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Local in middle of the madness

It didn’t make “SportsCenter,” but Washington University’s run to the NCAA Division III Men’s Final Four is one of those stories that typifies the magic of March.And former Aspen High School basketball standout Moss Schermerhorn was right in the middle of all of it.Schermerhorn, a 2004 Skiers graduate and a 6-foot-6 reserve power forward for Wash U, in St. Louis, saw only three minutes of playing time in two games at the Final Four in Salem, Va., March 16-17.His final line: one shot attempt and a rebound in a 92-84 win over second-seeded Wooster in Saturday’s consolation game, a win that gave Wash U its highest-ever national finish.He never came off the bench in Friday’s two-point semifinal loss to defending national champion Virginia Wesleyan, which went on to lose to Amherst in Saturday’s final.Nonetheless, playing on an eighth-seeded team that came within one game of the national championship was one of the most remarkable experiences of his young life, Schermerhorn said.”No one thought we would get as far as we did,” said Schermerhorn, a junior set to graduate next spring with degrees in international business and marketing. “We beat the No. 1 team in the tournament to go to the Final Four. And we came up only two points short against the defending national champs.”The Bears were the least experienced team among the four, having failed to qualify for the tournament during Schermerhorn’s first two seasons in St. Louis. They survived with a 63-61 win over Whitworth in the second round, then routed the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point – the top seed in their region – in the first of two sectional games, 78-66. A tough 58-55 win over Hope earned them their trip to Salem to face fourth-seeded Virginia Wesleyan. The Division III athletic experience lacks the perks that scholarship athletes get at upper-level programs, with long bus rides, smaller crowds and no-frills accommodations being the norm – but the trip to Salem was different than a regular road trip, Schermerhorn said.”We didn’t charter a plane or anything, but we flew to Salem,” he said. “The people who run the tournament did a really great job. It was really well-run.”The team played in front of crowds numbering between 2,500 and 3,000, at the Salem Civic Center, Schermerhorn estimated. That included a whole contingent of family, as well as former Bears. Schermerhorn’s parents, George and Helen, made the trip from their home in Woody Creek. Once the Bears returned to campus this week, Schermerhorn said, his thoughts shifted quickly to next season – when he hopes to be a bigger contributor as a senior. One of three seniors on the team was ahead of him on the depth chart, and Schermerhorn said he will get his chance to start next season if he continues to improve.”We’ll definitely see what happens,” he said. “My biggest focus will definitely be on the weight room. One of our key weak points this season was rebounding.”He also said he and the team’s returning starters are already thinking about a return trip to Salem next March.”We have the highest expectations because we’re returning all our key players,” he said. “It was great getting to the Final Four, but we set out to win a national championship. Going as far as we did, we gained great experience and it will very, very crucial next year.”Nate Peterson’s e-mail address is npeterson@aspentimes.com


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