Sometimes, the ride ends before you’re ready for it to.
That was the case for the 2017-18 Gridley High School boys basketball team, which saw its hopes of a trip to the Golden1 Center for the CIF state finals evaporate in the closing minute of Tuesday night’s 52-49 loss to Colfax in the Division V NorCal semifinals.
The agony of defeat can be stinging, especially when you watch a game you thought you had won slip through their fingers.
And that sting takes awhile to dissipate. It hurts for awhile.
But with a little time, the Bulldog players will see the 2017-18 season for what it was: A magical ride that put Gridley basketball on the map all over the state.
That was already the case with the special tournament our community puts on each year: The GIBT.
Now, the basketball powers that be in the Golden State know Gridley has a pretty darned good boys basketball team.
That was evidenced by the No. 2 seed in Division V the Bulldogs earned in the new, revamped CIF playoff format.
Gridley more than proved it was worthy of the high seed, advancing all the way to the semifinals.
The Bulldogs had a chance to perform on a pretty big stage this past week and a half.
And they put on quite a show.
With eight seniors graduating from this special team, on paper, 2018-19 would seem to look like a rebuilding year.
But look deeper, and you see a Gridley basketball program that is poised for future success at all levels.
That also goes for the Bulldog girls program, by the way, which had a pretty darned good year in its own right, making a deep run in the CIF section tournament
All six Gridley basketball teams – varsity, JV and freshman squads for both genders – won their league titles in 2017-17.
I felt a bit more of a sense of attachment to this year’s crop of seniors: They were sophomores when I started working here in 2015-16. I watched them develop from awkward, wet-behind-the-ears underclassmen into the mature athletic standouts, role models and at the end of the day, just fine young men they are today.
Some may move on to spring sports; some may play ball in college; some took off their uniforms for the last time the other night.
But no matter what their futures hold, these players shared a special experience, one that will linger for the rest of their lives. The relationships forged and lessons learned will be much more meaningful than a few numbers on a scoreboard.
Congratulations on a great season, Bulldogs!
Contact Gridley Herald sports/news reporter David Vantress at 846-3661, ext. 123 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @dvantressGH.