By Dennis Morgan, Publisher
Seasons begin, seasons end.
For this year’s Wolfpack girls basketball team, the end came abruptly, leaving fans wanting more.
Heartland dashed our Wolfpack girls’ dreams of extending their season, handing them a 34 to 24 loss in the first round of the Class D-1 State Basketball Tournament.
Victories bring smiles. Losses bring tears. Both could be found just feet apart at the end of the game in a gym neither team had played in before.
From the best seat in the house, I watched the game unfold, then draw to a close. In the days since, several thoughts have come to mind.
First, what an odd game this truly was. When do you see one team go scoreless for 12 minutes, then see the other team try to duplicate the feat, all in the same game? The Wolfpack, particularly this season, never struggle to put points together. Yet, after scoring the first two points of the game against Heartland, they went cold for nearly 12 minutes. How does that happen? Whether one wants to admit it or not — it’s nerves. Feeling the pressure to play your best against the best. The pressure just kept amping up as Heartland extended their lead.
Then, in the second half, with a commanding lead, Heartland does their version of going scoreless. How did that happen? It happened because the Wolfpack challenged every pass, challenged every shot. Their 2-3 zone defense kept the Huskies from getting the shots they got in the first half. The Wolfpack clogged the passing lanes, getting steals which they turned into points, none more important than one made by Elizabeth Selting which she converted into a layup to cut the Huskies lead to 25 to 24 late in the fourth quarter.
Final scores are deceptive. For anyone not attending the game, to only look at the final score, they would say Heartland had an easy victory. They would be sadly mistaken.
Into the final minute of the game, the outcome was still in doubt. A three-pointer by the Wolfpack could have made it a one-score game with half a minute left on the clock. When the shot didn’t hit the mark, the Wolfpack were forced to foul. Heartland made their free throws throughout the game, especially down the stretch. Those free throws made what was a very close game look one-sided at the end.
Missed opportunities. In this battle of evenly-matched teams, Heartland did everything they could to knock out the Wolfpack in the first half. In the second half, the Huskies took the Wolfpack’s best punch and were wobbling till late in the game. How many times did the Wolfpack come down the floor with a chance to tie or take the lead only to let the chance slip away? For all their effort to fight back and make it a game, the Wolfpack just couldn’t score the basket to take the lead. Had they regained the lead, I believe they would have gone on to win the game because, psychologically, the Huskies would have let a double-digit lead slip away. I’ve seen it happen too many times not to believe it wouldn’t have happened again.
The Wolfpack finished Thursday’s game just like they played the whole season. They played hard every second, every minute, every quarter until the final buzzer sounded.
This year’s Wolfpack team finally broke through that “glass ceiling” that had kept them from going to Lincoln. Now that they’ve been there, I have a feeling they will “reload” and set their sights on a return trip to Lincoln next year.