Ask any coach, player or casual fan, and they'll tell you the same.
The Cloverdale boys' basketball team gave this premise a serious test on Friday night, though. Trailing Rockville 47-29 going into the fourth quarter, the Clovers (10-9, 4-1 WCC) used hot shooting and strong defense to close to within three at 48-51 with 3:30 to go in the contest.
Despite outscoring the Rox 25-12 in the final frame, their comeback ultimately ran out of fuel, as they fell 59-54 to the Rox (9-10, 3-4 WRC).
Coach Pat Rady, who still seeks his 700th career win, said it was a simple case of better shooting.
"The ball started dropping for us. When the ball drops for you, it gives you extra confidence and extra energy to play on defense," Rady said. "I thought we did a good job of staying focused.
"We just went all out. We just asked the guys to dig down deep and give it everything they had. That's what they did," he added.
Looking at the little things that normally make a difference, the game was a bit perplexing. The Clovers crashed the boards, particularly on the offensive end. They limited themselves to 11 turnovers, while forcing the Rox into 16. They attempted 21 more shots than Rockville.
"I couldn't ask for anything more than the effort and desire they showed tonight. My hat's off to them. I'm just very proud of the way they fought back," Rady said.
Unfortunately, the lid wouldn't come off the bucket. Cloverdale shot an anemic 33 percent (19-58), while the Rox shot 58 percent (21-37).
Heading into the fourth, the Clovers were just 2-of-18 from outside. Brandon Moon then hit four straight threes, while Jordan Hayden, Kevin Dean, Jacob Clark and Jason Salter all added fourth-quarter buckets.
Moon's final three got the Clovers as close as they would come.
They finished just 7-of-29 from outside, with Moon going 6-of-22. He led all scorers with 22 points.
The other trouble for the night was Cloverdale's interior defense, as they spent much of the first half giving up easy buckets inside. Rockville center Drew Kelley led his team with 16 points.
Rady won't let his team dwell on Friday's heartbreaker. He's already moving on to Tuesday's WCC tilt with Speedway and Cloverdale's chance at a conference title.
"Every loss is a tough one, but we can't look to the past, we've got to dwell on the future. We've got too much ahead of us," he said.
He hopes to see his team carry over the good things it did in the fourth quarter Friday.
"We're going to try to carry that momentum. That's our goal," Rady said. "Speedway is a formidable foe. They're very well coached; they're a very good ball club. But so are the Cloverdale Clovers."
In JV action, the Clovers trailed from the first quarter on, but outscored Rockville 13-4 in the final frame.
With the game tied, Joe Fidler pulled down an offensive board put it back for a 39-37 lead with 1.5 seconds remaining. The Rockville desperation attempt was off the mark.
Rockville 15 17 15 12 -- 59
Cloverdale 11 9 9 25 -- 54
Rockville (9-10, 3-4 WRC) -- Kelley 5-9 6-6 16, Jeffries 5-7 1-2 11, McFall 4-4 1-1 9, White 3-6 0-2 8, Willenmeyer 2-6 4-4 8, Mahurin 2-3 0-0 4, Lear 1-2 0-0 3. Totals: 21-37 FG, 12-15 FT, 59 points.
Cloverdale (10-9, 4-1 WCC) -- Moon 6-25 4-7 22, Dean 5-7 4-7 14, Salter 4-4 0-0 8, Hayden 2-9 0-0 5, Clark 2-8 0-0 4, Moore 0-3 1-2 1, Strunk 0-2 0-0 0. 19-58 FG, 9-16 FT, 54 points.
3-pts FG-RHS 6-12 (White 2-3, Jeffries 2-5, Lear 1-2, Willenmeyer 0-2), CHS 7-29 (Moon 6-22, Hayden 1-5, Clark 0-2). Turnovers-RHS 16, CHS 11. Total fouls-RHS 18, CHS 13. Fouled out-Salter (CHS).
Rockville 10 15 8 4 -- 37
Cloverdale 8 10 8 13 -- 39
Next game: Cloverdale heads to Speedway Tuesday for a shot at the WCC title. The varsity-only matchup tips at 6 p.m.