This past Sunday we (Paideia Men's Varisty) played Amherst in the finals of the Paideia Cup. We had played them on the last game of Saturday, losing 4-15. It was a solid drubbing where we failed to successfully deal with their 1-3-3. After a tough start to a semi-final against Columbia, we rallied in the 2nd half to win decisively (13-9). We had good momentum, and although a little banged up we felt prepared to face Amherst again.
The lone bright point from the previous day was that we knew we could play solid defense against them and get some blocks. We we're hoping to get a few of those breaks and stay in it this time. The game felt completely different than the one the previous day. We stopped their 1-3-3 and forced them to go man. We certainly made them work on offense. But, while we got a few blocks, we only mustered one break and lost 15-7.
This was my first time coaching against Amherst. What surprised me (although according to Mike this is normal) is that in a final that they had won handily they played only 9 deep. Don't get me wrong, I am no stranger to riding your horses when the time is right, and maybe it was out of respect for our team, but subbing only 9 deep felt strange. They didn't play as many points on the weekend as we did, so maybe that factored in, but Tiina told me (and I completely believe it) that her boys could run a few more like that if they had to. While our boys ran their legs off and did a great job against 5A athletes, I could see the struggle on their faces at the end of each point.
As Amherst went tight with their rotation we were "forced" to do the same. Only they have stronger horses and ours were destined to get tired in an ever losing battle. I don't normally call subs, but the times that I have my goal has been to use my bench to fill in space (on D) and run my best players hard in key moments to get breaks. Instead we ran just as tight, scored a few when things worked well, gave up breaks when they didn't, and aside from some spectacular single plays could never get those breaks back. I feel like I could have tried to sacrifice our defensive points with weaker lines in hopes of being more consistent on offense, but I don't know if it would have mattered much
Hats off to Amherst for a great tournament. I wont be there, but I will be incredibly impressed if any team can beat them at Easterns this year. If they win it will make 2 years in a row that Paideia has lost to an eventual "National" champion in the finals of our own tourney. If only we could find a way to play ourselves in the final.