NOVAK: Busy, but exciting time of year

Published 9:04 am Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The busiest two weeks of my entire year kicked off Monday night in Dowagiac at the Division 2 boys district basketball tournament.

If our teams perform the way I think they can, that means games every single night through Friday.

The boys tournament will fill my Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, while the end of the regular season will fill Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

That is not a complaint.

This is one of my favorite times of the year with all of the state finals getting under way, or in the case of wrestling, wrapping up.

Dowagiac and Niles finished up team wrestling Friday night in Kalamazoo, and although the outcomes were not what we may have wanted, both teams wrestled well against some extremely tough competition.

Both teams were seeded seventh and faced the No. 2 seeds in Dundee and Goodrich respectively.

Dundee would go on to successfully defend its Division 3 state championship, which Goodrich gave No. 1-seeded Lowell all it wanted to before falling in the Division 2 finals.

Congratulations to both the Chieftains and the Vikings. You made us proud all season long and delighted your fans with some great performances along the way.

Dowagiac and Niles have developed outstanding programs that should be among the state’s best year in and year out.

Several of our area basketball teams could make a long run in the postseason, while a few others could help decide the outcome of the district tournament.

On paper, Cassopolis and Brandywine are the favorites to win their respective Division 3 district championships.

The Rangers are 18-1 and Southwest 10 Conference champions. The Bobcats, despite a stumble last Friday night against Parchment, enter the tournament 17-2 and the BCS Red Division champions.

The Rangers have defeated everyone in the field twice except for Constantine, which they had not faced this season before Monday night’s district opener, and Marcellus, which is split a pair of Southwest 10 games.

I look for the Rangers to cruise through the district and then head to the regional round where it has struggled to get by some of the Kalamazoo area schools.

Brandywine opened with a potential land mine in Bridgman Monday night.

Although the Bees are no match for the Bobcats on paper, they always seem to come up with a little something for Brandywine in the postseason.

If Brandywine gets past Bridgman, they should have no trouble reaching the finals where it could face a very talented Hartford squad for the title.

Five Wolverine Conference schools and Dowagiac are at the district hosted by the Chieftains.

Dowagiac has to get by Three Rivers, its opening opponent if it wants a shot at the championship.

The Chieftains and Wildcats split a pair of close Wolverine Conference games during the regular season.

I am concerned for Dowagiac as it lost one of its top players in D.J. Lanier to a fractured elbow. I know the Chieftains have enough talent on this team to make a run, but it has to come together, work hard on defense and everyone must step up on offense for them to be successful.

Win over the Wildcats would leave the Chieftains with a semifinal game against Niles, which has won just two games this season and lost 15 games in a row, including a 74-29 decision to Dowagiac in January.

The Vikings are rebuilding under new coach Tyler Dendy and could have to wait until next year to make a run at a district championship.

The other side of the bracket is interesting as Edwardsburg has swept Vicksburg in conference play earlier this year, but lost 52-34 to Paw Paw in their only meeting and been swept by the Chieftains.

If the Eddies can get their opponents to play a slow-down, grind it out style of game in the tournament, they could be a dark horse.

In between boy’s games, I will get one more chance to see some of our girls teams in the tune-up games for their district tournament, which begins next Monday.

Scott Novak is sports editor for Leader Publications. He can be reached