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Peterson: March can often be bittersweet

It was one of those early March afternoons that used to be more common than not.

The snowbanks from a long, tough winter were finally melting in the mid-30’s degrees. Rivulets of water slowly ran along the path to Sherman Gym.

It was March Madness in all its glory and it was the final day of my athletic career. But more on that later.

March Madness can be a magical time for high school sports teams.

It’s a time of huge upsets in tournament play, and you only have to recall a 6-12 Lake Linden (they were the Whiz Kids then) team spilling an undefeated Ewen-Trout Creek team in the 1969 district tournament at Sherman Gym

Or a 7-13 Gladstone girls hoops team knocking off 20-0 Menominee just two days ago in Menominee.

It also can be a time when the dreams of senior players wither and die on the proverbial vine.

I wish I had just a thin dime for all the times I saw a good senior athlete have a horrible game in the tournaments. And these were players who came in as all-conference selections averaging double figures.

In the movie, “Rudy” there’s a scene near the end of the movie when Notre Dame football coach Dan Devine solemnly delivers a speech before the final game.

“This is the most important game of your lives. And for you seniors, it’s your last game, and you’ll remember it the rest of your lives.”

It was a long, long time ago, yet I remember my last game with startling clarity

We were playing a very good (they made it to the state finals that year) Baraga team. Most observers had them down as the district favorites and they had one of the best coaches around in Carl “Cookie” Johnson.

Cookie Johnson had the knack of watching a game for a few minutes, calling a time out, and telling his team who to watch out for.

We had a 12-6 record coming in, and had the talent to hang with Baraga well into the fourth quarter, trailing just six points. But in the end, the Vikings prevailed and won by nine.

I remember feeling a tap on the shoulder with 19 seconds left to play. It was one of our reserves, telling me it was time to leave the game.

After many years of hours of practice — and more than a few on my home court — I realized then it was all over.

And it is true, you will remember the last game.

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