The hallways outside the gymnasium at Eastland High School in Lanark were bustling with activity on Monday.
Baseball players jogged by, getting in an indoor workout with their diamond still well-covered by snow.
In the weight room, teenagers pumped iron, working toward each of their goals.
The gym was a symphony of softball sounds. The ting of the ball slapping off the bat, gloves popping from throws, and the thud of grounders skipping off the hardwood.
On the edge of the gym, 13 boys wore uniforms one last time with medals draped around their necks.
"I don't want to take it off," one Eastland basketball player said of his uniform as a round of pictures came to an end. "I don't want it to be over."
But, it was over. The scene around them was more than a testament for that.
Spring sports were already in swing, even if the weather outside didn't support it.
The Cougars' basketball team was the last one standing from a fun and – at times – wild winter hoops season.
Eastland (30-5) capped the 2012-13 season with a fourth-place finish at the 1A state tournament at Carver Arena in Peoria last weekend.
It was very close to being more than that. The Cougars lost by a point in the state semifinal on Friday to Madison – on a pair of made free throws with 8.3 seconds left.
The third-place game was much the same, as Nokomis won on a Evan Huber jumper with 2 seconds left that broke a 42-42 tie.
While the last two games were heartbreaking, the ride was thrilling.
Folks in Lanark will not soon forget Dalton Shaner's quick first step or his ability to pull up for a 10-foot jumper.
They'll remember Ty Hartman putting his nose down going into a triple team and still finding a way to power up a shot off the backboard.
They'll remember Skylar Paulson's defense on scoring stars like Erie's Jacob Johnston and Newark's Brett Anderson.
They'll remember that and a lot more.
We here at SVM will take more than that for this winter hoops season.
I'll remember thinking that the Newman Comets would probably take a step backward after making it to the 1A supersectional in 2011-12.
I'll remember being wrong about that. The Comets – led by Kyle Moore and A.J. Sharp – advanced to the 2A sectional final before running into a state-destined Winnebago squad.
I'll remember Rock Falls putting a season of turmoil behind them, and playing well as a unit under the direction of new coach Brad Bickett.
On the girls side, we spent much of the season building a 1A narrative toward a rematch between Prophetstown and Aquin.
We looked pretty smart when the two met up in the sectional semifinal. Unfortunately for the Prophets, Aquin, led by Arizona State-bound Sophie Brunner, refused to relinquish the 1A title they earned in 2011-12. They slipped past the Prophets and were crowned again a little more than a week later.
In 2A, Oregon and Byron had a classic three-game series that extended to the regional championship game. Oregon won the first, but fell in the next two.
In 3A, the Sterling Golden Warriors flew under the radar for much of the season.
In the regional at Musgrove Fieldhouse, they survived an overtime battle with Rock Falls before upending favored Rochelle in the final. The Warriors did it with heavy hearts, as the program faced the death of its architect, Bruce Scheidegger.
All these have been reduced to memory now, as the promise of spring nears.
It was a good ride. Heck, we didn't even want it to end, but it has. Now, we'll strap in for another ride that will last till early June.
Look for SVM's basketball special all-area editions on the following dates
Girls; Saturday, March 16
Boys: Saturday, March 23