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Size matters


I'd like to say the best hoops teams in the area - both glaringly devoid of a prototypical post - will overcome that deficiency. But I can't.

Since moving to Illinois, I'm yet to watch a girls basketball team that eventually went on to win the state title.

But while the sports editor in Monroe, Wis., I chased a squad of Cheesemakers who won the title in 2007 before narrowly missing in 2008. Old Kevin Keen, he seemed to always have a 6-footer or two coming up through the ranks. You'd think he coached height.

But that's just the thing. You can't. You can install a system and teach your grittier, better-equipped players to use every bit of mass they've got. And both Don Robinson in Prophetstown, Kristy Eckardt in Oregon and their respective staffs have done a fine job of that.

But from the time Ellie Lehne plucked two straight offensive rebounds before scoring on the opening possession of Tuesday's Big Northern West de facto title game, it was tough to watch a scrappy, talented Hawks team struggle to find an answer for Byron's twin towers.

Even when Devyn Absher and Brianna Tourtillott had perfect position, several times one of the talented Tigers rebounded the ball (listen up, youngsters) with their hands extended straight up, over their head.

Much to the dismay of moaning fans, it wasn't over-the-back. It was logistics and technique.

After the game, I yucked it up with Eckardt, asking her the hypothetical question of exactly how different her team would be if near-6-footer Lexi Smith hadn't transfered to suburban juggernaut Bolingbrook. Obviously, she's not walking through that door, ducking to avoid bumping her head.

She responded that her lack of a post didn't stop them from beating Byron in their first meeting.

I wasn't at that game. The one I was at got a lot better when the Hawks went to man-to-man in the second half. The first made me physically uncomfortable. The entry passes were about as easy as can be, and the towers simply caught, turned and crashed to the bucket.

Lesson learned. Zone bad. Man good. Let Absher get physical with her taller foes. She relishes the challenge. The Hawks have some grit coming off the bench, too. See: Kimberly Janke putting up her guard like a boxer on her way off the floor after making a big play Tuesday night.

The only teams to beat the Tigers this season are the Hawks and Robinson's Prophets, who will likely eventually tangle with another super-talented big, Sophie Brunner and the Aquin Bulldogs.

Teams with the Prophets' and Hawks' talent can win on any given night. I hope they've got a laundry list of victories left in them.

I'm just fully aware that it's a tall task. Too tall? We'll see.

Oh. One more thing. All parties involved on Tuesday - including the coaches - were happy to talk about their "next matchup," which is dependent on them both winning their Byron regional semifinal games.

Talk about bulletin board material for the other four seeds in the regional.

No opponent can be overlooked at this point of the season. To support my argument, I present to the court Exhibit A.

Eastland had no business losing to Forreston. Basketball is a fickle sport. Some nights you got it. Some nights you don't. The Hawks and Tigers, who have both blown each other out once, ought to know that.