Here's some Michigan-related March Madness from Indiana: Canterbury last week won its first-ever regional championship in the Class A state basketball tournament (in a double OT game, no less), despite playing all season without the player Ben Smith calls, in a Fort Wayne Journal Gazette column titled Canterbury Fights through Adversity, the "best boys basketball player in Canterbury history, truth be told"—referring, of course, to Austin Hatch.
After talking about Canterbury's two come-from-behind victories to capture the regional crown (prompting their coach to dub them the "Cardiac Cavs"), Smith says:
That would be adversity enough, if it was all there was to this story. But of course it isn’t.
The rest you can find over there on the free-throw line, lobbing up a soft shot or two and then stepping away. He’s dressed in khakis and a red shirt, because he won’t be practicing this day or any day soon. He hasn’t practiced or played in a game all season.
But he’s here. He is always here – at practice, on the bench during games, whispering advice, being there for his guys in the only way he can right now.
“He’s been an instrumental part throughout the whole season,” leading scorer Trent Van Horn says of Austin Hatch. “I think we’re all playing for him.”
“He’s a teammate. That’s the way we look at it,” Kline says. “He’s one of those guys. A special kid.”
Smith doesn't mention this in his column, but there have also been a couple of other special moments. When Canterbury captured the district and then the regional championships—both times the team had Austin Hatch cut down the nets. Here's one relevant tweet from the districts:
There was a special moment after the Canterbury/Blackhawk game when Austin Hatch cut down the net, both crowds cheered twitter.com/ryanelijah/sta…— Ryan Elijah (@ryanelijah) March 6, 2012
Canterbury will play in its first-ever "semistate" game (state semifinal) on Saturday at 1:00 pm against Rockville. To move on to the final, the team will have to overcome more adversity as their top player, point guard Chase Moyle, is out with an injury he suffered in the regional championship (see Man-down Canterbury faces difficult task). Best of luck to the Cavaliers!
Original caption from Ben Smith column: Austin Hatch has been a constant presence at practice to be with his Canterbury teammates.