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So close, yet so far for Comets

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(Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukvalley.com ())
The Newman Comets react after their season-ending 41-35 loss to North Shore Country Day at the Class 1A DeKalb Supersectional on Tuesday night at the NIU Convocation Center. (Philip Marruffo/pmarruffo@saukvalley.com)

DEKALB – Tim Wilson paused, his idea echoing behind his eyes before reaching his lips.

“We were so close. … so close.” Wilson said outside the Newman locker room Tuesday in the bowels of the Convocation Center at Northern Illinois University.

The magic that conjured a rally from a double-digit fourth-quarter deficit three days prior during the River Ridge Sectional championship game had dissipated somewhere between Hanover and DeKalb.

The Comets couldn’t miss when they rallied past Aquin in the sectional to win in overtime Saturday. On Tuesday against North Shore Country Day, Newman couldn’t find the bucket, despite having numerous open looks and lost 41-35.

Newman shot 15-for-50 from the field and 2-of-15 from behind the 3-point line.

“That’s the frustrating part,” Newman coach Ray Sharp said. “We took good shots. I can’t think of too many bad ones. They just wouldn’t fall. If we make shots like we have been, we’d be going to Peoria.”

Fate played a cruel trick on a Newman team that otherwise seemed destined for a state trip.

Its first stroke of luck came back in June when the IHSA changed its rules on multipliers for non-boundaried teams.

Since the Newman boys basketball team had not won a regional title within the last five years – since 1996 to be exact – it would not have its enrollment multiplied by 1.65.

The result being that the Comets would play this postseason in Class 1A.

While the track through the regional with tough teams like Indian Creek and Erie in the way was not easy, it was preferable to having to play the likes of Winnebago, Byron, Rockford Lutheran, West Carroll or Riverdale.

The second stroke of good fortune? The Comets were comprised of the perfect mesh of experience and youth.

Seniors like Wilson and Mike Lee were ready and able to take on the bulk of the scoring responsibilities. Other seniors like John Hermes, Patrick Molitor and Jeremy Wilson could add depth and play key roles.

Add in a few juniors like Kyle Moore, Lucas Terveer and Nic Miller, a sophomore like A.J. Sharp, and the Comets had the makings of special squad.

The Comets hit their stride in the postseason. They dominantly won their regional, and survived tough games against Forreston and Aquin at the sectional.

The stars were aligned for a program that hadn’t been to a supersectional in 32 years.

“There’s nothing wrong with taking off this jersey at NIU,” Lee said. “We’re proud of this team. You want to keep going, but you know that the farther that you go, the harder it is going to be when you lose.”

But, just like that team in 1980 who led all the way through its supersectional until the very end, the dream was derailed inches short.

“So close,” as Wilson said.

Hopefully for the Newman faithful, it won’t take another 32 years to close that gap between DeKalb and Peoria.

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