Athletes, like everyone, settle into a rhythm — and high school basketball players are comfortable with the familiar routine of a few days of practice followed by a game. Early in the year, of course, they practice without games to break the monotony, but once the season starts, the focus sharpens and the level of play rises.
But with the GEICO National High School Championships set for April 5 and 6 in New York City, the four teams involved are all dealing with more than a month between games — and just practicing for that long makes it hard to stay sharp. But since four of the top five teams in the country are playing in the GEICO, the margin for error will be razor thin, and the team, or teams, that arrive ready to go from the opening tip will have a significant advantage.
Of course, all four teams are talented and well-coached, and all four have been tested on the national stage, so the bright lights of ESPN and the pressure of delivering with the girls' basketball world watching most likely not be too big a factor. But then again, given the caliber of the four teams, the ones that ignore the distractions and get into the flow the quickest will have a much better chance to claim the crown.
It would have been better, no doubt, to have the four meet a week or so after their seasons ended (between Feb. 28 and March 3, for the record), but as we all know, ESPN rules the world of sports, so a month off it is.
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MaxPreps Top 25 high school girls basketball rankings
Miami Country Day last played on Feb. 28, and the last time MCD played in a game decided by fewer than 10 points was Dec. 29, so even though the ranking says No. 1, Florida's best may have the toughest time getting back into high gear.
That one loss was to Miami Country Day, way back on Dec. 20, but unlike MCD, St. John's was tested several times in the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and so presumably will be closer to peak form. But then again, St. John's hasn't played a real game since March 3.
Centennial's last game was on March 1, and its last game decided by fewer than 10 points was Dec. 21. Even worse from a competitive standpoint is that Nevada's perennial power won its last 12 games by an average margin of 49.3 points, including the 4A playoffs. That's not an ideal way to prep for two games that could decide the national title.
Africentric completed an unbeaten season by slipping past previously unbeaten Waynesville 51-47, but the Division III Ohio champs were playing at a much higher level during early season wins over No. 7 Edison and No. 8 Mount Notre Dame.
New Hope's last loss was in December, by one point in overtime. The opponent? No. 1 Miami Country Day, its first-round matchup in the GEICO championships. And New Hope is coming off two challenging games against No. 6 Bishop McNamara and No. 17 St. Frances in the Bishop Walsh Invitational. Of course, those games were March 1 and 2, which was a long time ago.
If Bishop McNamara had managed to beat No. 5 New Hope in the Bishop Walsh Invitational, then a fourth game against No. 2 St. John's would have been a possibility. But the 56-43 loss ended McNamara's season, and its dreams of being No. 1.
Edison is rolling through the Division 2 playoffs in Michigan, though it still must likely deal with 24-1 Chelsea and 22-2 Freeland this weekend.
Mount Notre Dame and Pickerington Central were neck-and-neck going into the fourth quarter of the Division I championship game — but the Cougars found another gear and blew away Pickerington Central 20-2 in the last eight minutes to win the title.
Safely in the clubhouse at 36-0, Maine West has the most wins of any unbeaten team in the country.
Beaver Dam lost only to No. 1 Miami Country Day, and had little trouble winning the Division 2 title in Wisconsin.
There's no question that Long Island Lutheran has talent, but that talent has not been consistent — until lately. Christ the King's opponent Friday in the Federation semifinals has won seven of its last eight games, losing only to No. 14 Franklin (by two points) during that span.
Though this year, California's best might not have been one of the four teams at the GEICO, it's possible that ESPN might be able to get approval from the California Interscholastic Federation for next year's Open champion to make the trip.
Hopkins would like nothing better than to show just how good the team really is by traveling next year — but so far, the state won't allow it. Instead, Hopkins beats up on the locals, winning the last three 4A playoff games by an average of 25 points.
Franklin rolled to the New Jersey Tournament of Champions title over Saddle River Day and might have been a Top 10 team — but despite being in a state that allows travel, Franklin stuck close to home and didn't really prove itself on the national stage.
Two losses in Texas is an achievement, and even if one of them came in postseason, Mansfield Timberview still had a great year.
If only … St. Frances lost to No. 5 New Hope by five points in the Bishop Walsh Invitational, so just two more made 3-pointers and maybe St. Frances is at the GEICO instead.
A trip to Louisiana proved that Germantown could take its act on the road and succeed — and in a down year in Pennsylvania, the private school was clearly the best in the Keystone State.
Winning the Texas 6A title says something – in fact, it's says a lot.
Pickerington Central's only two losses were to No. 8 Mount Notre Dame and No. 16 Roland Park, and so Ohio gets three teams in the Xcellent 25. Considering that California and New York each have only one, that's a strong statement about Ohio's quality this year.
If Princess Anne had played a tougher schedule, especially out of state, this ranking could well have been higher.
The arrow was pointing down in Georgia this year, so even though Westlake was unbeaten, its lack of out-of-state wins kept it from rising any higher than this.
Hoover was another team with limited out-of-state credentials, but the perennial Alabama power deserves this spot.
Continuing the theme, Hamilton Southeastern won Indiana but didn't do much outside the borders of the Hoosier State, so No. 24 is where it lands.
Tennessee's best traveled to the Nike TOC and collected three out-of-state wins on a neutral court, and that tipped the scales as far making the Top 25.Dropped out: