“Gonna write me up a 125. Post my face wanted dead or alive. Take my license, all that jive I can’t drive 55!”
That lyric from the Sammy Hagar song “I Can’t Drive 55” released in 1984 fits the Westville boys basketball team perfectly, and Friday’s 63-61 overtime victory by the Blackhawks over Porter County Conference rival South Central was a perfect illustration.
It was the typical thrilling game between the two PCC rivals. Back and forth during the first quarter and a half, followed by a run by the Satellites lead to a nine-point lead with three minutes left in the third quarter, then the expected response by Westville.
The Blackhawks put their foot on the gas — going from 55 miles per hour to around 85 or 90 to follow Hagar’s advice — and turned the game around, taking a nine-point lead of their own in the blink of an eye.
And the plays that led the turnaround were high octane — from four steals by Tyrese Walker leading to 10 of his game-high 21 points, including a 70-foot buzzer-beater 3-pointer at the end of the third quarter and a dunk early in the fourth, to another dunk by Brandon Watkins from a fancy assist by Cade Albers off the backboard.
It’s the South County version of “Showtime” and it was clicking on all cylinders.
And then head coach Nate Mrozinski held up the speed limit sign.
“It seems like all year we can’t put teams away,” he said. “Our players seem to have basketball A.D.D. (Attention Deficit Disorder). It’s hard for them to stall and it seems like we always turn the ball over when we try.”
But then he made a coaching statement that rings true as the Blackhawks and every other local team heads into the postseason tournament this coming week.
“We’re going to need to learn how to do that,” Mrozinski said about stalling or holding the ball, depending on how you want to phrase it. “It’s a give and take.”
It sure is when you have a team of thoroughbreds who want to — dare I say, need to — stretch their legs and play at 85 or 90 miles per hour to be effective.
Westville reached its nine-point lead with around 5:30 left in the game. The score was 56-47 after Watkins monster dunk.
The game eventually went to overtime at 56-56. Yes, the Blackhawks scored no points in that final 5:30, turning the ball over five times while trying to take time off the clock in a very important game as he Blackhawks ended up winning a share of its first PCC round-robin title.
South Central was actually happy Westville turned the turbo boost off.
“We were able to catch our breath and claw our way back in the game,” Satellites’ coach Eric Branz admitted.
They looked tired and rattled after the flurry of Blackhawks’ explosive plays.
But here’s where the ‘give and take’ Mrozinski talked about comes into play. As he said, teams in sports in which a time clock is used (basketball, football, soccer, hockey, etc.), playing it safe and running some clock in whatever way is pertinent to the specific sport is a necessary evil.
Sure, Westville plays its best when it’s running up and down the court, hitting transition threes or jamming monster dunks. You can bet the players love it.
“We were down nine and (turning up the energy) is how we came back,” Cade Albers said. “Our team likes to keep it going. That’s the type of team we are — high octane.”
This really sounds familiar. Where have I heard it before? Oh yeah … that big football game on the first Sunday of this month. Need a memory refresher? The Atlanta Falcons had a 28-3 lead over the New England Patriots midway through the third quarter of the biggest game of the lives of every player and coach on their side of the field. And you know how it ended — Patriots winning 34-28 in overtime.
What happened? Well, the Falcons’ high-powered offense couldn’t slow down, and had a couple turnovers that led to New England scores, then didn’t run the ball when needed.
The Falcons were still up 28-20 with about 4:30 left in the game and had just gotten a first down at the New England 22-yard line. That’s well within field goal range. Run the ball three times, make the Patriots use their timeouts and give yourself a good chance at take an 11-point lead with around three minutes left. It’s the formula to winning any football game, let alone the biggest in the world.
But Atlanta stuck to its high-octane philosophy and the result was a quarterback sack, a holding penalty, an incomplete pass and it was out of field goal range.
Falcons’ head coach Dan Quinn defended the stupid decision making.
“We thought we’d have a good look based on the personnel that was in the game for them,” Quinn said the day after the Super Bowl. “We trust our guys and thought we’d let it rip. When it doesn’t go that way, it’s easy to question it.”
Hey Dan, most people like myself were questioning it at the time, not using hindsight. When I brought up the Super Bowl as an example of when it’s prudent to slow down, Mrozinski agreed.
“Yeah, they should have run the ball,” he said.
He added that in the coming days before Westville opens postseason play on Wednesday in the Class A Kouts Sectional — facing the host Mustangs at 5:30 p.m. — they need to “practice the stall” a little more. The Blackhawks are having a magical season, hitting two of their four goals so far.
“We knew we were good, so we had four goals coming into the season — win the PCC Tournament, win the PCC round-robin, win 20 games and win sectional,” Mrozinski said. “If my math is correct, if we win sectional next week, we’ll also get to 20 wins.”
But to achieve those last two goals, Westville’s players need to learn how to slow down to 55 miles per hour in order to put games away after racing to a nice-sized lead.
Reach sports editor Steve T. Gorches at firstname.lastname@example.org or (219) 214-4206. Follow him on Twitter @SteveTGorches.