The higher you are, the harder it feels when you fall. It hurts. Not necessarily right away, but eventually it hits.
Dane Pepper realized this when he sighed, "it's over."
Montrose Christian boys' basketball team knows this bitter feeling of disappointment. Last year they won the National High School Invitational tournament in double overtime. This year the team wasn't so lucky.
Coach Stu Vetter always has high expectations from his team. He expects the best in every practice and every game. He even expects it in each player's character. So obviously his goal was to have a successful season, make it to the national tournament and win. As they headed into the tournament, which was just down the road in Bethesda, Md., his expectations were no different. There was a lot of hype for an NHSI title repeat. But that would not happen because Montrose lost 50-47 in the semifinal game to Florida's Montverde Academy.
If you have ever watched a Montrose game, you know the large size of the players and exceptionally high level of talent. This was on display March 30 during the semifinal matchup against Montverde. Montverde was prepared and attacked the team's minor weaknesses. They trapped their biggest scorers and forced Michael Carrera and Ishmail Wainright to fill the void on offense. And the defense had to keep Montverde from gaining the advantage. But the Mustangs weren't victorious, which led the team to ask questions: "What could I have done better?" "What did we do last year that we couldn't accomplish this time around?" And "will we ever get this opportunity again?"
Six players will be graduating in May. The nationally televised game was the last time they will put on their jerseys and tie up their laces as Montrose Mustangs. The tough loss hit them hard. Emotion filled the gym and flowed into the locker room. Tears of sadness and frustration ran down their faces. A feeling of failure immersed them, but encouraging words by coach Vetter restored them. They passed the baton to the underclassmen who will lead the team to an even better season next year.
"I have to take a piece from every senior," Junior Ishmail Wainright said. "Leadership on and off the court from Justin (Anderson), intensity from Michael (Carrera), rebounding from Cedric (Blossom), knowledge of basketball from Yuki (Togashi), humility from Bruce (Beckford) and lastly Kevin's (Larsen) inside appearance."
The seniors are the foundation of the team, and no one will completely fill their positions. But coach Vetter will train new players and up-and-coming junior varsity players like Justin Robinson and Kory Cooley will take his team to a higher level than ever before.
Imani Goodall is a senior at Montrose Christian. She hasn't decided where she will attend college in the fall.