This is it. We finally made it to the state basketball tournament in Austin with the Water Valley boys basketball team. I really had high hopes that this was going to be a good game against No. 9 Douglass at the Frank Erwin Center on the campus of the University of Texas. Surely, if the Wildcats could fend off the offensive onslaught of No. 17 Crowell back in the regional semifinal then they could hang with just about anyone. After the Nation Anthem, the team introductions and a long introduction of every referee at the tournament, the tip-off for the state semifinal was underway.
Right from the beginning I noticed that this was not the same Water Valley team I've been following for the past two weeks. Where was the defensive aggressiveness, the run-and-shoot team I was used to? They were not in control of the momentum of the game. Douglass kept the speed of the game low and capitalized on possessions scoring almost at will behind the tandem of brothers Reed and Bryce Westbrook. Maybe the Wildcats had a different plan heading into the game, but it seemed like their spark was gone.
I wasn't until about a minute remaining in the third quarter, the Wildcats trailed by 18 points (40-22), that the style of their team began to emerge.Water Valley is really good on the fast break and can be very dangerous from three-point range. Connor Copley hit a 3-pointer with 30 seconds left in the third quarter which sparked a 10-2 run. Water Valley hit six 3-pointers in the fourth and turned up the intensity on defense, but Douglass was a force to be reckoned with. Water Valley just couldn't get over Douglass' first half scoring surge and ended their season with a 53-44 loss. Their final record for the year was 33-3 and a third place finishers medal.
It's heartbreaking to watch these kids who I have come to admire over the past two weeks so upset with the outcome of the game. They play clean, aggressive basketball and on those attributes alone, they deserve to play in the final. But it wasn't to be. If there is any consolation, they will only lose one starting player, senior Colten Zuniga, and should be in great shape to make a deep run in the playoffs next year. It was fun while it lasted, but as we all know, all good things must come to an end. Congratulations Water Valley on a great season, and I look forward to next year.