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Hagen: The excitement of what March madness is all about

Anyone can get excited about watching great basketball, and more specifically, all the holy-moly endings in March. That’s exactly what happened at the Hagen household on St. Patrick’s Day 2023.

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Action from the Class AA boys state basketball semifinals game between the Mitchell Kernels and the Sioux Falls Lincoln Patriots on Friday, March 17, 2023, at the Summit Arena in Rapid City.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

You know that moment in a basketball game when there’s a last-second shot attempt?

The ball seems to be floating in the air, time stands still and you just wait to see what happens?

The suspense is huge. Anticipation grows. Then, the release of emotion of whether the team you were cheering for pulls off the win. That moment, when it happens, is what makes watching fun for even the most casual basketball fans, which is basically my entire family.

It’s how March got its madness nickname. Anyone can get excited about watching all the great college and high school basketball, and more specifically, all the holy-moly endings.

That’s exactly what happened at the Hagen household Friday, March 17, St. Patrick’s Day 2023.

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Mitchell Republic Editor Luke Hagen
Adam Thury

My daughter, sandwiched between my wife and I, was holding my phone that featured the South Dakota State University women’s first-round NCAA tournament game against the University of Southern California.

My home television was showing the Mitchell Kernels, courtesy of South Dakota Public Broadcasting on YouTube.

At age 8, we asked Grace fill out her first NCAA men’s tournament bracket this year. It was sitting at our feet with circles and Xs from the games she’s picked correctly. On every commercial break, we were flipping to the nail-biters.

Meanwhile, I was monitoring not only the Class AA state tournament in which the Kernels were pulling off a mighty upset versus Sioux Falls Lincoln, but I was checking scores of the Class B and Class A tournaments. Impressively, our newspaper had staffers at all three state tournaments plus a presence in Virginia where SDSU played. So, for work’s sake, I had to keep an eye on everything.

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Mitchell's Dylan Soulek (23) attempts to drive along the baseline while guarded by Yankton's Mac Ryken during the Class AA boys basketball state championship game on Saturday, March 18, 2023, at the Summit Arena in Rapid City.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Here’s the excitement of what March madness can bring. We’re sitting on the couch rooting for Mitchell and specifically the neighbor kid, a starting guard who’s already having himself a wonderful tournament. SDSU goes into overtime with USC, and my daughter is yelling at my phone for the blue and yellow team to “keep giving it to 44.” For those who don’t know, that’s Myah Selland, the star who grew up in Sanborn County and, from what I’ve read, is a fantastic role model for any young girl.

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South Dakota State's Myah Selland tries to pass around USC defender Kadi Sissoko in the first half of an NCAA tournament first round game on Friday, March 17, 2023 at Cassell Coliseum in Blacksburg, Va..
Matt Zimmer/Forum News Service

Behind Selland’s 29 points, SDSU finally pulls out the victory, meaning our focus goes to the Kernels. Earlier in the night, we watched Yankton complete a huge upset against top-seeded Sioux Falls Jefferson, so we were cheering even harder in hopes an all-Eastern South Dakota Conference championship was made. Who wants metro schools in the title, anyhow?

We’re all bouncing around on the couch, screaming and high-fiving in Mitchell’s too close for comfort game, and eventually I go into a story about how I watched another Kernels starter grow up alongside his dad, Wes Morgan, who was coaching the Mitchell girls years ago. I’ve never met Steele Morgan, but he was playing fantastic on Friday night and it was a fun connection remembering him some dozen years ago.

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Mitchell's Steele Morgan (44) goes up for a layup between Pierre's Jackson Edman (24) and Lincoln Kienholz (3) during a Class AA boys state basketball quarterfinal game on Thursday, March 16, 2023, at the Summit Arena in Rapid City.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

The Kernels hit big 3-pointers, Grace and my wife were locked in to each play, and the green beer in my hand reminded me how lucky I was this St. Patrick’s Day.

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After Mitchell knocked off Lincoln to advance to Saturday’s championship, the girls all shuffled off to bed. It was far past both our kids’ bedtime. Still, it was worth it. For a March evening, we had a blast.

Even the casual fans can catch a bit of the madness.

Opinion by Luke Hagen
Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at lhagen@mitchellrepublic.com.
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