I'm a stickler for records-keeping. I have spreadsheets that detail exactly how many points a player has scored over the course of the season, team scoring averages and other details.
One thing I also like to keep track of is how many times I've been in certain places to cover games. It helps me make sure I don't miss any teams in my goal to see every area team, boys and girls, at least once.
Based on that data, I can tell you I covered 16 girls' and 21 boys' basketball games over the course of the last several months. I all-but accomplished my goal, seeing 21 of 22 squads (the only one missed being the Ewen-Trout Creek girls).
And I can still tell you that I felt like I'd only scratched the surface when I prepared for last week's All-UP basketball meeting in Marquette.
Of the 70 players that made All-UP in both genders, I saw 23 in person (that's down one from last year). When you don't have personal visual evidence, you have to fall back on numbers. That seems pretty cut and dried, until you start discussing what the numbers mean.
There was a lot of argument between the 21 of us that picked the teams. Are that kid's numbers inflated by weak competition? Does he deserve more credit because he didn't have a lot of help? Does she deserve credit because she didn't get a majority of her team's shots? Does he specialize in unquantifiable stuff like defense?
I have yet to leave any of these meetings completely happy with how things worked out, and because they're out of town, I get a lot of time to stew on the results.
Here's a few other honors I thought of in the 100 miles between Marquette and Houghton:
Defensive Player of the Year
Alex Almquist, Hancock
The Bulldogs improved their record by 10 wins and their points allowed per game by 12. You could probably credit that to the whole team and the adoption of coach Ryan Walter's tough defensive style, but the linchpin of that has been this tall freshman. His ability to 'erase' his teammates' defensive risks in the paint is one of several reasons that the Bulldogs jumped back into the conversation in local boys' basketball.
Team Play of the Year
Fun stat: No Houghton player led her team in scoring by herself in more than two consecutive games and five (Joey Carroll, Hannah Hill, Addy Grier-Welch, Rachel Crane and Taylor Dillinger) did it at least once. I'm very interested to see what this bunch (which loses only Crane and forward Ellie LeSatz) is capable of in 2011-12, especially now that Nicole Elmblad is out of the way.
Best Under-The-Radar Season
Jamie Dompier, Chassell
One of the reasons that Chassell did better this year than in years previous was that Mara Ryynanen had more help. Dompier was a big part of that, averaging nine points a game and demonstrating marked offensive improvement from her freshman season, including double-figure scoring in all three postseason games and four of her last five overall. You can't teach the kind of speed Dompier has, and as her skills become more refined, she may be able to lead the next wave for Chassell's program.
Best Game of the Year
Baraga 84, Chassell 80 (2OT)
I had a remarkably lucky year, including seeing a double-overtime game, an overtime game and four decided by two points or less. But the best one was clearly a game I didn't see. Paul Peterson was on hand for the showdown between the Vikings and Panthers and Baraga's Brent VanAlstine and Chassell's Joe Larson. Both players had 34 points and both probably guaranteed their All-UP credentials. It's hard to make up stuff like knocking down free throws to tie in a hostile gym with no time left twice.
Newcomer of the Year
James Veker, L'Anse
Every year there's at least one game I kick myself for having missed. At the top of this year's list was the overtime thriller between the Purple Hornets and E-TC on Feb. 14. After E-TC's Jordan LaPlant stole the inbounds pass and raced in for a game-winning lay-up at the buzzer, Veker caught him from behind and blocked it off the glass. Mind-boggling even to imagine, much less see live. And we have three more years of this. And Almquist, and the likes of Houghton's Ryan LaBerge, who logged significant minutes at point guard for Houghton. Oh, and L'Anse has a few pretty talented girls in the class of 2014, too. The future's looking pretty bright on a lot of basketball floors this December.