Coaches always tell players and media that defense wins championships. You've heard it. I've heard it. Everyone's heard it. It's become a cliche. Thing is, like a lot of cliches it's not completely accurate.
Don't get me wrong -- defense is important. But the thing that separates the men from the boys and the women from the girls in a postseason basketball game is rebounding. That's right: Rebounding wins championships. It's true at every level of basketball. Doesn't matter if we're talking about the East Aurora Class 4A Sectional or the NBA. If you can't rebound, you won't win.
Take a look at West Aurora's 58-53 overtime win over Plainfield East Tuesday night. The Blackhawks shot a miserable 25 percent from the field in the first half. You would think such poor shooting would cause them to be buried -- especially playing against the top-seeded Bengals. Not so.
West was only down seven at the half, well within striking distance. The Blackhawks made a run in the second half, got the game into overtime and pulled the upset.
Here's why: They destroyed Plainfield East on the boards. It wasn't even close. West Aurora totaled 21 offensive rebounds and enjoyed a 47-35 edge on the glass overall. Spencer Thomas (pictured) led the way with 11 boards. His twin brother, Chandler, was close behind with 10 rebounds.
That's a lot of extra possessions right there, and extra possessions mean everything in postseason play. Once the playoffs roll around, there are fewer easy baskets to be had. During the regular season, the opposing team might get lazy and you can beat them down the floor for transition buckets. Some nights, you can win just by playing harder than the other team.
Well, come postseason, everybody plays hard. That easy stuff you get during the regular season just isn't there anymore. Everybody hustles back on defense. It becomes more of a halfcourt game. Possessions are more valuable than ever. That's why rebounding is so critical in big games. Good rebounding teams get more possessions, and more possessions means more opportunities to score. More opportunities to score means more points. More points means you win. Simple game, huh?
West Aurora didn't upset Plainfield East with its dazzling shooting, although the Blackhawks did pick it up from the field in the second half. West's commitment to rebounding is the reason it will be playing for a sectional title Friday night.
I've always viewed rebounding as being similar to pitching in baseball. A team with good pitching will have a chance to win every night. If your team doesn't have any good pitchers, you better go out and find some. Same is true with rebounding. If rebounding is a strength for your basketball team, you will have a chance to win every single night. And, you will have a chance to do some damage in the postseason.
Rebound well, and you can win on a night where shots don't fall -- even against a good team. West Aurora proved it Tuesday night.