INDIANAPOLIS – It was a deflating night for Concordia Lutheran, but in the sadness of a 73-70 overtime defeat to Greensburg in the Class 3A State Championship on Saturday, true humility and class emerged.
The Cadets were heartbroken as the final desperate three-pointer fell short and the buzzer sounded. Players collapsed on the floor or were comforted by coaches, devastated by the defeat.
But within a few minutes, both fan bases were clapping loudly for the state runner-ups.
Concordia senior Thomas Starks was honored with the Arthur L. Trester Mental Attitude Award for exhibiting mental attitude, leadership and athletic ability. In the ensuing interview, his first comments were to congratulate Greensburg for winning its first-ever state championship.
Now that is class.
The appreciation and respect exhibited by Concordia players and coach Josh Eggold continued into the post-game press conference, where they were quick to give credit where credit was due.
“We want to congratulate Greensburg on a great season and for being the state champions,” Eggold said.
Instead of pouting or getting angry, the Cadets program made more fans with its class following Saturday's defeat than if it would have bringing home a state crown. Eggold has always preached being respectful at all times on the floor, but to show such behavior after such an emotional loss was eye-opening for many fans and media members in attendance.
“It was a blessing to be here (at state finals),” Starks said. “We worked hard all season and it's a place where we wanted to be.
“If I could share (the Trester Award) with every single one of (my teammates), I would because I think everybody deserves it.”
The way Concordia lost was nothing short of mind-numbing. The Cadets never trailed in regulation and led by as many as 12 in the third quarter. But second-ranked Greensburg never wilted. Despite leading-scorer Sean Sellers battling foul trouble and eventually picking up his fifth late in regulation, the Pirates (25-1) overcame it thanks to Bryant McIntosh, who scored 19 of his game-high 25 points in the second half and overtime.
Concordia (23-5) had two chances with less than 10 seconds to go in overtime to tie the game, missing a pair of three pointers, making the defeat all the more emotional. But true class emerged from such a heart-breaking loss.
“Even though the outcome isn't what we wanted … you can't win them all,” Starks said. “Win or lose, we stick together and the brotherhood and relationships I've built with these guys is something I'll share for a lifetime and I'll never forget.”
There were no stars on this Concordia team, no sure-fire Division I prospects that stole the headlines and the highlights. But the Cadets did not need a player like that, they won with hard work, discipline and working together.
And they lost on Saturday night with a wealth of class.