When Michigan Tech lost to Emporia State in the quarterfinals of the 2010 Elite Eight, I decided to use the headline "The journey ends."
It was a sad page, to be certain. There was crying and the sense that an era was ending.
It seemed appropriate. Five senior starters playing in their last game. Seemed even more so when coach John Barnes left for the University of Wisconsin. Back, if not to square one, to a square a lot farther from St. Joseph, Mo., than the one they left.
As you have read on these pages over the last several weeks and months, it turned out that the Huskies knew the way back to the top by heart.
This season, Michigan Tech has been dominant on the basketball court, but this week it has gone to a whole other level. There is a swagger in this team from head coach Kim Cameron on down: the moxie of Sam Hoyt driving through a forest of Northwest Missouri State defenders to convert a crucial shot in the second half of a tied game, the unwavering aim of Angela Guisfredi releasing a 3-pointer from the corner, the versatility of Lucy Dernovsek or the tenacity of the post pairing of Lisa Staehlin and Lynn Giesler.
This doesn't look like the team I watched beat Wisconsin-Parkside at the SDC last week. It looks better.
Tuesday, Tech put the brakes on a high-scoring Arkansas Tech team that was No. 1 in the country. Wednesday, whether it was a hostile crowd, a persistent inability to get a call or a 6-foot-5 post behemoth, the Huskies kept racking up the points.
Even when the Bearcats rallied to tie it up, you could see on the faces and in the way they ran the offense in each crunch-time possession that, more often than not, Tech was going to get points. When NMSU started trading their twos for Tech's threes, it was over.
We know some of the challenges that Clayton State will throw at the Huskies - relentless full-court pressure probably tops the list. At this point, it's hard to believe that Tech won't be ready for that, too.
You can read more about the Lakers in depth (fun fact: this is Tech's fifth game against a team called the Lakers this year) in the articles to the right of the column.
Mike Babcock has done an excellent job chronicling the next step in that journey and I'm glad that he's going to be courtside for tonight's national championship game. He's been there since the season opener. Heck, he might be the only person in the arena that isn't a player, parent, staff member or coach that saw Tech lose (he covered their November defeat at Concordia-St. Paul).
Even tonight, it's still not our job to cheer for the Huskies. It's pretty clear that they've got a pretty sizable supporters' section both here and in Missouri anyway.
When Saturday's paper hits your doorstep, I hope that it is an accurate and detailed reflection of what happened tonight in Missouri. If that means joy, well, then we'll try and distill some of that joy onto the page. If it means the agony of defeat, we'll try and convey that, too.
Win or lose, the season ends tonight on national television. I'm not entirely sure the journey ever did.