It’s never easy for the season to end, but the Muenster Hornets had an excruciating finish to their bi-district playoff game against Wolfe City.
The Hornets tied the game at 41-41 with under a minute left, but the Wolves hit a game-winning shot as time expired to steal the 43-41 victory.
Head coach Lynn Cook said having the season end like that was hard to stomach.
“It’s very rarely that dramatic, so it always stands out,” Cook said. “It’s not the first time I’ve been a part of a game that ends on the last shot, but it’s always disappointing. I told the guys, that unless you win the last game of the year, everybody goes through what we went through in the locker room after. That’s what makes playoff basketball so exciting. You invest so much that it’s always disappointing and tough.”
Muenster had the ball with a chance to take a lead in the waning moments, but the Wolves came up with a crucial steal and a layup as time expired to win.
The Hornets’ past two playoff losses came in the regional tournament. Cook said it’s just as disappointing losing in the bi-district round this season, especially after all the progress the team made.
Muenster always has high expectations for the postseason and with a young squad this season that lost its first district tilt in eight seasons, Cook said his team never shied away from the lofty goals.
Against Wolfe City, the Hornets struggled with turnovers, which limited their chances at scoring.
“The guys embraced the challenge and we played well,” Cook said. “We shot a higher percentage than Wolfe City. We just didn’t get as many shots as they did. Wolfe City did a good job at pressuring us at times, which gave us problems. We shot 50% on two-pointers and 33% from 3-point range. You can’t ask for more than that. That’s as good as we’ve shot all year.”
Muenster was outscored 15-11 in the first quarter and 12-10 in the second to trail 27-21 at halftime. The Hornets got back into striking distance with a 12-5 advantage in the third quarter, but they were unable to continue that trend in the fourth as they were outscored 11-8.
“I’d rather race out to a big lead, but we’ve been in that position so many times this year,” Cook said. “But I’m so proud of the guys because they didn’t panic. They didn’t get frustrated or start pointing fingers. We regrouped at halftime and took a one-point lead after the third quarter. I’ve got nothing but good things to say about the guys, but it was just one of those things. It doesn’t happen that dramatically that often, but when it does, it breaks your heart.”
The Hornets will return four starters from the young squad and will graduate two seniors. Cook said it’s tough to see Matthew Klement and Preston Smith go, but noted that the future is bright for the program.
“I told the guys that I hope they use this loss as motivation to get better,” Cook said. “We’ve got to do a better job of taking care of the basketball. It’s something that’s haunted us all year and we’ve got to fix that if we’re going to take the next step offensively. We were solid all year defensively. I think we averaged 37 points per game given up, which is outstanding.
“Hopefully, we get bigger, faster, stronger and better. We won’t be inexperienced next year.”