Time Out: February 27, 2013

For all but one successful team in each girls’ or boys’ basketball classification, the season will end with a loss. One team in each of New York State’s girls’ and boys’ class will actualize a journey that ends with a state championship. Along the way, many impressive basketball squads will end their season on the short side of a wave of disappointment.

That lesson couldn’t have been clearer this week as I took in three exciting Section IV playoff games. Wednesday it was the South Kortright boys’ team, the Delaware League’s Mountain Division champions, who would see their season end with a loss to Marathon.

On Friday, a 19-0 Waverly girls’ team suffered its only loss of the campaign in Oneonta. Saturday night it was the Delaware League Champion Margaretville Blue Devils’ team closing the curtain on a remarkable season, falling to those same pesky Marathon Olympians.

The “win or your done” allure of high school sectional basketball always draws me to courtside. The tension is high, the emotions real and raw, and the venue often drives high school athletes to elevate their play to levels they haven’t reached before. But each night in each gym one successful team will say goodbye to a memorable basketball campaign.

Wednesday in South Kortright, I witnessed something I have rarely seen at a high school basketball game. When SK senior Trevor Holdridge fouled out of the game, a slow human wave began around the gymnasium as one person after another rose to their feet to applaud.

Eventually, nearly everyone in the gymnasium was standing, including parents of the Marathon team and the entire Margaretville basketball team who had battled Holdridge and his Rams only four days earlier for the league championship. The moment was a testament of Holdridge’s character and the neverending effort he leaves on the floor.

Then Friday in Oneonta, when the substitutes from both teams were on the floor, I directed my wife’s attention to the end of the Waverly bench. Three starters waited in agony for the final horn, one with a towel wrapped over her head, completely covering her face, one with her face buried in the palms of her hands, and the third leaning back on the bleacher behind, her eyes staring listlessly to the sky.

It’s poignant when people, especially kids, care so much about an interest or event that the world almost stops with disappointment when their goal isn’t achieved.

Then in Margaretville, an always-classy group of Blue Devil guys cloaked their disappointment in failing to advance to the semifinals with a healthy dose of dignity and grace. You could read the pain on their faces, but the MCS guys were generous in their congratulations to the victors. One even stopped during my post game interview with an Olympian to acknowledge a great game.

Personal experience has taught me it takes time to clear away the remnants of broken dreams and appreciate the magnitude of what you actually accomplished. Time pushes the final outcome or product to the background and helps one appreciate the incredible process that helped elevate your successes along the way.

A hearty congratulations to the MCS guys and all the gals and guys bidding goodbye to a great basketball campaign.