No one says "I enjoy being sick." For McDonald senior basketball player Stephen Politano, nothing bothered him more than being sidelined after being diagnosed with mono in early February.
"It was horrible," Politano said. "Not being out there with my team just killed me on the inside. Those losses (against Wellsville and Mineral Ridge) nagged me even more. I blame myself for something I couldn't help."
Politano, averaging 19 points, five rebounds and four assists per game, missed four games while sick. He would have been out longer, but unknowingly, he played a couple of games with the illness.
"I thought it was normal for me to be this tired this late in the season because we do run the press," Politano said. "I told my dad I had a sharp pain above my abdomen and that I was a little concerned. I wanted to get checked out to make sure it was nothing severe. It turned out to be something."
McDonald coach Jeff Rasile discussed the impact of Politano being absent from the lineup.
"Anytime you lose your point guard and a 20-point (per game) scorer, it's going to have a huge impact on your team," Rasile said. "We lost two games at the end, even with Stephen, it would have been difficult games - Wellsville and Mineral Ridge at their place. When you lose a 20-point scorer, it makes it even more difficult."
Taking doctor's orders, Politano rested and eased his way back into basketball shape. He didn't want to miss playing on senior night.
"My doctor told me to wait 10 days to play, which would take me a day before the game against Springfield," Politano said. "My doctor said if I was feeling better, I could start jogging a little at practice and shooting a little.
"Then when I played Tuesday, I was dead, but I wanted to play so bad because I was out for so long. I was really hoping to be back for senior night. I've been playing basketball since I was six, and missing my last home game on my home court would have been horrible. I'm really happy and blessed I was able to play that game."
Politano ended up scoring 16 points on senior night.
After beating Southington in the Division IV sectional semifinals on Tuesday, McDonald will face John. F. Kennedy in a sectional final on Saturday. Rasile said how important it is for the team that Politano is back for tournaments.
"Stephen is the only one on the team that was around for the regional run, that was two years ago," Rasile said. "He played in the district semis last year. He has that big-game experience."
While Politano was not happy about missing that time, he has found a silver lining.
"The break hurt in some ways because I couldn't play and I was losing that energy," Politano said. "But it also helped because I have fresher legs for the playoffs, which hopefully we can make a run in."
He also added what he needs to do to help guide McDonald to success in the postseason.
"I think the most important thing for me is to provide that spark, that energy for the team," Politano said. "For every senior, if you want to get a run going, if you want to spark the team to get on a run, you have to bring that emotion and the intensity. So the best thing I can do is relay the message to the younger ones to get us going.
"When come game time, we need to lay it all on the line and just know that this is our last chance. Don't take any minute for granted, we have to go at it."