Most exited with their eyes swelled, fresh reminders of the emotions that had poured out moments earlier.
The disappointment surrounding the end to the Champlin Park girls basketball team’s regular season was evident.
It was senior night at the school Feb. 21, and that rival Anoka was making the short trip south to serve as the opposition only heightened the level of excitement.
But when it was over, that excitement had transformed into frustration after a 21-turnover display on offense proved to be the primary culprit in a 48-43 defeat that ended the Rebels regular season, as well as the six-game winning streak Champlin Park took into the game.
It did not, however, end the year.
And that, more than anything else, was the message head coach Doug Swenson attempted to share with his teary-eyed players when it was over.
“I tried to tell them this isn’t it,” said Swenson. “I hope they believe that. I think we’ve done too much these last couple weeks for them not too. They’ve become an awfully good basketball team. We just weren’t [against Anoka].”
In fairness to Anoka – which ended the year with wins in nine of its final 12 games – that has been a common occurrence for whoever has played the Tornadoes these last few weeks.
The same could also be said for Champlin Park, which had won those six straight games coming into the regular season finale, and will still be considered a serious threat in the Class 4A, Section 5 tournament.
The Rebels were awarded the No. 5 seed , and were scheduled to open the postseason at No. 4 Maple Grove at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 28.
That is about the only match-up in the entire tournament that the Rebels were hoping to avoid. Maple Grove beat Champlin Park in each of the two meetings this year – 68-50 Dec. 11 and 54-44 Jan. 29.
On the contrary, Champlin Park split with both second-seeded Osseo and third-seeded Centennial. Swenson said he also would like his chances against top-seeded Roseville, should that opportunity present itself.
“I think we can beat anybody we play,” he said. “We have the players, and we have the skill-sets. We have speed in the guard spots, and we have height and size in the post. We can match-up against anyone, and it is difficult for teams to match up against us. At this point of the season, that is a nice advantage to have. “
The key, Swenson added, to beating Maple Grove is strictly disciplinary.
Turnovers killed the Rebels against Anoka, but they rallied late to make it a game down the stretch by forcing turnovers the other way. Maple Grove won’t make those mistakes, Swenson said.
“They don’t really make any mistakes,” Swenson said. “They won’t turn the ball over 20 times. You’ll be lucky to force them into 10. You have to play an extremely discipline game against them.”
Contact Nick Clark at [email protected]