Losing an opening-round sectional game is always hard on a team, but there's a difference in simply losing and having your hearts ripped out at the last minute.
The latter happened to Cloverdale in game two of the South Putnam sectional Tuesday, as they surrendered a 17-point halftime lead to Speedway to ultimately lose 60-59.
The Clovers (8-14) had a chance to put the game away when they were leading 59-55 in the final minute, but Speedway's Michael Hubbard hit a three-pointer to cut the lead to one.
The final play was a microcosm of the entire second half--Speedway (5-15) missed a shot only to get the rebound and make the Clovers pay. Cloverdale coach Pat Rady said the board were one of the big issues in allowing the comeback.
"We told them at half time that the defense had to stay solid and we had to keep hitting the boards. We thought that was going to be the key to the game. And don't make turnovers. The turnovers and the lack of rebounding in the second half really hurt us," Rady said. And we missed some good shots, and those things happen."
The Sparkplugs struggled from long range most of the night, going just 5-for-25 from beyond the arc. The difference in the first and second halves was just the rebounding.
In the first quarter, the Sparkplugs two early three-pointers and quickly got up 8-2 quickly.
But after Cloverdale had pulled within three at 10-7, they took over for the remainder of the half.
From the late first into the early second, the Clovers went on a 17-0 run to take control of the game. The run was started with a Brandon Moon three that tied the game, and continued with buckets from Moon, Ryan Dean, Jordan Hayden and several from Craig Blair.
With their team up 24-10, Moon, then Blair, the Clovers' two leading scorers, went to the bench with two fouls each. After that, Cloverdale played the last 5:05 with both on the bench and actually built the lead.
The Clovers led 15-18 at the half.
It didn't take long in the third quarter for Speedway to start its comeback. They would miss threes only to have inside players get the boards and put them back.
While Cloverdale's offense was fairly balance before the break, only Blair and Moon scored in the third quarter.
Speedway got really hot late, with buckets from Hubbard and Jake Duman. A tip-in by Lewis at the buzzer cut the Clovers' lead to four at 47-43.
Speedway had outscored Cloverdale 25-12 in the third.
In the fourth, the Clovers appeared to be sitting ducks. Speedway took its first lead since the first quarter on a Hubbard three with 5:20 remaining.
However, the Clovers came back to tie the game and got a spark of hope when Jaron Avance, who had done much of Speedway's work inside, fouled out with 3:37 remaining.
The two teams traded shots until Cloverdale built a four-point lead with under a minute. That was when Hubbard and Lewis took over with their heroics.
In his final game in a Cloverdale uniform, Blair led the way with 21 points. Moon was next with 12. Dean added 11.
For Blair, Dean, Raine Young, Robbie Randall and Michael Glassburn, Wednesday was their last game in high school. Rady regretted the loss for them especially.
"I hate it for the seniors. You never like for it to end, but there's nothing we can change now," Rady said. "We hope they'll always be a part of Cloverdale basketball. We hope the seniors will come back, and we'll miss them."
True to form, though, the coach is also thinking about next year already.
"Hopefully the young kids are looking toward next year. I wish we could get started tomorrow, but we can't," Rady said. "As soon as we can get back in the gym, I hope we have some young kids looking to get back.
"That's what you have to do. You can't dwell on one loss," he continued. "Only four teams end up with a win at the end of the year. You have to be a little philosophical about it. There's nothing you can change in the past, but you can change the future."
Coaches place a lot of emphasis on the tournament, but after the loss, Rady chose to look at the whole year and enjoy the journey.
"I've appreciated the effort and the work they've given us, and there's nothing they can be ashamed of. I told them, one game doesn't make a season," Rady said. "(The tournament) is what you shoot for, but it's still a journey. If this is all that it's about, then we're doing the wrong thing. We've had some great moments this year. We've had some good wins."
The coach also took a moment to let the fans know how much they are appreciated.
"Our fans didn't deserve to get beat tonight. I thought we had some of the best fans in our student body and our adult fans," Rady said. "Hopefully next year, we'll try to once again give them a basketball team they'll be proud of."
Cloverdale finishes its season at 8-14. Speedway advances to face Covenant Christian at 6 p.m. Friday at South Putnam.
At South Putnam
IHSAA Sectional 46
Cloverdale 18 17 12 12 -- 59
Speedway 10 8 25 17 -- 60
Cloverdale (8-13) -- Blair 7-12 7-8 21, Moon 5-10 1-3 12, R. Dean 5-7 1-2 11, Hayden 3-7 0-0 6, Young 0-1 3-5 3, K. Dean 1-4 0-0 2, Randall 0-1 2-2 2, Salter 0-0 2-2 2. Totals: 21-42 FG, 16-22 FT, 59 points.
Speedway (5-15) -- Hubbard 9-22 3-4 25, Lewis 7-13 0-1 15, Avance 3-5 3-4 9, Duman 3-5 1-2 7, Linville 2-7 0-1 4, Daghe 0-2 0-0 0, Prior 0-6 0-0 0, Jackson 0-3 0-2 0, Coates 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 24-64 FG, 7-14 FT, 60 points.
3-pt FG--Cl 1-9 (Moon 1-4), Spd 5-25 (Hubbard 4-15, Lewis 1-5). Turnovers--Cl 15, Spd 18. Total fouls--Cl 16, Spd 20. Fouled out--Avance (Spd).
Next game -- Speedway will play Covenant Christian at 6 p.m. Friday at South Putnam. Cloverdale finishes the season at 8-14.