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February 14, 2013

Tim Kolodziej: As WPIAL playoffs arrive, take care of first things first

NEW CASTLE — It won’t be good.

It just won’t.

Playoff pressure has a way of turning even the most confident players to mush.

Now that the WPIAL basketball brackets are in place, our thoughts turn to who might become a hero for their district as their team marches toward the A.J. Palumbo Center.

And who might not.

For every buzzer-beater or incredible tip-in, there will be another player who leaves the floor hanging her head, weeping, wondering what could have been.

So, who will that be this year?

It won’t be good, you know.

Write it down now. There will be crucial plays that fans will be debating for weeks to come.

•Someone will get confused on a defensive assignment and give their opponent an easy bucket.

•Someone will miss a free throw.

•Someone will be overcome by intense defensive pressure and lose the ball.

•Someone will attack the basket and dribble off their toe.

I hope that someone isn’t you.

But, if it is, take heart.

If it happens with 6:40 left in the first quarter, no one will remember your mistake as the game progresses. It will be just one of a hundred plays that occur in the course of 32 minutes.

Most fans will forget those early errors and, instead, dwell on the missed free throw with three seconds remaining. They’ll replay the game-tying shot that glanced off the rim as time expired.

Don’t you fall into that trap. As your playoff opener nears, I want you to focus on your FIRST possession down the court. Focus on the FIRST free throw. Focus on the FIRST time your team assembles in the half-court trap.

Visualize being successful as those plays unfold.

Then remind yourself that EVERY play counts. EVERY possession counts. EVERY action you take on the court has consequences.

Whether it’s the first play of the game — or the last.

Do you want to spare yourself the agony of missing a game-tying free throw with no time left on the clock?

Then take care of business early. Take care of business often. Every play. Every possession.

And remember that the plays you make in the first quarter count just as much as those in the closing seconds.

Even if most other people don’t.

 

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