Two sides to March Madness

It’s a time of the year when special things can happen.

But March Madness has two sides to it — hence you get the “Beware the Ides of March” concept.

Oh, there is the special side when an underdog team rises up and knocks off the heavily favored opponent.

Take the 1969 district basketball tournament at old Sherman Gym.

Lake Linden was a heavy underdog to a strong Ewen-Trout Creek team that long ago winter night.

The Panthers had a tall and talented squad and were ranked high in the state polls that winter. The Lakes, no surprise, had little size, and were coming off a well under .500 season under coach Russ Laurin.

Yet, on that evening, Lake Linden rose up and seized an early lead on Ewen-TC. They gave up the lead later in the game, but rallied to win by four points.

In hockey, huge upsets seem to take place on fewer occasions in March.

But I call recall a 1981 state quarterfinal game between Houghton and a big Sault Ste. Marie team that had a long history of success in tourney play.

The Blue Devils, who had a really physical team, seemed to be getting the best of things in the second period.

That was when Mike Archambeau of the Gremlins put a heavy check on a big Sault forward. The crowd at Lakeview Arena gasped, mainly because Archambeau was around 5-8, 145 pounds and his foe was 6-3, 220 pounds.

Houghton won the game and went on to its first state championship under the late Don Miller.

But the flip side of Match Madness could be found in March of 1969 when Baraga met Marquette Bishop Baraga in the regional basketball finals.

The Vikings of coach Carl “Cookie” Johnson were favored by many observers that season. They had an all-state sharp-shooting guard in Gary Moberg and plenty of other good players.

But Moberg came down with the a case of the flu before the game, and another Baraga starter injured an ankle in the game.

Bishop Baraga ended up winning a close game and then went on to win the state championship in its final season as a school.

I can name you several times when a favored team was taken down in tournament play. The 1984 Dollar Bay squad — a team many considered the best in coach Jim Bronczyk’s long tenure — lost to North Dickinson in the regional finals in a game they should have won.

But that’s why this time of March has the label of “Madness” attached to it …