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A weekend at Sun proves football takes backseat to basketball

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published March 19. 2013 4:00AM

Mohegan

This just in: We are not Indiana here in the land of steady habits. But we are still a basketball state. (Sorry, all you football people). Should you require further evidence, the more than 18,000 fans who filled Mohegan Sun Arena for the weekend's high school championship basketball extravaganza suggests that Championship Weekend in Neon Uncasville has become the CIAC's marquee event.

The emotion is palpable. That's because the building is cozy enough to sound like a passion pit with all the student sections, but big enough to house nearly 10,000 fans.

Several games didn't end this weekend till the end.

And this is why basketball needs to be treated as the state's No. 1 high school sport. It's not football anymore. Championship Weekend makes more money than football, incorporates boys' and girls' games on the same day in the same arena and engenders unmatched passions for both genders.

Hence, the whispers from the weekend, that the state basketball committees are discussing changes to the basketball calendar, need to happen.

Football runs so long into December now and even some girls' sports ran long last fall because of weather issues that basketball season may begin a week later. It would allow fall sports athletes who play basketball a chance to exhale after their fall season ends and give basketball coaches a full arsenal for practice.

Teams would likely play three games per week for a week or two, thus assuring that conference tournaments and the state tournament would begin at the regular time.

Other thoughts from Saturday:

• How ironic, indeed, that "j" in Maria Wesleyj's last name is silent. Because the "j" she made Saturday in the Class LL final blew the roof off the building, the biggest, loudest shot in America's Most Beloved Arena's history on any level.

If you haven't seen the highlight:

Wesleyj, a senior at Mercy of Middletown, played in three previous state finals: two-point loss, three-point loss, three-point loss. And with time growing desperate Saturday night, Lauralton Hall of Milford was about to hang a two-point loss on the Tigers, prompting Mercy coach Tim Kohs to tell reporters after, "I was about to tell you guys if you want to talk to Marv Levy, here I am."

Except that Kohs called timeout after Lauralton Hall's late basket before time expired, later confirmed by CPTV Sports replays made available to the officials. With 3.8 seconds added to the clock that once read "0:00," Kohs reinvented the old Valparaiso/Bryce Drew play, which once won an NCAA tournament game:

Long pass down court which is (hopefully) caught somewhere near the foul line. The recipient of the pass finds a streaking 3-point shooter, who makes the catch on the run and gathers himself (or herself in this case) for the launch.

Wesleyj's shot sent more than 6,000 fans into delirium. It's the greatest ending, given the circumstances, to a high school sporting event in our state's history. Period. Those of us in attendance were privileged to see it.

• Some applause, please for CPTV Sports. The effort from the weekend was magnificent. The network broadcast all but one game live. And were it not for CPTV Sports, the Mercy-Lauralton Hall ending might never have happened.

Lauralton Hall's players actually celebrated on the floor because they believed time ran out.

It was only because CPTV Sports was in the house that game officials could look at replays to get it right.

• More changes for basketball next year?

Jim Bransfield of the Middletown Press reported Monday that sources say the CIAC will "change how it assigns teams to classes for basketball - and maybe other sports - next year."

Bransfield's sources say the strategy of doubling of enrollment of successful teams "isn't working." The sources said that schools may move up in class now if they draw from multiple communities (such as Catholic and magnet schools) and "schools that have kids coming into it from out of their home communities, like schools that have Project Concern kids, or schools with a Vo-Ag program and the vocational-technical schools."

Stay tuned.

• OK. So I am a fuddy duddy.

But I respect what I was taught.

And I was taught that you do not show up to coach a basketball game looking sartorially challenged.

I'm not saying you need to look like you're walking the red carpet at the Oscars. But is it asking too much to wear a tie? Or a sportcoat? Or, you know, shoes?

I saw male coaches wearing sneakers and team-issued shirts too often.

Note: You are adults. You are not playing. You are coaching. Respect the event.

• Final note to college basketball coaches: It's Tuesday, March 19: Are you recruiting Ian Converse of Woodstock yet?

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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