By Tommy Keeler Jr.
It's that time of year -- tournament time.
I'm not talking about "March Madness." I'm talking about the high school winter playoffs. It's the high school version of "March Madness."
This weekend is the last one for both swimming and wrestling. We have plenty of local athletes in action, all hoping to win a state title. We could even have a team or two take home a state championship. I'm sure some athletes will be successful, and the ones who don't can at least know that they tried their best and had a great season.
The indoor track and field state championships also will be held next weekend. Of course, that leaves basketball, which is really just getting started with the postseason.
This week mostly has been about getting to regionals, and I have to admit I like the way everything is set up around the state.
In the district tournaments everybody starts out equal, and everybody still has a chance to win and make a run at a state title.
That's probably the reason I love the postseason in high school sports as much as I do.
A team that starts the season out slow can always recover and make a run in the postseason.
A great example of this would be Stonewall Jackson's girls basketball team.
The Generals entered the Shenandoah District tournament as the No. 7 seed. The Generals weren't a bad team this season, but they came up a little short in some of their district games and simply struggled to find some offense.
They had to play at No. 2 seed Wilson Memorial last week in the tournament quarterfinals, a team they had lost to by 26 earlier in the week. However, the Generals didn't let that faze them and upset the Green Hornets to advance to the semifinals.
Then they knocked off No. 3 seed Luray in the semifinals on Tuesday to secure a regional berth. A team that had only six wins in the regular season most likely will have a home game next week in the regional tournament.
One of the best parts about the Generals' run is how they play. They play together as a team, and the Generals play for each other, the way the game is supposed to be played.
I think it's safe to say that the Generals are our "Cinderella story" in this year's high school playoffs. They will play for a district championship today at 6:30 p.m., at Eastern Mennonite University against fourth-seeded Stuarts Draft. The Cougars upset top-seeded East Rockingham on Tuesday, snapping the Eagles' 51-game winning streak. It was also the first district loss for the Eagles in more than two years, since they lost to Central in double overtime in December of 2010.
The Shenandoah District girls tournament isn't the only one that's had some crazy results.
On Wednesday, fourth-seeded James Wood shocked top-seeded Sherando in boys basketball. The Warriors had defeated the Colonels twice in the regular season. James Wood had trouble picking up wins throughout the regular season, but now the Colonels are in regionals and have a chance at getting a home game in the first round.
Skyline's girls basketball team surprised Handley in the first round of the Northwestern District tournament and the Hawks, with only four wins in the regular season, earned a regional berth.
I've seen many examples like these over the years, where a team can turn things around at the last minute and finish the season on a strong note.
Next week will be regional week in high school basketball throughout the area. There certainly will be some teams that will be underdogs, but that doesn't mean that they can't win and even earn a trip to the state tournament.
That's what makes sports, especially high school sports, so great. Anything can happen, and it's never totally hopeless.
At the end of the day the world of sports isn't about winning or losing, it's about giving it your all and having the pride of knowing that you gave it everything you had no matter who the opponent was. It's about playing with your teammates, and coming together as a team to reach a common goal. And there's nothing better than that.
In this past week, I've seen some seasons continue and some come to a painful end. As always there were tears of joy and pain, but as the weeks pass and everybody begins to move on to the spring sports season, hopefully all of the players will understand how great it was to play with their teammates in the winter.
Most importantly, they'll have the pride of knowing they put it all on the line and gave everything they had. No matter what the scoreboard may have said at the end, as long as you give it your all you never walk a loser.
Contact Assistant Sports Editor Tommy Keeler at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or firstname.lastname@example.org