SADDLE RIVER, NJ - The game is scheduled for 6:15. By 5 p.m., there is no one at the gym. Tuesday events are being cancelled in our area, about to be decimated by an impending blizzard. A call to my coordinator and officiating partner, Dave Hoffman, confirms the game is on. Snow will be coming, but for now, it is sunny.
Around 6 p.m., players and coaches start filing in. Paramus is facing Ho-Ho-Kus in a semifinal. Paramus, in dark colors, is the higher seed. The week that passed saw the higher seed wearing white. In the end, it is not a big issue.
Fourth-grade girls cannot press until two minutes to go and there are no three-pointers, the latter rule probably put in to entice the girls to execute a regular offense and not get infatuated with the shot beyond the arc. Another consideration is many at the fourth-grade level would be hard pressed to shoot from that distance.
Paramus has three coaches running the girls through some good pregame drills. The Ho-Ho-Kus coaches, a gentleman about 6-foot-7 and lady at 6-foot-3, both played collegiately at Trinity College in Hartford. They tell me they faced Paramus and lost both times this season, and naturally, have a tough assignment.
Early on, Paramus took the lead. They have several shooters, a luxury on this level. A number 40 is especially impressive. She scored 12 points, but seemed like it was more. Ho-Ho-Kus stayed close early until the Paramus offense takes its toll. For a good part of the half, Ho-Ho-Kus seemed like a deer in the headlights on offense. Dave pointed out at halftime that the last trip down the floor saw Ho-Ho-Kus move the ball with several passes and get a wide open shot. He was right. The deer effect came when they tried to beat Paramus off the dribble and ran into problems. Paramus led at the break, 16-8.
The second half saw Ho Ho Kus start strong, getting it to a two possession game. Paramus regrouped and in a significant seven minute-stretch of the third quarter, effectively opened the game. Paramus runs a basic 1-4 set, and given the shooters and a few girls good at handling the ball, proves to be tough to stop. Their work producing second shots on the offensive end is also another significant plus.
Paramus finished a 30-14 winner to move on to the championship. One of their coaches tells me they will play Oakland in the final. I asked what happened to Waldwick, a team that impressed in an earlier round. He noted they were eliminated in the other semi by Oakland.
The Ho-Ho-Kus coaches were pleased with the overall effort, saying a year ago, they won one game. This season, they were .500 and eventually got to the league semifinals. They were generally pleased their girls learned a lot this season and generally enjoyed the playing experience. That is what it should be about on all levels.