Talking with reporters minutes after losing an overtime sectional championship game could be listed as part of the adversity that basketball players are put through. But in a locker room where the tears had not yet dried, a couple of Crawfordsville’s players and coaches reflected on what in years to come will be called a highly successful season. The most wins in 40 plus years, the first conference championship in over 30, a Sugar Creek and county title. The coaches pointed to the seniors as one of the pivotal reasons this team was so successful. A returning junior echoed the same thought. The seniors spread the credit around. “These seniors have made a 10-year investment in the Crawfordsville program,” head coach David Pierce said, “and they were the definition of what seniors are supposed to do. They worked hard, they executed and they led by example. Early in the season, we had to make some big jumps in maturity. These seniors held people, starting with themselves, accountable. Things started to click, and they turned our team into a family.” “We kept battling every day,” Cam Saunders said. “We were together, we were a family.” “I can’t imagine doing stuff without these guys,” fellow senior Will Kellerman said of his teammates. “We like each other so much, and we all knew what everyone else was thinking or doing in any situation.” One of next year’s leaders saw it too. “Those seniors mean everything,” Karsten Williamson said. “We could never have been the same without them. They were the best leaders. They were fantastic.” The newest coach had a unique perspective. “Cam and Will and I were best friends,” assistant coach and former Athenian Devin Guard said, reflecting on the fact that he was a senior only a couple years ago. “This team is the closest team I have ever seen. They are just excited to be together, to do things with each other every day. They truly do love each other.” Those seniors got one more nod from another coach. “They led by example,” assistant coach Sam Fitch said. “I’ve been here three years and the seniors, as well as all the guys, were great to be around, but this team followed the seniors, and they had to lead by example. Younger players can see through a guy pretty fast if he isn’t willing to do what he wants others to do, and these seniors did just that.” That hard work, the offseason work and practice work all led to an 18-win season, plus the checkmarks on the preseason wish list. “The success of this team is a testament to their character,” Pierce said. “They have gone through tough times from middle school to tonight. They will face bigger adversity as adults, and we know that they will become better young men and adults from all their work here.” Everyone asked pointed in the same direction for the future. “Keep battling,” Saunders said. “Don’t take a day off.” “Relish every minute,” Kellerman said. “This time is so special, and this year was so special, and it’s done in a flash. Work hard, become the next family.” Williamson was ready to take the leadership role that is coming his way. “This year’s seniors set the pattern,” he noted. “Next year’s team will have to get to work right away and try to live up to their standards.” The coaches looked ahead as well. “Cherish every moment,” Guard said, “good and bad. Never miss an opportunity to get better, especially by doing the little things. You’ll never forget those teammates.” “It will all come down to how hard do the guys want to work,” Fitch said. “The next group has all the potential. They can make it as hard as they work.” But before next year’s plans are put into place, there are five seniors, Kellerman, Saunders, Eddie Heinold, Jake Decker and Anthony Gonzalez who deserve one last round of thank-you’s. “It’s going to be really hard to say goodbye to these seniors,” Pierce said. “With all their work, I hope they got something out of it.” That wish seems to have been granted.
BBB SECTIONAL: Painful end to great season for Athenians