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A tall order: Play to strength


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Perhaps the Columbus North boys basketball players should have been taking notes during their girls team’s season-ending loss at Bedford North Lawrence on Saturday.

No, not because the North girls, who suffered a 71-45 loss, had a bad day, or because they were highly-ranked and did a face plant.

This game was about a very big team (Bedford North Lawrence) using its height advantage in wonderful ways.

How do you beat a high school girls team when a 6-foot-3 girl (Jenna Allen) scores 20 points and pulls down 14 rebounds and a 6-foot-2 girl (Dominique McBryde) scores 20 points and has 12 boards?

The answer? You don’t.

The Stars controlled the pace against the smaller Bull Dogs by controlling the boards and by being efficient on offense. The North boys will try for a carbon copy performance through their playoff games. They simply are bigger than everyone else.

In years of covering college basketball, I often have seen teams that lacked quickness beat much more athletic teams that were, on average, much smaller.

OK, let’s think about this for a moment. What would you rather have, above-average size or superior quickness?

That argument rages through all sports. To give you an example, I once covered a local high school offensive lineman, who made his way to the NFL. He was playing one year for the Washington Redskins, who had him gain 20 pounds of basically fat. They wanted their offensive linemen beefy.

The next season, I talked to him as a member of the Seattle Seahawks, who had him lose those 20 pounds and more. They valued quickness along their offensive line. Different teams, different philosophies.

In basketball, it’s a little more cut-and-dried. If you are picking teams on the playground, you probably are going to take the tallest kid with the first pick, unless the guy is an athletic doofus.

Look at the upcoming NBA draft, when 7-footer Cody Zeller will be a lottery pick. I guarantee you that there will be a lot of players drafted after him who are better overall athletes. His athleticism is off the charts ... for someone his size. He is a rare talent not because of his athletic ability but because he is so darned tall.

Spread Zeller’s arms out and that’s a whole lot of defensive intimidation. There just aren’t many like him.

OK, I know what you are thinking. Thanks, Jay, for telling us that height is most important on the basketball court. Duh!

But think a moment, how many times have you watched a basketball game where the much taller team is playing like it has five point guards? It’s common in basketball to forget one’s strengths.

Now bring it all back to the high school level. Bedford North Lawrence coach Kurt Godlevske knew his team wasn’t going to win a foot race against the Bull Dogs. Did the Stars have anyone as talented as Ali Patberg? No. Do they have anyone who can handle the ball like Kelsey Cunningham? Probably not. Could they match the outside shooting of Tayler Goodall? Not likely.

What they did have was superior height. Being able to take a bunny hop on the basketball court and touch the rim is lethal in high school girls basketball.

Bedford North Lawrence made the most of its height advantage, and the Columbus North girls’ wonderful season came to end because of it.

Let’s hope the tall talents of Columbus North’s boys squad do the same with theirs.

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