|MIRACLE MILLENNIUM MUSTANGS
The Green and White clad Mustangs entered the arena on St. Patrickâ€™s Day to yet another boisterous ovation
from their fans. On the floor there could not have been two more diverse styles. Our Mustangs were very structured
and very fundamental in readying our bodies for combat, while at the opposite end of the floor, Russellville looked
more like they were preparing to choose up sides for a pickup game. Whatever, we had both made it to what were
now the final six teams in the commonwealth still playing for a state championship.
In final instructions our coaches were very positive and confident that if we could handle their 1-2-2 press that we
could have some success going inside despite the presence of big Key and if nothing was there to kick it out to an
open shooter. Willie also told them not to be intimidated that if we didnâ€™t have a few shots blocked that we had no
chance to win the game. Coach Schlarman and I also knew that the Rupp crowd was probably about to witness a few
massive thunder-dunks as well. Big Key had already destroyed three backboards this season and we sincerely hoped
the reinforced rims at Rupp would spare us the dubious distinction of having him shatter one on us in the State
This game wasnâ€™t really David and Goliath, unfortunately it was actually more like the Christians and the Lions.
After going out to a 4-0 lead, we would fall behind 28-16 at the half. Russellville was shooting 70% while we were en-
route to another sixteen point half.
In the second half at one point we cut the deficit to ten with a Chris Ryan three-pointer airborne which would have
cut the lead to seven, force a Russellville timeout, and get the Rupp crowd into the game, but that night it was not to
be. For an instant, the ball was in, then out. Russellville cleared the rebound and scored in transition. The game was
all but over. At the :45 second mark, Coach Schlarman cleared the bench and allowed the remainder of the team to
experience forty-five seconds that they would tell their grandkids about someday.........When I played in the State
Tournament at Rupp.
The final score was 60-46. Russellville had earned the right to advance.
After congratulating the victors, most losing teams in the tournament are met with the sight of the backs of their
fans climbing the steps in an attempt to beat the Rupp traffic. No so tonight, each and every member of he Brossart
contingency were on their feet in tribute to this unlikeliest of Brossart teams which brought so much joy and
excitement into their lives over the past three weeks. Their Mustangs had played on the next to last day of the
basketball season in Kentucky. Senior Jeff Clark summed it up best for all by stating, â€œYou canâ€™t ask for
more than to end your career in Rupp Arena.â€� This Mustang team that wouldnâ€™t be denied now possesses a
slice of immortality. A team which wasnâ€™t ranked in the top ten poll of Northern Kentucky teams and earned only
a seventh place Tenth Region ranking in the pre-season had just finished its season sixth in the State. I was
reminded of the words of Jim Valvano, â€œDonâ€™t Give Up â€¦ Donâ€™t Ever Give Up.â€�
Although only one team in the state would return victorious after their last game, there was ton of heartbreak in our
locker room following our loss. Our kids sincerely believed that they could win and were devastated when they didnâ
Amidst tears and broken hearts a choked up Willie Schlarman circled his Mustangs one last time and gave thanks for
the wonderful experiences that we had shared together. Again, he told them how very proud he was of them. He
wished the seniors the best of everything in the future and promised never to forget them. We then allowed them to
be alone with their teammates one last time as he departed to give yet another interview.
When we returned to the locker room, the initial emotions of being out had subsided and a sense of pride over what
we had actually accomplished had begun to set in. Coach Schlarman once again reiterated his pride in them and how
well they had represented our school and conducted themselves in the State Tournament. He then looked at Coach
Rowe and asked him if he had any last words. Bob looked up rather sullenly and then broke into a smile as he
announced that baseball practice would start in forty-eight hours.
Basketball season was now officially over. One last time our team joined hands and shouted an enthusiastic,
I am not normally an emotional person and often scorn those who are, but there were many times over the course of
our Regional and State Tournament run that even I experienced flashes of emotion, mostly out of sheer joy for our
players and program and then here in the end a sense of emptiness and hurt that it was over for our seniors and
satisfaction that our little school which once bore the unflattering moniker of â€œCow Pie Highâ€� had ascended to
the pinnacle of high school hoops and had done so well. I was so happy for Willie whose sole goal since he arrived at
Brossart was to share some of the wonderful experiences that he had as a player himself, with our student-athletes.
Upon our return home, our conquering heroes were again treated like royalty with another police and fire truck
escort back to school. What a fitting end to an incredible journey and a somewhat roller-coaster year.
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