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March sadness creeps in

This can be a rough month for high school basketball players.

That sense of finality is realized quickly when a team loses in the state tournament. There are no play-in games to move on to, no more chances.

It’s over.

While that reality hits everybody hard, it is particularly distressing to seniors. Most of them are not fortunate enough to move on to college ball— or that was never in their plans to begin with — so they know the moment they step off that court that night, they’ll never be stepping back on it.

In many cases, these kids have been playing basketball since third or fourth grade. They’ve been teammates with each other for four years or longer.

It’s hard to say goodbye to that.

That’s why you see these players break down in tears at the end of those final games, regardless of the score that particular evening. Two recent games I covered illustrate that fact.

Karns City’s girls ended their season with a 54-19 home PIAA tourney loss to Shady Side Academy. It became evident early that the Gremlins were up against a highly-skilled opponent that night and the game had gotten away from them by halftime.

That’s plenty of time to process defeat.

In the final game of your high school career, there’s never enough time.

Karns City’s girls were in tears as they left the floor one-by-one, embracing their coaches and teammates one-by-one.

Knoch’s girls dropped a tough 38-35 decision to perennial powerhouse Blackhawk, a game in which the Knights led for the first three quarters before it slipped away. Because that game was so competitive, the emotion of finality didn’t hit until a few moments after the game.

Again, the tears weren’t because they lost a close game. The tears were because their season was over.

These teams are like a family. But like in every family, you have to eventually leave the nest.

Knoch senior Nina Shaw will play ball next year at California (Pa.) University. Her former treammate, Madilyn Boyer, had a stellar freshman season at Penn State Behrend and was named her conference’s Newcomer of the Year.

The end of a high school career signals another transition in life. With that comes excitement.

At the same time, it’s hard to say goodbye.

Butler resident Dacia Lewandowski is still playing basketball at North Catholic, thanks in part to the quality of that program.

Lewandowski, a senior and one of North’s best players, missed half this season with a high ankle sprain. While she was out, the Trojanettes won 12 straight games. That’s a tribute to veteran coach Molly Rottmann and that program.

Tears will eventually come for those girls as well.

Hopefully, they will be tears of joy — following a state championship.

John Enrietto is sports editor of the Butler Eagle

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