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Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Big Night in a Small County Town

The California state high school basketball tournament is a massive undertaking. It involves five enrollment-based divisions for both boys and girls. Virtually all of the Golden State's 1,700 or so public and private schools have a shot at being involved. Beginning this week, only about 275 of the best remained. Playoffs in the northern and southern halves of the state commenced Wednesday night. It's a big deal, especially for small schools and small towns. Witness Half Moon Bay. The hometown team hosted Calaveras High School from the Gold Country in the Sierra Nevada foothills. More than 1,000 rabid Half Moon Bay fans jammed the renovated high school gymnasium for the NorCal first-round Division IV tussle. It was just the third time in school history that such an event was hosted there on the hillside campus. The sterling sound system was in fine fettle. Music throbbed. Pre-game introductions featured a darkened gym, a roving spotlight and a creative PA announcer. The Cougar cheerleaders did their thing. At halftime, there was even a pint-sized break-dancer going through his manic paces on the sidelines. The ballgame itself was something of a letdown, unless you enjoy a royal pasting. Coach Rich Forslund's boys routed the visitors from Mark Twain terrritory, 67-29. There was a running clock through much of the final period. It was Half Moon Bay's first victory in state tournament action in school history. The Coastside rooters loved it. Calaveras fans, not so much. The Cougars move on to a Saturday night engagement with top-seeded and heavily-favored Salesian in Richmond. A reversal of Wednesday's euphoria could be in order for Half Moon Bay. That's the nature of the tournament. Regardless, the experience is quite a ride.

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