The Twilight Zone

You’re traveling through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land whose boundaries are that of imagination. That’s the signpost up ahead – your next stop, the Twilight Zone!

You don’t have to be products of the 1960’s to know those words. Every weekend night, Rod Sterling’s classic television show is re-run on the SyFi Channel. It was a television show that scared me to death as a youth, but a show I had to watch. Every week, I was ready to enter the Twilight Zone.

Little did I know as a basketball coach, I would have to enter the Twilight Zone during the last week of January every single season. It’s a dimension of excitement and boredom; a boundary between the dark tunnel of the beginning and the light at the end of the long journey. No coach knows what will happen when their team enters the Twilight Zone.

Maryville’s girls’ team stepped into that foggy unknown with a tournament loss in the Cameron Tournament. It was a surprisingly close game on the heels of a blow-out win against LeBlond.

It’s been tough for second year for head coach, Quentin Albrecht. His hopes of a much improved team seemed to end when a 6-2 sophomore transferred to a large school in Kansas. Talk about a tough-luck coach. Coach Albrecht has had three players, all over six feet, that have moved out of Maryville. There is little doubt the girls’ team would be ranked among the top teams in Class 3 with those three players.

Coach Albrecht experienced his first win of the season without playing a game. That win came when twice as many girls showed up for the first day of practice than during his first year. The enthusiasm was back with the girls’ basketball team.

I feared he wouldn’t win a game with his talent-depleted team. I was wrong; His team won a close game 10 days ago at Falls City, then had the blow-out win over LeBlond. Stepping into the Twilight Zone which is the always at the end of January, his Spoofhounds blew out another foe, this time Excelsior Springs. Two blow-out wins in three games only seemed possible in the Twilight Zone.

Who knows what will happen when the fog clears and the first week of February comes around. With eighth grade help on the way, girls’ basketball may not have to travel to the Twilight Zone for blow-out wins.

I remember one episode of the Twilight Zone where a mysterious fog appeared at the end of town. Anyone who drove into the fog would disappear. No one knew when they would return. That’s the type of Twilight Zone I feared most as a coach.

The Maryville boys’ team is playing in the Cameron tournament as the number one seed. They have rolled to a 15 -2 record, losing only to higher class teams. However, with a six point win over the eighth seed, the Spoofhounds may the sticking their toe in the fog.

The boys’ team is like Forest Gump’s box of chocolates. Night to night, you just don’t know who will show up and have a good game. It’s true the John Zimmerman, the point guard, has consistently been the player the team looks to for stability. John has come through for them. John is amazing, shooting better in the fourth quarter than the first.

It’s also true that Trey Oglesby and Jackson Golightly have been playing more consistently lately. But overall, many of the varsity players take the trip to the Twilight Zone and disappear for a game or two.

When this team drives out of the fog, who knows how good the boys’ team can become. Consistency will make this team almost unbeatable. Getting out of the Twilight Zone is the key.

Then there is the men’s team at Northwest Missouri State. The nation’s number one NCAA II team is so much better than their MIAA opponents, you might not notice a visit to the Twilight Zone. You just might have thought the college players are human by only winning by a 13.5 margin of victory last week.

I noticed Zach Schneider missed a couple of three point field goals. Justin Pitts might have had a turnover or two. The team may have even been challenged a little in a couple of games. I have only one explanation; the Twilight Zone.

Many years ago, I had a high school team like the University’s men’s team. We were so dominate that it was hard to tell where exactly in the universe we were located. It was this week 34 years ago that we landed in the Twilight Zone.

In a school half the size of Maryville, I had two division one post players. In that final week of January, it was pay-back week. Two of our losses the year before had come at the hands of the teams we were to play on Tuesday and Thursday.

In practice Monday, I should have known one of my post players had left town. Those two games were the only games all season long that she didn’t score in double figures. Thank goodness we won both games by exactly 20 points. We had our revenge and our division one player returned from the Twilight Zone the next week.

I have a prediction for the Northwest – Western game on Saturday. Both teams had all week off. Coach McCollum said in his post-game radio show that he would give his players a couple of days off. He explained they needed to heal mentally from all the high pressure games a number one team nationally faces game in and game out.

Brett Weiberg, the Western coach, said just the opposite. In his post-game show, he told the audience his team needed practice more than the days off.

This is just me guessing, but I put my money on Coach McCollum’s idea that less is more. Sometimes, that’s the easiest way to find the exit sign to the Twilight Zone.

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