It seems fitting that in the midst of the NCAA Tournament, we just survived our own little basketball drama around here. Let me start from the beginning...this was the first winter Derek chose to play in an actual Basketball League (after several years of intense driveway competition with the neighborhood guys). He always said he was nervous about getting pummeled out there, being the skinny dude that he is. I guess he finally felt "big enough"--all 4-1/2 foot, 64 pounds of him!
So, we signed him up for the 4th/5th grade Pee Wee Division (I did not make that up; I would have suggested a MUCH cooler name...like the Half-Pint Hoopsters...or something). He had a wonderful coach, a very patient and positive man. He already knew several of his teammates, from his elementary school (and he was not the shortest one!) Once they started facing other teams, it turned out that the Marshmallows* were really good! And Derek had the time of his life sprinting around the court each week. He fiercely guarded his man, he stole the ball on occasion, he managed a few rebounds, and he even scored once in a while. (When he made a shot, he broadcast his excitement by doing a fist-pump as he ran back on defense. His coaches and I thought that was adorable.)
The Light-Brown Bombers bulldozed their way through the season, racking up a 6-2 record. The playoffs were single-elimination, and his team had to win three times to make it to the finals. The first two games went well, with little need for hyperventilating on Mom's part. The third contest was a rematch with one of the teams that beat Derek's squad during the regular season. By this time everyone--parents and kids alike--were stoked, because the Championship would be held at the high school, in the main gym, using the real scoreboard...VERY big deal. After leading 17-2 midway, Derek's team survived a strong second-half comeback, and held on by their fingernails to secure a one-point victory in the Semifinal game. (I alternated between yelling words of encouragement and holding my breath, until the final buzzer.)
They earned themselves a spot in the Championship game; as a reward, they got to face the only other team that had beaten them during the season! And watching those 10 and 11-year olds out there, it was impossible to imagine Maryland or Kentucky or anyone playing with more heart and determination. They left everything they had out on that floor, and ended up losing a heartbreaker, 32-29. (Incidentally, Coach told us later in an email that the opposing team hadn't lost a game...IN 2 YEARS.) Afterwards, Derek shuffled his feet in the middle of the floor, head hanging, struggling not to let the tears in his eyes spill over in front of everyone. You know the phrase "I feel your pain"? It was agonizing to see my baby so upset. Of course I told him how tremendously proud we were of him and his team, and reminded him of what a great season they had, and assured him they'd given it their best shot...when none of that seemed to be helping, I pulled out the last resort: celebratory milkshake, anyone? (and once again, ice cream cures all!)
*I swear this is what they called themselves, due to their light-tan shirts. However, we parents just could not bring ourselves to yell "Go Marshmallows" at games!