As of a week ago, my family and I did not intend to attend the America East conference tournament in Hartford. My wife and I are loyal Vermont Catamount fans and, either by extension or brainwashing, our two kids are now forced to be likewise. Ever since we've had kids, we've resisted the urge to attend the annual conference tournament. There's an obvious additional cost (both financial and mental) in traveling with kids, but we have also rationalized our decision not to travel to the conference tournament as such: if we make the trip and Vermont loses, then we're just going to be bummed out and regret investing both the time and money necessary. If Vermont survives the quarterfinals and semifinals (the only games played on the "neutral" floor of the host institution), then we still have an opportunity to travel to see Vermont play in the championship game the following week. Not bulletproof logic, but it makes sense to us.
Ultimately, what we seek each season is closure. We spend so much of the long Vermont winter discussing and dissecting the Vermont basketball teams (both men and women), that when the season ends there really is a tremendous lull. Accordingly, if we have committed to avoiding the tournament, we make it imperative that we attend senior day--which was our plan this season--while holding out hope that there may be (at least) another game to attend in person. If not, we make our peace with the team when we salute the seniors.
In recent years, the strategy has paid major dividends. Four America East Championship games played on the Catamounts' home floor to go along with several NCAA tournament and other post-season invites. The conference tournament? That's for the other schools in the America East to worry about. Wake me during the second weekend in March.
Yet, here we are, in Hartford. The reason: the dreaded Hiawatha Hurl. The "Hiawatha" in the aforementioned affliction represents the name of the elementary school both of my kids currently attend. The "Hurl" stands for the projectile emission from a child's mouth when the immune system decides it's too crowded on the inside. I presume no further explanation is necessary, but apparently the condition was sweeping through the school in the days leading up to senior day. It was not until about 3:00 a.m. on the morning of the game that it surfaced for our son. We had heard rumors that the bug's life expectancy was real short, no more than 12 hours. That gave us until 3:00 p.m., for a 1:00 p.m. tip-off. We're troopers, so we actually left the house around 12:15 with thoughts of "we'll just keep a close eye on him." But when the hurl hit en route from garage door to car door, we could fight responsible parenting no longer.
My wife drew the short straw, largely on the strength of my argument that I had "willed" the game for @midmajority and couldn't let my legions of fans down (Game 623: Made in Vermont). Nonetheless, I was quick to recognize that the unfortunate sequence of events had deprived my wife of necessary closure, and suggested that perhaps we depart from tradition and make the trek to the conference tournament. When the schedule revealed that Vermont was slotted for an evening game on Saturday, we determined we could see two more Catamount games with a one-night stay in Hartford, and the person most impacted would be me on Monday morning.
The regret began to set in about midway through the first half, as second-seeded Vermont came out of the gate hitting two of its first 68 shots (approximately) against the seventh-seeded Maine Black Bears. Maine was a team the Vermont had handled well in the two regular season meetings, and isn't regarded as a particularly stout defensive team. The effort was there tonight for Maine, but the cold start had as much to do with Vermont's inaccuracy as it did with Maine's tenacity. The halftime score was an embarrassing 22-14 deficit for Vermont, with most Catamount fans counting on the law of averages to get the team back in the game. The more cynical fans knew this sobering fact: Vermont trailed at halftime in three league games this season, and lost all three. In fact, they were the only conference games they lost. Further, this didn't have the feel of a "don't worry, we'll be fine" type of game; it was more of a "what the **** is going on," similar to UVM's loss to Bing . . . (sorry, still not able to accept it).
The first fourteen or so minutes of the second half was much of the same; some shots were halfway down before rimming out, while others never really had a chance. The only good news was that Maine was suffering a similar fate, keeping the game unnecessarily close until Vermont could make a run. Well, more like a quick sprint. In a game with so few points scored, all it took was Vermont stringing together a few buckets late (too late, in the opinion of many), keeping Maine off the scoreboard, and ultimately "gutting" out a ten-point win, 50-40. It's perhaps unfair to say that it was an ugly performance; the defense certainly stepped up when the offense was misfiring and, unlike Vermont, Maine was unable to take advantage. But it sure wasn't pretty.
The post-game emotion was more relief than elation, and it's hard to imagine Vermont getting through the semifinals with a similar offensive performance. Regardless of what happens in the semis, we now know we'll get our closure. We'd just prefer it arrive sometime after tomorrow. It would make the late-night trip back to Burlington so much more enjoyable.
VERMONT 50, MAINE 40 03/03/2012
MAINE 12-17 (6-10) -- A. Fraser 5-9 0-0 10; M. Allison 2-5 3-3 7; J. Edwards 2-14 2-2 6; A. Rogers 1-6 0-0 2; R. Singleton 3-9 1-2 7; X. Pollard 3-8 0-0 6; K. Cato 1-2 0-0 2; J. McAllian 0-0 0-0 0; Z. Valjarevic 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-53 6-7 40. VERMONT 21-11 (13-3) -- B. Voelkel 0-2 2-2 2; M. Glass 6-17 2-2 16; S. Carissimo 1-4 2-2 4; L. Apfeld 4-7 3-5 12; F. McGlynn 2-8 4-4 8; B. Bald 2-8 1-2 6; C. Rugg 0-1 0-0 0; J. Elbaum 1-2 0-0 2; P. Bergmann 0-1 0-0 0; B. Crenca 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-50 14-17 50.
Three-point goals: UME 0-17 (A. Rogers 0-4; A. Fraser 0-1; R. Singleton 0-5; K. Cato 0-1; J. Edwards 0-5; X. Pollard 0-1), UVM 4-19 (M. Glass 2-6; L. Apfeld 1-1; B. Bald 1-4; S. Carissimo 0-1; B. Voelkel 0-1; C. Rugg 0-1; F. McGlynn 0-5); Rebounds: UME 29 (M. Allison 8), UVM 38 (B. Voelkel 9); Assists: UME 7 (R. Singleton 4), UVM 11 (B. Voelkel 8); Total Fouls -- UME 19, UVM 12; Fouled Out: UME-J. Edwards; UVM-None.