The Upper Chesapeake Bay Athletic Conference championship game, that which pits the winner of the Chesapeake (upper) Division against the winner of the Susquehanna (lower) Division at the conclusion of the regular season, is, at least in this reporter's eyes, more of a coronation for the Chesapeake team than anything else.
Yes, there have been a handful of Susquehanna teams to sneak off with the UCBAC crown (a few years ago North Harford came from behind to beat Havre de Grace in the boys basketball game, and that's the only instance of the lower-division team winning that I've witnessed), but, in most instances, it's the Chesapeake champs walking off into the sunset, or off toward the regional playoffs, with their conference title plaques.
The game, by the very language used to describe the two divisions (upper and lower), is a mismatch from the outset, and a lot of the final scores are illustrative of that imbalance. At least one of the matchups at C. Milton Wright on Wednesday evening, when the boys and girls basketball title games were being held, proved that point. Patterson Mill, the Chesapeake champs, hammered the Susquehanna team from Fallston, 58-14. That's not the worst score differential from a girls basketball game that we've seen this season, but I don't think that one was much fun to watch.
When you have a competitive gap so pronounced as to create a final score of 58-14, you wonder if the teams should even be out there playing the game. Think about it. Would you want to send your team out there to play in what is essentially an exhibition contest when the regional tournament is going to start in less than a week? A victory is not going to improve your playoff seeding, nor will a loss hurt your post-season position.
This question I've posed was already answered a year ago, when the Harford Tech girls lacrosse team, winners of the Susquehanna Division, declined to take part in the title game, where they were slated to square off with CMW. As Tech head coach Emma Little said, she and her team did not think it fair that they should play in an obviously mismatched contest, and that they would rather move on to the playoffs. Harford Tech was stripped of its Susquehanna title and Little was suspended as a result of this protest.
Now, that's the boldest statement we've seen thus far concerning the UCBAC title game, but I remember a much more subtle one. Go back to the 2011 season, and you had the aforementioned Havre de Grace vs. North Harford boys basketball contest. North Harford, the Susquehanna champ, came from behind to upset Havre de Grace and take the UCBAC crown. After the contest I talked to Johnny Brooks, head coach of Havre de Grace at the time, and though I'm sure he was disappointed at having lost, said something along the lines of, "we just started shooting really cold, and that happens sometimes. We need to get some work in before the regional tournament starts." He was already thinking about the playoffs, as every basketball coach is this time of year.
In completely wrecking any thesis I've been trying to set up, the one about how the UCBAC title game isn't worth playing, let's look at the second of the two championship contests from Wednesday night. After Patterson Mill walked over Fallston in the girls contest, Joppatowne (Chesapeake) and Bel Air (Susquehanna) took the court for the boys game. I knew that matchup wouldn't end in some terrible blowout, because Bel Air had proven itself against several Chesapeake teams during the regular season, but it turned out to be one of the more exciting conference championships I've covered. Bel Air got to within two points of Joppatowne twice within the last minute of the game before losing, 61-55.
The Mariners, who as the Susquehanna champs last year gave Edgewood a run for its money in the 2013 title game, looked genuinely pleased afterward to have nailed down an UCBAC crown. So, was that game worth playing? Absolutely. The UCBAC championship isn't always some awful mismatch.