines, who have never won an SEC championship, weren’t expecting the game to be close after beating Hope Lutheran by 44 points the first time. Now they’re tied for first with two teams within 1 1/2 games. They play all three teams before the season is over, too. The SEC is suddenly up for grabs.

The Luther College Norse men’s basketball team hasn’t won the Iowa Intercollegiate Athletic Conference since the 1983-1984 season. They’re currently atop the IIAC with a 9-2 record, their best start since 1958, but notched their second loss to bottom-feeding Loras College, now 4-7 in the conference. With a win, the Norse would have had a commanding 2 1/2-game lead over second place Coe College and University of Dubuque. But with the pressure on, the easy ones are the hardest.

The United South Central Rebels girls’ basketball team is currently in a tie for first place in the Gopher Conference with the New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva Panthers. The Rebels beat the Panthers in overtime Thursday to pull even atop the conference and control of their own destiny with five conference games left. The Rebels only loss this season came to the Panthers in New Richland, and they have won 10 conference games since. The Rebels have won the easy ones, so far, but now so close to their first Gopher Conference championship in school history, they face their toughest test for the rest of the season — tonight at fourth-place Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, a place they haven’t won in three seasons.

I guess winning the hard ones is important, too. Go Norse.

Sports editor Andrew Dyrdal’s column appears in the Tribune every Tuesday.