Tuesday, March 25, 2003

Basketball: State champs

Cincinnati, Hoops USA

This weekend's news was dominated by a war in Iraq and March Madness, better known as the NCAA basketball tournament. But quietly - and against tough odds - two Cincinnati high school basketball teams took state titles, and they deserve a hearty congratulations.

Moeller and Reading High Schools looked like giant killers in their respective divisions. In Division I, Moeller, beat Columbus Brookhaven, the No. 6 team in the country, according to USA Today's rankings. Reading, with its deep bench and commitment to teamwork, upset the No. 1 Division III team in the state, Sugarcreek Garaway.

For Moeller, it was the team's first state championship since 1999, when it beat Shaker Heights, a national top-10 team. For Reading, winning the championship was a reward for a team that began the year with a number of talented transfers from other schools, providing Coach Rich Bensman with the tools to make it happen.

Winning a high school basketball championship, as any coach or player will tell you, is not an easy task. It takes a combination of luck, hard work and perseverance over three months or more. And, this year, for two Cincinnati teams who put it all together, seven straight victories earned them a crown.

In the NCAA tournament, University of Cincinnati and Xavier University both have been eliminated, much to the disappointment of die-hard supporters (top seed University of Kentucky is still in). Other teams, with a fan base in the Tristate area, including Dayton, Indiana, Louisville and Western Kentucky, are out of the tournament as well.

All the more reason to cheer on Reading and Moeller and appreciate their accomplishments.

Sure, against the backdrop of war, basketball can seem trivial - even frivolous. But sports has always provided us with a sense of normalcy. On a very local level, this is especially true. Few things are more rewarding than to see a community rally around the dreams of its children and praise them for goals achieved - through sports and elswhere. For two schools in our town, that is precisely what happened Saturday.

And it is cause to celebrate.

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