Basketball, at its core, is nothing more than algebra.
The goal of the game is to accumulate points over a set period of time and do so more quickly and efficiently than your opponents. There are a number of ways in which a basketball team’s mathematical aptitude can be measured — the more mathematically inclined typically have greater odds of winning — but, at the end of the day, often a single, universal truth dictates which team comes out on top. That truth? Three is simply greater than two.
Three is so much greater than two, in fact, that the truth has revolutionized the way the game of basketball is played. Gone are the days of feeding the ball into the post and letting the center eat away at the opposing team’s will to go on. The so-called “Pace and Space” era is here and it isn’t going anywhere.
The NBA’s Golden State Warriors’ propensity for swapping out the inefficient mid-range jumper for 3-pointers and layups has trickled down throughout all levels of the sport, including Minnesota high school girls basketball, where it functioned as the primary reason why the WEM Buccaneers (7-2, 5-1 Gopher Conference) came out on top of the Waseca Bluejays (4-5, 3-2 Big South Conference) Tuesday night by a score of 49-44.
The Buccaneers — considered by many to be one of the top Class A schools in the state — connected on seven of their 20 3-point attempts, led by Toryn Richards and Brielle Bartelt who went 5-for-11 combined. The Bluejays shot a paltry 3-for-17 from beyond the arc; that 21-9 scoring advantage, as well as a 31-27 Buccaneer win on the boards, was enough to offset Waseca’s advantages on made free throws (11 versus eight) and turnovers (18 versus 13). Three was just too much more than two for the Bluejays to win.
“I thought there was some really, really good things [we did] against a really strong team,” Waseca coach Joan Conway said on the bus ride home. “We had a lead that we just couldn’t hold on to at the end...I thought we defended really well for stretches. We just had a hard time finishing possessions with a rebound. The press got the best of us in the last couple of minutes.”
Melady Renteria led the Bluejays with 12 points to go along with five rebounds; Camryn McQuery added 10 points and five boards, while Kloe Wadd brought down 12 rebounds overall. But in the end, Richards’ 20 points, nine rebounds, and three steals in combination with Bartelt’s 14 points, four rebounds, and two assists were too much for Waseca to overcome.
Losing close matchups has been a common theme for the Bluejays, unfortunately, whose five losses have come by an average of 4.8 points. Eliminate their nine point loss to Jordan to begin the season and that average drops to 3.8. They are 1-4 in games decided by five points or less. On the flip side, WEM is 2-2 in such games.
The Bluejays will look to return to their winning ways when they take the court on Tuesday, Feb. 23 in Belle Plaine where they will face a tough Tigers squad (7-2, 6-1 Minnesota River Conference).
WEM next plays on Friday, Feb. 19 at home against Hayfield (8-2, 5-1) in a matchup between two Gopher Conference titans. Both games will begin at 7:15 p.m.