February 28, 2009

Seniors disappointed, but happy to have made history

Labris Adams leaned against a locker-room wall at the BI-LO Center, wrapping and rewrapping a piece of athletic tape.

GREENVILLE -- Labris Adams leaned against a locker-room wall at the BI-LO Center, wrapping and rewrapping a piece of athletic tape.

It seemed as good an exercise as any -- maybe it would keep his mind off the staggering reality of the moment.

Adams' high school basketball career ended on Friday with a 68-46 loss to Gaffney in the Upper State championship game. Northwestern was victimized by cold shooting throughout and ended its record-setting season at 19-9, one win from the promised land.

Adams, one of six seniors, spoke quietly about what he was feeling.

"I'm mad and happy at the same time," he said. "I feel like all of our hard work paid off, but maybe if we worked a little bit harder..."

He was unnecessarily beating himself up. Gaffney (24-2) turned every Trojans mistake into points, and Northwestern simply couldn't match it. The Trojans didn't lose because of their two seasonal headaches -- Gaffney matched them with 16 turnovers, and while Northwestern wasn't pretty from the free throw line, those points would have only made the final score a little closer.

They lost because the ball wouldn't fall. No more.

"We worked hard, we played well together," coach Mike Gossett said. "We never quit."

Which is why it stung a little more for Adams, Chris Belton, Cordarrelle Patterson, Ty Youngblood, Shawn Ferguson and Doug Sellers when the final horn sounded and the Indians gleefully flashed their jerseys to the cameras.

It was over. All the practice time and sacrifice meant to get to this moment -- poof.

Disappeared into memories.

"Ever since we were in the ninth grade, we knew we had the best group of freshmen in the state," Belton said. "Then this year, when I thought I was going to be down low by myself, we got Cordarrelle to help me out and we just took off."

Patterson's dynamic athleticism added another piece to the Trojans' blue-collar approach and the team took off.

With arguably the best performance in Gossett's 15-year tenure, Northwestern shot into the Upper State championship for the first time in school history.

That the Trojans didn't win and get to play for the state title didn't diminish what they accomplished.

"It was a good season," Patterson said. "We played out of our heads."

Adams kept futilely twisting the tape around his fingers, blending it into a thin circle.

"It's hard to believe it's over," he said. "But we had a good time getting here."

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