L’s team came up short in the City championship game Thursday.

It was a tough, defensive matchup between two teams that knew what their opponent was trying to do. The difference was St O got to the basket more than we did, and hit a couple big threes to stretch out a lead on their way to a 30–20 win.

It was 4–4 after one, and we were down 10–8 at halftime. L hit a 3 midway through the third to cut a four-point deficit to one, but St O countered with a 3 on the next possession which kicked off a 16–7 run over the remainder of the game to pull away.

L led us with 10 points, but took a lot of shots to get there. St O took away our inside player, who only scored four points and never shot a free throw. In fact, we only shot two free throws for the game while St O shot 15 (hitting eight). A lot of that was because St O did a better job getting their guards lanes so they could drive and we fouled them trying to recover. L, on the other hand, rarely had open lanes and when she could find an angle to attack usually had three defenders waiting on her at the rim.

It was a terrific environment. It felt like all of St P’s was there to watch. One of L’s travel teammates played – and won – the small school division championship earlier. She stayed to watch, and their travel coach brought two other teammates to watch. The coaches from both high schools were there. We went through a stretch in the fourth quarter where L was trying to take over and missed four or five straight long jumpers. Each time she put a shot up, you could hear all the St P’s kids prepare to go nuts if she made it, and then the air go out of the group when she missed. It would have been cool if she hit a couple of those and we got to the game to the last minute like the first time we played St O.

L was a mess after the game. It didn’t help that she got elbowed in the throat in the third quarter. She was in pain, angry, played bad (in her eyes), and we lost her final CYO game. She was in tears for several minutes while she tried to recover from the elbow, and then when the coaches called off trying to foul in the final 20 seconds she lost it again.

The CYO director and Bishop Chatard coach ran the too-long trophy presentation after the game. The coach handed L the runner-up trophy and she quickly handed it to someone else. When we were taking pictures she refused to hold it. She is always in the middle of team pics and but last night she moved as far away from the trophy as possible. I respected the bitterness.

It was a really fun season. We had great coaches, the girls improved, and our little three-game winning streak over the past week was a fine example of eight kids learning to play together even when two of them were the focus of the offense. L’s teams had only won one tournament game in the previous four years, and that was way back in fourth grade. This year they knocked off the undefeated regular season champs, pounded St J in the semis, and gave the eventual champs a good run for 16 minutes or so.

We practiced Wednesday and I liked how the head coach closed practice. He told the girls it was a big game, but it was still just one game. They would all play in bigger games in some sport in high school.

I hope that’s true for L. She obviously has a lot of basketball ahead of her, health permitting (knock on wood). But it meant a lot to her to be playing her last game for St P, with four of her classmates for the last time together, and with three seventh graders she really gets along with. She took the responsibility of being the leader, and was devastated by letting them down (again, in her view). Hopefully she uses this as motivation to keep improving her game and can build on the overt leadership skills she began to show this season.

It sucked to lose this one, but at least they had the opportunity.