COLUMBUS - Emotions are always visible during high-school playoffs. Every team, other than one, in each division is guaranteed to end the season with a loss.
With the losses come the tears from the players. It seems like the further a team advances the more gut-wrenching the loss is to take.
The crying is not always limited to the youngsters on the court.
Mentor Lake Catholic coach Mark Chicone tried mightily to keep his emotions in check following his team's Division II semifinal loss to top-ranked Dayton Dunbar at Value City Arena Friday.
He couldn't do it.
"I'll never forget what these guys have done," said Chicone, eyes welling with tears, "because we did it with heart. We did it the right way."
The Cougars (23-3), who knocked Struthers out in the regional semis, were in the game until the final minutes. But in the end Dunbar was too good, too big, too quick. The Wolverines won, 75-60, to advance to the title game against Elida.
Judging by the looks on the faces of the three seniors who accompanied Chicone to the press conference, there were many more tears and hugs in the locker room.
But no regrets.
"We knew we could compete," said LC senior point guard Joey Vuyancih of his school's first trip to the state tournament. "They were bigger than us at every single position, a little more athletic, and deeper than us. But we knew we could compete."
And that's what high school sports is all about.
UNBREAKABLE RECORD: St. Clairsville etched its name into the OHSAA record book forever yesterday.
The Red Devils wish they hadn't.
Playing in its first state tournament, St. Clairsville trailed Elida 15-0 after a quarter. The Bulldogs (24-3) cruised to today's D-III title game, 61-27.
The Devils (23-3) became only the third team since 1950 to go scoreless an entire quarter. Holgate (2004 D-IV semifinal versus South Webster) and Defiance Tinora (2009 D-III championship against Cleveland Central Catholic were the others.
St. Clairsville did not challenge the fewest points for a game in the state tournament. Proctorville-Rome lost, 34-3, to Lancaster St. Mary's in the 1930 'A' title game.
LOCAL FLAVOR: Two area referees - Brian Mincher (New Middletown) and Charles Adya (Youngstown) - were selected to officiate a game in this weekend's state tournament.
STILL FLAWLESS: Two teams came into the tournament unbeaten and ranked No. 1 in their respective divisions. Both advanced to today's championship games.
Jackson Center and Dunbar will carry 27-0 records into the title tilts. JC came from 15 back to defeat Columbus Africentric 53-50. The Tigers will play Berlin Hiland for the D-IV crown.
Dunbar beat Mentor Lake Catholic, 75-60. The Wolverine's face Elida for the D-II championship.
STRIVE FOR FIVE: Dunbar and Portsmouth (D-III) each have a chance to tie Columbus East by winning a fifth state title. Middletown is atop the list with seven while Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary has six.
VERSATILE STAR: Elida's Reggie McAdams is his team's leading scorer, averaging over 21 points. The 6-foot-6 senior finished fifth in the high jump at the state track tournament last spring. He also quarterbacked the Bulldogs to the state semifinals in the fall.
Many feel football is his best sport but he has committed to play basketball at the University of Akron.
IT ISN'T?: One of the funniest things overheard on media row came from the Portsmouth band section Thursday. Someone who appeared to be the band director, frustrated with officials not calling the game tight, yelled out: "Hey! This isn't basketball." Seconds later he realized what he said and added: "I mean football."
SPEAKING OF FOOTBALL: Toledo Whitmer lost to Cleveland St. Ignatius in the D-I semifinals this past football season. The Panthers (24-2) now have a chance to bring home a state basketball crown, thanks in great part to some very good football players.
Whitmer downed Lakewood St. Edward 62-51 yesterday to advance to today's D-I title game. Leroy Alexander had 17 points and seven rebounds while Chris Wormley added nine points and four boards.
The pair, along with Storm Norton who played 11 minutes, will be playing D-I college football. Alexander has committed to Nebraska, Wormley to Michigan and Norton to Toledo.