LANARK – It was a wordsmith's dream. Every time I thought I had run out of nicknames for the highlight-reel shots the Cougars were hitting, they made me up my game.
Junior Dalton Shaner got it started, hitting the "Onions Toss," a 3-pointer at the first-period buzzer that gave Eastland a 20-8 lead.
Then there was senior Ty Hartman's "High-Hopper" early in the second period that bounced high off the rim twice before falling through to make it a 26-12 lead.
Junior Dalton Shaner turned two steals into runouts right off the bat in the third. On the latter, Erie freshman Jordan Chandler ran him down, forcing Shaner to bust out the "Switcheroo," a la "His Airness," for two of his 28 points.
He'd do it again off a Hartman assist in transition to seize a 41-23 lead.
"Sometimes coach yells at me when I do it, but sometimes it's the right play when they reach in," Shaner said.
Moments before Hartman converted the "English Major," a physics-defying off-hand reverse with oodles of spin, Shaner showed off the "Washing Machine," cycling the ball through a windmill motion before finishing.
Shaner's last hoop of the game? The "Show-and-Go," in which he blew down the lane and faked to Austin Hansen before going to the tin.
"I thought I was getting the ball," senior Austin Hansen said. "I was ready to catch it. He caught me off guard. I was like, 'All right. Take it.' "
But it was after the game that I saw my favorite signature move: "The Kodak Moment."
Shaner got intercepted on his way to the locker room by his dad. Dan Shaner, divorced, lives in Rockford.
Unaware of their family situation, I was curious why the hug was as long as it was heartfelt.
"He doesn't make it to very many games," Shaner said with a rare tremble in his voice. "So when he does, and I play good, that's the best thing in the world."
Then it was Dalton's aunt's turn. He held onto Lori Webermeier a few extra seconds, too. After all, he's just happy to be able to hug her. After being thrown from her overturned vehicle Oct. 27 in Hanover and being airlifted to Saint Anthony Medical Center in Rockford, she was finally released from the hospital a couple of weeks ago.
"I don't want to let them down," Shaner said.
When Shaner got to the locker room, Valdet Seferi could read on his close friend's face how much it means to perform well in front of his family.
"He was tearing up," Seferi said. "He was crying. But it's a good kind of cry."
During games, Seferi can tell if Dan Shaner is in attendance.
"As the game goes on, somehow he notices," Seferi said. "He sees him, and it just spurs him on even more. His energy goes off the roof. It's the best thing. I mean, that's his dad. Anyone wants their dad at their game."
Seferi says Shaner, once a smallish middle-schooler whose friends "roughed" and "toughened" him up, doesn't break down often.
But his dad and aunt have given him his word that they'll be at every game the rest of the way. So, if you're a Cougars fan, you'd hope the next couple of weeks are emotionally exhausting for young Dalton Shaner.
The more tears, the better the possibility of a title.
It's not nice to play favorites. But Christopher Heimerman is having a hard time resisting the urge. Read about it at saukvalley.com/blogs/extra-extra