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Chris Gay: Basketball brings out the emotions

Posted: February 22, 2017 - 12:33am

The tears.

The worst thing about losing in postseason play is the tears, the crying.

No sport brings emotions to the forefront quite like basketball. While sports like baseball, football and soccer certainly have their moments, basketball takes feelings of happiness and sadness to another level.

Take the Lakeside first-round state playoff basketball game, for instance. The contest swung back and forth in the final minutes. The packed gym went bonkers when the Panthers took a late lead. Then, the Valdosta squad made some noise when a 3-pointer gave their team the lead with 14 seconds remaining. When Lakeside couldn't answer before the buzzer sounded, some heartbroken Panthers fell to the floor. They remained there for several minutes.

Psychiatrist Elisabeth Kübler-Ross delivered her theory on the five stages of grief in her 1969 book, On Death and Dying. First, there's denial. Did Lakeside, a region champion, really just get upset in the first round of postseason play?

Second, there's anger. There's no way Kalen Williams committed an offensive foul dribbling the ball up the court in the final minute. (That's what several folks said to me. I try to give referees the benefit of the doubt, but I didn't think it was a foul either. And the Panthers were up two when this happened.)

Third, there's bargaining. I don't think this applies here, so let's move on to step four: depression. I'm sure that's what Lakeside's players and coaches felt Sunday. It's not easy moving on from a crushing loss like that without feeling a little depressed.

And finally, there's acceptance. This is where you say it's going to be OK.

In sports, there's a lot of wins and a lot of losses. In postseason play, there's only one winner. Only one team out of 32 in the various classes of the GHSA boys and girls high school basketball tournaments going on right now will finish the season happy. The others will go through the various stages of grief.

I fully understand what the people at Lakeside are going through, albeit on a smaller level. My fifth-grade Upward basketball team went undefeated in regular season play. Then, we struggled to win our semifinal game. In the championship, nothing went right and we lost. The players couldn't buy a basket. I didn't make the necessary adjustments during the game. Kudos to our opponents for playing good defense and winning the game. But we didn't bring our collective ‘A' game, and we suffered the consequences.

Losing always stings. In postseason play, the farther you go the worse it hurts. Yet sometimes, there's good that comes from losing. This helps builds resilience. And hopefully, it motivates everyone to work harder for next season.

I felt bad for Lakeside coach Jeff Williams and his players after their defeat. He's a good guy, a hard worker. The Panthers had a wildly successful season. And while Saturday's loss may still burn a little, there's a tremendous future ahead for this program. Here's hoping everyone over there bounces back soon.

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TAKE IT TO THE TOP: Speaking of emotional basketball, tonight's Augusta-USC Aiken doubleheader is sure to be a slobberknocker. The winner of the women's game advances to the Peach Belt Conference Tournament on Saturday, while the loser sits home. The stakes are even higher for the men.

Augusta (21-6 overall, 13-5) can win at least a share of the Peach Belt regular season title with a victory. The Jaguars last won the conference crown in 2011. Augusta is currently tied in the East Division - and for the conference lead - with UNC Pembroke (20-7, 13-5). If the Jaguars defeat the Pacers, Augusta will claim the East No. 1 seed for the conference tournament because of a tiebreaker over the Braves.

But what if USC Aiken wins? The Pacers (18-7, 12-6) can also win the conference, but they will need to defeat their rival and hope UNC Pembroke loses at home tonight to Francis Marion - the Patriots won their previous matchup this season.

This sounds crazy, but if Augusta loses, it could drop all the way to third in the division. Only the top two teams get home games for Saturday's tournament quarterfinals.

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PLAYER OF THE YEAR: The Peach Belt will announce its year-end awards in the coming days. There are two players in the running for the league's top honor, Augusta senior guard Keshun Sherrill and Montevallo senior forward Javonte Douglas.

Sherrill has been an impact player for four years in the Peach Belt. This season, he averages 22 points a game on 67 3-pointers, and he leads the league with a 92 percent mark from the free-throw line. Sherrill also is second in the league with 2,095 career points.

Douglas is at his fourth college in five years. After two different junior college visits, he played for Old Dominion before finding his way to Montevallo. While Douglas is having an outstanding season leading the league in scoring (24.3) and rebounding (11.6), I can't get behind his nomination, especially after seeing he's missed one-fifth of the season.

Sherrill has earned the nod to be Player of the Year for his body of work through the years, as well as his strong senior campaign leading a bunch of mostly underclassmen. A win at USC Aiken tonight would solidify his case. The coaches will decide who wins the league's ultimate honor. Hopefully, the coaches get it right.

 

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