33 & 66
The deluge of televised college basketball in recent weeks may verge on a bit of overkill. It almost seems that every college hoops game being played anywhere found itself on one television network or another. With the hysteria of March Madness now upon us, basketball junkies are in hoops heaven and office production will see dips in efficiency as the countdown to the crowning of a National Champion moves on.
Indeed, the success of hometown teams heat the juices of the populous, and the team’s achievements elevate the community they represent to new levels of pride and accomplishment. That euphoria is not limited to basketball or amateur sports.
In Major League Baseball, this century has seen two historic championships won that have ended championship droughts that have ‘reversed the curse’ and shed ‘loveable losers’ tags. Hundreds of thousands of celebrants filled the streets of Boston in 2004 after the Red Sox World Series victory over the St. Louis Cardinals and a similar scene played out in Chicago in 2016 following the Cubs’ Game-Seven-extra-innings-win over the Cleveland Indians.
For the Red Sox, the win broke ‘the curse of the Bambino’ that had seen 86 years go by since their last World Series win. The drought for the Cubs lasted even longer, as they last appeared in a World Series in 1945 and hadn’t won one in 108 years.
The Cubs were ‘victimized’ by ‘the Curse of the Billy Goat’ placed on the team by William Sianis, owner of the Billy Goat Tavern located near Wrigley Field. Sianis had taken his mascot Billy Goat named Murphy to the 1945 World Series. Because the odor of the goat was bothering fans, Sianis was asked to leave the ballpark during Game Four of the World Series. Outraged, Sianis allegedly declared, “Them Cubs, they ain’t gonna win no more.” Sianis’s ‘curse’ was interpreted to mean that either the Cubs would never win another National League pennant, or that they would never again win a World Series.
Indeed, the Cubs lost that 1945 World Series. After the incident with Sianis and Murphy, the Cubs did not play in the World Series for the next 71 years until, on the 46th anniversary of Sianis’s death, they defeated the Dodgers in Game Six of the 2017 World Series.
Although there is no known ‘curse’ placed upon the Montoursville High School Boys basketball program, and the Borough streets were not clogged with celebrants, the Warriors 46-32 win over Mifflinburg gave the Blue & Gold their first District Four hoops title in 33 years, dating back to 1985. Perhaps ironically, it was Montoursville coach Mike Mussina, who was on the mound for the New York Yankees in Game One of that 2004 American League playoff series eventually won by the Red Sox.
Before Mussina’s arrival as the Warriors coach five years ago, Montoursville basketball had seen some lean years. Included in the record books was a winless season. With the team losing four starters from last year expectations for 2017-2018 were not high, except for those wearing the Warriors uniforms. The starting quintet of Owen Kiess, Dylan Bower, Tyler Reidy, John McCarthy, and Luke Warnecke had other ideas as they began the season with three consecutive wins over teams that had won District titles last year, and concluded with the memorable win over Mifflinburg. If not spectacular, they were indeed steady and took pride in doing ‘the little things’ that included making a remarkable 36 of 38 free throws in the district playoff games.
The day following the Warriors championship accomplishment, the Montoursville gym witnessed the vanquishing of an even longer sports drought as the Wellsboro Green Hornets won their first District Crown in 66 years defeating nemesis Loyalsock 53-47.
In doing so, Wellsboro (26-1) avenged its only loss of the season, coming at the hands of the Lancers in the year’s second game, and won just its second district championship in program history dating back to 1952. Postgame emotions ran high, and tears of joy ran shamelessly down the cheeks of Green Hornet players and fans alike.
Pridefully, Wellsboro coach Todd Outman told his team, “It’s been 66 years, and you can go down as one of the greatest teams to ever play at Wellsboro.” They cemented themselves in folklore in Wellsboro from here till the end of it.
For Montoursville and Wellsboro, no huge parades were held. Pride and accomplishment are all that is needed.
Hoop kudos also go out to the Bucknell Bison and Penn State Nittany Lions men’s basketball squads that gave local fans plenty to cheer about on the collegiate front. Bucknell’s Sojka Pavilion adds excitement, and the Bison feed off the home crowds in once again hosting the Patriot League’s championship game.
Pat Chamber’s Nittany Lions continue to build a hoped-for Big Ten contender and their three wins over Ohio State gave PSU fans everywhere a reason to celebrate.
Enjoy the Madness of March hoops!