Effingham Daily News, Effingham, IL

March 13, 2014

Czachorski: Saying bye to basketball

Ryan Czachorski
Effingham Daily News

EFFINGHAM — I can't claim to fully understand how it felt for the Dieterich Movin' Maroons and the Teutopolis Wooden Shoes Tuesday night, seeing an amazingly successful season come to an end.

All you can do is ask someone to explain a feeling that persists much longer than a proverbial punch to the gut, and more often than not, the people affected don't have the words — see Teutopolis coach Andy Fehrenbacher for proof.

“Not many programs can say they’ve gotten this far four times in a row, but when you don’t break through, it makes it harder and harder each year,” Fehrenbacher said Tuesday. “I’m at such a loss and I’m empty inside.”

As a subpar baseball player on a subpar baseball team in high school, we never made it out of the first round of the Michigan high school playoffs, taking a team to extra innings once before ultimately losing, so I can't even relate on an athletic level.

So as we sit here at the end of basketball season and hopefully less than a week from baseball and softball, the only way I can relate is from my perch as the sports editor here.

When teams get as far as Dieterich and Teutopolis, and even the Teutopolis girls, things get complicated for me. Above all, I'm to remain unbiased and not play favorites, but it's hard not to get caught up in things.

On some level, it would have made me happy if Dieterich and/or Teutopolis had won last night. Not because I'm a fan of the school or the team — also, not that I'm not. Again, it's a unbiased thing — but I'm a fan of the story, and the better the story, the more excited I get.

And what stories they would have been and continued to grow into. I touched on the main threads in both previews for the teams. Dieterich had a shot to advance to its first ever state tournament, while Teutopolis had a chance to remove a giant roadblock that has stood at that level of the playoffs for the entirety of their seniors' careers at Teutopolis.

If St. Anthony, Altamont, Effingham, Newton, really any school we cover at the EDN, had gotten to this point, I'd feel the same. At this point of the season, every team has a story full of trials, tribulations, ups and downs, that would have been something reporters like myself would have loved to sink their teeth into.

With that in mind, I still am thinking, "What if they'd won? What kind of story could have been written, what kind would the players tell?" And those stories would have been fun to pursuit, but now they can't be.

So when players and coaches think about that what-if game, I get it — in fact, I more than get it. Their what-ifs represent their dreams not being fulfilled, and coming up short despite all the work they've put in. They still want to know what could have happened if the ball bounced different a few ways for the Shoes Tuesday, or if Dieterich could have corralled the energy it had during a 14-2 run for just a few more minutes.

My what-if just boils down to an extension of theirs, and would have just resulted in a slightly more fun week at work with a trip to Peoria at the end of it.

Now, I wait just a few days, or maybe weeks if the ground isn't ready for baseball and softball, and Alex McNamee and I get another crack at more storylines.

For players like Teutopolis' Cody Will, Reed Hardiek, Bobby Wenthe and others, and Dieterich's Tanner Traub and Josh Campbell, their basketball stories in high school are over. For players like Teutopolis' Brett Mette and Dieterich's Alex Bohnhoff, among others, it's about wanting to get back to that point and rewrite the story next year at any cost.

But looking back at the seasons of all the area teams, it's been a hell of a collective story, from Altamont's great season, St. Anthony's re-emergence, Effingham's Apollo dominance, and even individual moments on some teams that didn't make it as far like buzzer-beaters, upsets, rivalry wins, etc. That's what I'm taking from this season, and that's what I hope the Wooden Shoes and Movin' Maroons can too.

On to the next set of stories. I hope they're as fun as basketball was.