Before the tip of the Class C State Championship game I saw a group of young boys playing in the wings of the Metra. They weren’t playing tag, they weren’t playing hide-and-go-seek, and they weren’t fighting so Mom and Dad were happy. Those little boys were playing a pretend game of basketball and imagining scoring baskets on the court not 250 feet away from them.
10… 9… 8… They counted down the imaginary clock as the boys passed the pretend basketball between themselves.
7… 6… 5… The time was running down and they needed a basket. I can distinctly remember those same moments passing through my mind in the driveway growing up.
4… 3… 2… 1… One of the little boys caught the imaginary basketball and put up the shot at the “buzzer”.
I turned my back on that nail-biter of a pretend basketball game because I knew the result even before the boys were celebrating.
Of course the shot went in and of course the boys won the game.
But that wasn’t any game that those boys were playing, they were in a State Championship, just like the one getting set to tip between Belt and Fairview just a few moments later.
The real State Championship didn’t need a last second shot like the imaginary one did but it had all the heroics nonetheless.
There was a hobbled Matt Metrione playing through the pain to help Belt win the battle of the boards against a much larger Fairview Warrior team. One sprained ankle couldn’t slowdown that super sophomore and keep him from making an impact in the biggest game of his life.
Or was the hero Paxton Maki who battled all season in the post for a team who had to match up with much larger opponents? Maki made 10 of his 12 free throws on the way to a hard fought 16 points against Fairview. Not to mention Maki took two charges against the Warriors.
Then there was Koltin Haugrose whose offensive output in the first half kept the Huskies afloat. Perhaps the earliest indication that Haugrose came to play was when he followed Parker McCafferty’s contested fast break layup and stuck it in for Belt’s first field goal of the game. Haugrose was the leading scorer for the Huskies in the State Championship with 17 points and 7 boards.
McCafferty also had some heroics on tap for Saturday night. The 5’11 dynamic guard helped the Huskies battle back from being 11 points down midway through the second quarter by picking pockets and converting in transition. The run the Huskies made to keep themselves in the contest was thanks to Mr. McCafferty who finished the game with 14 points and a team high 9 rebounds.
Then there were the heroics of the Belt bench. Players like Jaren Maki who helped spell the foul riddled Koltin Haugrose, Harry Green who bombed a three-ball in the third quarter and made all 4 of his free throws on the way to 7 points, Dusty Potter who came in and took a charge, or freshman Keagan Stroop who got a chance to shoot free throws in a State Championship game and made both.
Every one of the State Champion Belt Huskies is a hero to their community after bringing the State Title back to Belt after 20 years. Heck these kids weren’t even born when the Belt boys last won it all.
Community pride goes a long way. It’s a large factor in the strides that the Belt Huskies were able to make under the direction of Kyle Paulson.
Belt knew their teams would be very good this year. Just how good we found out Saturday night.
After two nights of stress and near blow ups the Huskies cruised to a 61-39 victory in the last and most meaningful game of the season.
It was something special to see a community that has been solely focused on following their Lady Huskies to Class C State Tournaments get to celebrate their Boys on a Saturday night in March.
This State Championship for the Belt Huskies was something special to witness, almost as special as the “State Championship” I saw being played by those little boys in the wings of the Metra.
The heroics of this season’s Belt Huskies won’t be forgotten. Especially not with little boys pretending to be Paxton Maki, Parker McCafferty, Koltin Haugrose, Tristan Cummings, and Matt Metrione when they recreate the Belt Huskies most recent State Championship.
So if you are walking by a playground and hear the distant sound of young boys counting down 10… 9… 8…
They are just recreating the Belt Huskies 2015 Class C State Championship and in a way practicing to win a State Championship of their own someday.