Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Final Buzzer

The eventual, has just happened. Our season has come to an end and with it comes the mixed feelings of change in the air. The final third of the season started fairly uneventful with a few wins and losses and then two tournaments. There are times in a season where the grind of the game can get to you. I admit late in the season I let things get to me at times. I know that I deservedly so received my first two technical fouls and my first ejection.  There's much I have to learn about self control as God is still not done with me yet.
The Nashville Regional Tournament was a tough experience. We faced two of the best home school teams in the country. I was very happy to once again see the team rise to the occasion and fight hard. We stayed close for a half, but then the opponents pulled away. I'm always wondering just how each of the players feels going through all of this. The work so hard, but many times comes up short. It's not anything that they're doing wrong per se, but much of it is the hand that we're dealt. The final game was just one of those games where we were flat. I think we all knew that we should have beat this team but ended up losing by 3.

Moving on to the East Coast Finals Tournament I got a reminder of just how much these young men mean to me and the privilege it is to be their coach. Travelling 4.5 hours and then getting up for the first game was tough. We ended up getting down early and fighting back late. Sadly we lost by three points - another hard fought loss! Up next is an elite team that quite frankly was way beyond anything that we have ever faced. 43-11 record with games in France, Australia and a team of all stars. They have their own chartered plane and bus. Mark Cuban's brother OWNS the team. They blew out the other teams in pool play by 60 and 50 points. We fought hard as usual but something different happened. We stayed close for most of the game. I could sense that the coach was not happy that we were making a game of this. Eventually, their talent level and superior coaching got the better of us and they pulled away for a 30 point win. For some reason this game felt good losing by "only" 30. I think they expected a blow out in the first quarter. The handshake at the end of the game felt different. There was an acknowledgement of respect from both teams. I sense that our team felt it too. We turned a corner and possibly matured that night. Our next two games were wins where that toughness that we've developed over the course of the season payed off. These were more gutty wins that required us fighting through lots of tough moments. Hearing the final buzzer of the last win was sweet - we had earned the right to play in the 4A championship!

The championship game was another tough fought battle from very evenly matched teams. It was strange that I had a peace throughout the game. I couldn't figure out why since this was the biggest game of the season. We got down early and played even the rest of the way - early cold shooting and the absence of two players hurt us, but really, adversity is something to fight through not use as an excuse. Still down by 10 I called our last timeout with one minute to go. I gave some usual strategic words but then it hit me why I had peace through the game and so I shared it with the team. It was so real and hopefully very meaningful: I told them that in my mind it didn't matter if they won or lost the game, they were already champions to me. I actually choked up when I told them this because it hit me really deep. Like the last timeout in the movie Hoosiers, I finally get what the coach in the movie felt. When you put so much into the team, some of you is going with them and you feel the deep love for who they are as young men. I sincerely hope they enjoyed the game and the moment when they got the trophy. It was well earned and I hope a lifetime memory.

The sum total of this season as a Varsity basketball coach has left me with some great memories. I know that God challenged me to put myself in a position that is a stretch. I had to be a decision maker, a life guide, a teacher, and a mentor. This meant that many of my flaws were right out in front of people. It also opened me up to scrutiny and criticism. I had to face off against superior coaches and programs and faced losing. Through it I had to find a way to keep the team going in the right direction. I know that without God and God's gift of two amazing friends to assist me, I'm sure I would have failed badly. I can not thank God enough for having Mark and Bruce there for me. Mostly, this was about the team and how they have grown. I am amazed and humbled at how high a quality of character these young men possess. It is a testament of God, their families and the lives that they live. I know that I can say so much more about them but again I'll say that they are champions in my book. I look forward to seeing how they impact the world and be a blessing to others. For that, I'm thankful that God gave me this amazing opportunity.

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