|Size is relative. Bran's height not terribly overpowering here.|
|Cardinals pre-game chant|
|Grey and Branson during Friday night's coin toss|
|Celebrating the 43-41 win over Handley. Too close for comfort.|
|More post-game celebration with Bran, JC and Coulter|
|Smiles couldn't get much bigger... proud of these boys!|
But come noontime Saturday, we didn't see quite the same YMLA. And for anyone in attendance that day, we truly didn't see the same team! Regardless, our boys were ready and rested and rearing to go. As were the fans. We filed into the large city gym on an overcast, chilly morning, relishing elbow room in the stands. Last week's games played at McLean absolutely filled the gym, to the point where Friday night half the crowd had to be turned away.
So for Saturday's game, the Cardinals were on. But so was YMLA. They didn't outplay us, but they outscored us. And again, for three and a half quarters we trailed behind, usually lagging somewhere around ten points, but during the third quarter, the spread accumulated to 15+ points. At that point, as Basden looked back at me with round eyes full of concern, I agreed, "Ok, this is getting serious."
One of our starters, Grey, fouled out at the beginning of the fourth, and with three minutes to go, Reid fouled out again. We trailed by about 7 or 8 points. In went Coulter, and Bran's intense pat on the back showed he was glad to see his buddy run onto the court. Coulter got the ball and shot one of his 3-pointers, but it hit the rim and bounced into the ready hands of a YMLA player. Once back on our side of the court, Branson made a jump shot and a free throw, putting us just a couple of points behind, with about a minute and a half left in the game. Coulter got the ball on the outside, his arms extended and attempted that 3-pointer again, and the ball sunk straight into the net. Unbelievable. Our crowd went W.I.L.D. For the first time in the game, we led by one point. Jaylon made a lay-up to give us just a little more margin. Back and forth for the last minute, each team scored a point or two and again, we led by just a couple of points.
By this time, we were playing against both the other team and the refs (my humble opinion, of course, Bran disagrees), and YMLA was awarded two sets of two free throws in the last few seconds, with one of the fouls called on Branson. We stood frozen in the stands, watching and hoping and praying those balls would somehow fall short of the hoop. Of the four, only one went in. So the final buzzer sounded as a YMLA player threw a desperate (but nearly accurate) three-pointer that bounced off the rim, and the scoreboard showed McLean ahead by one.
Final 53-52 ~ McLean wins! Basketball City Champions!!
The euphoria, the dizziness of disbelief... I watched as Branson bounded across the court like a gazelle, his feet touching about twice to cover half the court. The team swarmed each other in excitement and just grabbed on to one another, not knowing what to do with the incredible release of emotion. We did the same in the stands, jumping and screaming and hugging each other.
|Pretty incredible. Until the last minute of the game, this photo seemed unreachable|
Some things I hope to remember about this basketball experience -
- Getting to decorate lockers with the other team moms - again!
- Bran spraining his wrist from a fall in Thursday night' game ~ Coach Sisk applied his magic aloe vera / deep heat / saran wrap solution and it felt like new by game time
- Reid staying healthy, and his illness not turning into full-fledged strep. Agh!
- Basden and Esther getting to sell concessions - along with a lineup of their friends. We typically had more workers than customers
- The deafening cheers in McLean gym - incredible to experience - full stands with feverish cheering, and the entire crowd standing during the last quarter of Friday night's game
- Watching the boys play was just plain fun. Some of the passes seemed almost telepathic, anticipating each others' movements and patterns
- Coulter's game-changing 3-pointer in the championship. That kid has turned baseball games around with home runs more times that I can count. Coulter's can-do, never-give-up attitude is admirable. Along with his athletic prowress!
|Teammates - and friends - through thick and thin|
- Committed coaches (and our fabulous principal) building into these boys. Not just with practices, but driving long commutes, enduring rowdy bus rides, washing LOADS and LOADS of smelly uniforms, and even juggling a newborn in the midst of the incredibly long hours. Branson just said to one of his grandparents, "These championships weren't from just one season of training - they started preparing us for this in seventh grade."
|Coach Goebel and Coach Smith whispering sweet nothings during a time-out|
|Not sure if this is sweet nothings??|
|Smith and Goebel's pre-game pep talk Saturday|
I drove away from Saturday's game to meet some girlfriends at the lake. I spent most of the hour drive replaying scenes in my mind, processing all of the intense (I repeat - intense) emotions we'd just experienced. A few minutes before I turned off the highway toward the lake house, I called Dad. He was still eating lunch with all the other grandparents and Basden, and I needed to hear his knee-jerk reaction.
"Dad, I'm only in the car a few more minutes, but I just needed to hear your response. Just give me one thing - one observation or thought you have from all of this."
Without much hesitation, Dad sighed a happy sigh and said, "Well, it's been said at this table, that this was just a game. In a couple of weeks, no one will remember this game. But the experience as a whole, the season and the work and the accomplishment of what these boys have just experienced, won't be forgotten for a long, long time. It's significant. And it's going to propel them forward in a unique way, each of them individually and collectively. It's setting the stage for the years to come."
I was comforted by that, of course, to think that even if this was "just a basketball game", or "just a city championship, " that it was more than a win. This experience will propel these boys forward. And in more ways than athletics. It's invigorating to watch these boys come together for a purpose bigger than themselves, especially during these middle school years where they're figuring out their place and their unique contributions. And it's not just the boys being propelled - we parents (and grandparents!) are rolling right along with them. Grateful for the wild, wild ride!
|Back row: Branson, Grey, JC, Reid, Coulter, Coach Smith Front row: Ian, Jaylon, TJ, Marc, Michael|
** Author not responsible for accuracy of facts, scores, and specific game minutes. This post to be interpreted as a zealous mom's perspective