Joe Knows

Kudos to Mark Richard, Dan Teliski and everyone in the Gannon athletics department who made the Atlantic Regional a smashing success this weekend at the Hammermill Center.

Coaches and players couldn’t stop raving about the red carpet treatment they received during their time at Gannon, which passed with flying colors in its dress rehearsal of next year’s hosting of the Elite Eight.

The seven games drew nearly 6,000 fans, who were treated to thrilling games, gutsy plays and historical performances at every turn.

Glenville State hit a NCAA Division II tournament-record 21 3-pointers in its 111-86 upset win over defending champion Shaw. California became the darlings of the Regional by beating higher-seeded Edinboro and Glenville State in the final seconds en route to the finals.

And the host Knights were treated like royalty on their home floor as they romped their way to the Elite Eight.

But while Cinderellas and cutting down the nets are synonymous with basketball in March, Newton’s third law is still in full effect on the court.

For every team that feels jubilation by winning in dramatic fashion or via a thorough shellacking, there’s an equally disappointed squad on the other side.

Seasons end. So do storied careers.

Tears are shed each time — this weekend was no different.

Former Houston Rockets coach Rudy Tomjanovich famously spoke of the heart of a champion. The same reverence can be accorded to several players this weekend who weren’t champions, but who walked out of the Hammermill Center battered in defeat.

In Edinboro’s opening round loss to Cal, the Scots fell behind early and were struggling keep pace with the Vulcans.

The Scots were largely without their All-PSAC senior forward Samantha Blazetic, who had been out with a knee injury since the conference tournament.

When Edinboro fell down by 15 in the second half, Blazetic re-entered the game to an ovation as her team responded with a 14-4 run.

While she was clearly hobbling down the floor, Blazetic wasn’t going to watch her final game from the bench.

“I just fought through the pain and ignored it,” she said. “It turned out to be my last game and I did everything I possibly could. I wasn’t the quickest or the fastest out there but I did everything in my power to win this game.”

Fairmont State’s Kaitlin Snyder, a similarly decorated senior, saw her career end when she unceremoniously departed the Falcon’s 66-40 first-round loss to Gannon after trying to play after taking a hard fall before finally leaving with eight minutes left.

Snyder, the school’s all-time leading scorer and an All-American a season ago, walked off the court for the final time limping while lamenting how the game could’ve gone differently.

“I wish I could’ve done more, but it wasn’t enough,” a teary Snyder said after the game.

Her coach by her side, Steve McDonald, couldn’t even manage words while trying to reflect on his point guard’s career.

Blazetic and Snyder were only a few of numerous players this weekend who left nothing on the floor, ensuring that — as Teddy Roosevelt said — their place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

That’s March basketball.

 

JOE CUNEO

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