Oh sure, the Boone Central/Newman Grove Cardinals would have preferred to ace the sub-district tournament and earn a shot at a second consecutive district championship.
But, here they are, in the 2014 Nebraska State Basketball Tournament.
One thing about the state tournament – it’s not how you get there, it’s that you get there.
District champions, wild cards, no matter. You now have eight C1 teams 0-0. All looking for three-of-a-kind. Go 3-0 and you have the right to the title “state champion.”
That’s been the Cardinal quest. From day one.
Yes, there were steps to be taken. Individual games, individual goals, such as the Mid-State Conference championship. One day, one practice, one game at a time.
It’s been there, however. In the back of everyone’s mind. Players, coaches and fans alike. The goal. The prize.
Three agonizing points short in 2013. So much talent back. So much experience. It was only natural. Consciously or subconsciously. A goal. The ultimate goal.
The quest, the season’s journey, hasn’t been as smooth and easy as many expected. To reach the mountaintop, the trail has included ups and downs, twists and turns.
Injuries. Old faces acclimating to new faces. Expectations. Victories. Cold-shooting nights. Hot shooting nights. Strong rebounding. Weak rebounding. Losses. Unexpected losses. Injury recoveries. New line-up rotations. Zone defense. Man-to-man defense. Good shooting. Poor shooting. More victories. A final loss.
But not final.
Now, the mountaintop’s in sight. Only a few steps away.
Big steps. The most difficult steps. No safety net below now. Win or go home. Do or die.
This is what coaches and players live for, prepare for. Fans too. The ultimate prize. Within reach. Waiting to be taken.
Three games. Three W’s to grab the prize. The Holy Grail of Class C1.
The Wild Cards?