Everything great but the finish
That wasn't how this was supposed to go down. Not like that.
I'm not talking about the outcome of the Prophetstown Prophets' hard-fought loss to Aquin. After all, I'm not allowed to have a dog in the fight.
But there were a few circumstances down the stretch that were like dragonflies in otherwise pristine ointment.
The game, save for the final minute, had everything a sports writer, fan, player, coach or mascot could want. It was an instant classic that deserved a nail-biting finish.
Despite their trademark size disadvantage, the Prophets were innovators of the rebound, battling a bit harder for position and weaving around the trees for reloads. Whenever Aquin (read: Sophie Brunner) threw a punch, there were the Prophets with a counter.
But I'd be lying if I said I didn't think that, eventually, Brunner would happen. And she happened at a very frustrating time for those who like feeling all their hairs stand on end as they watch a potential game-tying shot rotate through the air.
Down three with 15.1 seconds glowing on the clock, Don Robinson put his starting lineup on the floor.
They'd run a play called the crisscross, an exchange along the perimeter between sophomore Corrie Reiley and her big sis, Cassie.
But, while you can account for Brunner's height, her range and her incredible hands, there's one thing that's tough to mark, and it might be the best thing she's got going: her hoops IQ.
Knowing the Reiley sisters were equally deadly from downtown, she diagnosed the play and disrupted the handoff, snaring it out of mid-air.
"Corrie and I practice that play every day, but not against a defense like theirs," Cassie said afterward.
Brunner absorbed an intentional foul and hit both throws.
Ballgame. You wanted drama? You got some. But, if you're like me, you were left wanting.
I promised myself I wouldn't go into too much detail on the other deflating play in the final minute. Just a little bit, or I'll hate myself in the morning.
Sports writer Larry Brennan and I were set up at a table along the baseline of Prophetstown's goal, giving us a perfect vantage of a rebound deflecting off the hand of Aquin point guard Haley Chang but being called off P'town's Karlie Stafford. There was less than a minute left, and it was a 43-41 game. Bad time for a bad call.
You know it's a bad call when Robinson gets upset. He was incensed, and rightfully so. But that's why I'll stick to my night job and never officiate a game. I don't want some punk sports writer picking my work apart.
Robinson, the consummate pro, tipped his cap to Brunner and Co. afterward, even if he, too, might have felt a lot better if his team had gotten off that potential game-tying, hair-raising shot.
"It was just tight defense," Robinson iterated, then reiterated. "We almost executed it. Credit them for tight defense. They made a play. But we were right there."
They could be right there again in a year or so, but they'll have to do so without Cassie Reiley or Riley Walters, who was phenomenal Monday night.
Reiley lamented that she might never play with her little sis again, and singled out nearly all of her teammates by name. Then she went further.
"Everything just went by so fast," she said. "I'm going to miss playing for [Coach Robinson]. I got to play for my dad and Troy Ottens, and his brother, Chad. They all had a big impact on my life, and I'm very grateful for that."
Well, that warms my heart. Somehow, it makes me feel better, knowing how much kids get out of sports.
Even when something goes horribly wrong in the cosmos, and otherwise perfect games end so imperfectly.