By Jim Stout
Salem State women's coach Tim Shea knows the devastation of losing in the NCAA Division III Final Four.
He also knows the joy of bouncing back and salvaging the weekend with a win in the third-place game. He knows others have savored the moment, too.
The latter is one of the reasons Shea is in favor of the NCAA retaining its consolation game for both the women and the men. The fact that his school has captured back to back third-place titles in Division III is part of it as well.
But his reasoning goes well beyond his personal and institutional interests.
"I think you have to consider this from the (tournament) organizers standpoint, too, both in Danbury and Salem (Va.)," said Shea.
"It helps with the crowd on the second night. When you're talking about four teams with no local ties to the area, it's significant. The host communities put a lot of effort into having these events, and they should benefit. The teams are already here. A weekend should be made out of it for everyone."
Shea's team won the third-place trophy in Danbury in 1999 by defeating Scranton. While the 2000 women's Final Four entry from the Northeast, Southern Maine, reached Saturday's national championship game, the Salem men were taking third place in Virginia by defeating Franklin & Marshall 79-75.
Third-place games have already been eliminated from many NCAA championship formats. The discussion about eliminating the consolation game from the Division III championships surfaced in Danbury and Salem again last weekend.
"It's come up the last few years," said Sue Lauder, the athletic director at Fitchburg State and chair of the Northeast women's committee. "It's still just talk."
For men's teams in the Northeast, the third-place game at the Salem Civic Center has become a source of great pride and achievement. Prior to Salem State's come-from-behind victory against F&M, Connecticut College won the 1999 third-place game while Williams won it in both 1997 and 1998.
Nobody ever wants to play the consolation game when they first reach the Final Four, but nobody ever offers to hand back the third-place trophy once they win it.
For Salem State, the win last Saturday allowed the Vikings to show their true abilities after faltering badly in the semifinal against UW-Eau Claire.
"It was a great game; my only regret was that we couldn't get to play it a couple of hours later (in the title contest)," Salem coach Brian Meehan said after the consolation game.
"Our guys are proud kids, and they were more embarrassed than anything else after Friday night. They were avoiding eye contact with people in the hotel and hiding their (school) emblems. They wanted to get that respect back."
They got it back, something that wouldn't have been possible if the third-place game had been eliminated.
"I know it helps, too, when you're on those conference calls as a regional committee chair, trying to fight for your teams," said Lauder. "You can always say, `see how well our teams do? They finished third in the country.' "
Even fourth place is nothing to be ashamed of.
"We're very pleased to have this fourth-place NCAA emblem," said F&M coach Glenn Robinson, who is one of the most successful Division III coaches on record (581-214).
"I think there are about 394 teams in the country that would like to trade places with us right now."
NEWBA ALL-STARS SHINE: As part of the women's Final Four in Danbury last weekend, the New England Women's Basketball Association held its 18th annual Senior Classic at Western Connecticut's Bill Williams Gym. No one was even bothered that the game was played on Western's former home court on the Midtown Campus, and not at the O'Neill Center, where the NCAA championship took place.
The all-star game was played Saturday afternoon; The NCAA's YES Clinic took up the court at the O'Neill Center during the final day.
"We asked everyone before hand how they felt about that," said Western coach Jody Rajcula, "and everyone was in favor of doing whatever we had to just to be involved with the Final Four. It worked out great."
The 17 players were divided by Colby coach Trish O'Brien into two well-balanced teams of white and dark jerseys, with all players wearing the uniforms of their respective schools.
"It was a little crazy at first, just sitting here at first and not knowing what uniform to put on and whether to warm up," said Eastern Connecticut's Kim Palmer. "But it was fun."
For much of the game, Palmer wasn't sure who was winning.
"I had to ask someone who was Western (on the scoreboard) and who was the guest," she said. "I didn't even know the score at halftime."
The white team rallied from a 16-point deficit early in the second half to pull out a 63-59 victory against the dark team. As the whites steadily started to come back, their intensity level also began to rise.
"At first, we were like it was a fun game," said Nicole Dias, one of three Clark players on the winning team. "But then we started to really play. And when we started to play and come back, it started to mean something to us. It's pretty fun to play with teammates and not even know some of their names, and come back and win."
Even with the dramatic finish, which featured a game-tying three-pointer by Dias and a game-winning basket by Clark teammate Marissa Garrity (pictured), the final score was quickly forgotten.
"This is about having fun," said Garrity. "It's about getting everyone together and having fun."
NEWBA also announced its all-star teams and award winners for the 1999-2000 season:
First team: Marissa Garrity (Clark), Gretchen MacColl (Trinity), Julie Plant (Southern Maine), Missy Smock (Salem), Emily King (Bates); Second team: Rebecca Brooks (Williams), Stacy Kurtyka (Western Conn.), Erin Cole-Karagory (Colby), Naomi Sullivan (Amherst), Meg Barao (Wellesley); Third: Sasha Ashton (Worcester), Hope Allen (Norwich), Adrienne Johnson (Salem), Becky Kanupka (Springfield), Sara Hammond (Colby-Sawyer).
Player of the Year: Garrity; Rookie of the year: Emily Goodman (Tufts); Coach of the year: Kathy Hagerstom (Wellesley).
All-ACADEMICS NAMED: Wentworth senior guard Kevin Hanlon has been named for the second year in a row to the GTE/CoSIDA Academic All-America College Division Team.
Hanlon, who was named to this year's first team, started every game he played in (103) during his four-year career. Despite missing five games this season with a fractured hand, he averaged 10.8 points per game, 3.6 rebounds and 4.1 assists. He shot 81% from the free throw line and led the team with 35 three-pointers. He also served as a captain during his junior and senior seasons.
A Dean's List student, Hanlon is majoring in construction engineering technology. He's the first student-athlete in Wentworth history to be named twice to this prestigious team.
NEWBA all-star box
WHITE TEAM (63): Nicole Dias (Clark) 4 2-2 11, Samantha Good (Bowdoin) 0 3-4 3, Holly Patterson (Johnson State) 5 0-0 11, Erin Lunde (Wellesley) 2 0-2 4, Christine Bonatti (MCLA) 0 0-0 0, Marissa Garrity (Clark) 6 0-0 13, Naomi Sullivan (Amherst) 2 1-2 5, Jess McGouldrick (Gordon) 3 0-0 7, Leanne Tourigny (Clark) 4 0-0 9; TOTALS: 26 6-10 63.
DARK TEAM (59):Adrienne Johnson (Salem) 3 0-0 6, Ali Marshal (Bowdoin) 1 0-0 2, Kim Palmer (Eastern Connecticut) 3 2-5 8, Mandy Lok (Worcester) 1 2-2 4, Cheryl Carr (Colby-Sawyer) 3 7-8 13, Sherri Kelly (Worcester) 4 0-0 10, Kara Lunden (Salem) 5 0-1 10, Nicole DuPont (Eastern Connecticut) 2 1-2 5; TOTALS: 22 13-18 59.
HALFTIME: Dark, 35-26.