Darn it, things weren’t supposed to end this way. A team with this much talent and an 18-3 record deserved better, but we know championships don’t go to the most deserving, they go to those who earn them.
The Tehachapi Lady Warriors basketball season ended on Friday night with a 55-52 loss in overtime to visiting Mission Prep in the quarterfinals of the CIF Central Section Division II Playoffs. Third-seeded Tehachapi could never find an answer for hot-shooting Mission Prep. If there is any solace in defeat, it's that it was at the hands of a good team.
Even though they trailed nearly all the game, the Lady Warriors still managed to find a way to come back and force overtime. They had some chances to put the game on ice but could never convert. Their season coming to an unexpected end, head coach Jimi Perkins even looked at me at the scorer’s table and said “we just can’t catch a break, Corey.” I agreed; it was one of those nights.
At the end a very talented group of seniors played their final game for Tehachapi. Teagan Thurman had one final chance to take an off-balanced shot to win the game, then fouled out trying to get her own rebound. I don’t know how many times I’ve witnessed a player leave their final game after five fouls. It’s just some sort of unfunny cosmic joke played on the game of basketball.
Thurman leaves as the all-time leading scorer in Tehachapi history. She’ll head to Northwest Nazarene, where it's anticipated she will have a prolific collegiate career. Plenty of other seniors like Emily Williams, Aleiyah Bryant and Elinor Figuereido have bright futures. Whatever they may choose to do, this season will play a factor in that.
Senior captain Irey Sandholt wasn’t able to finish the season with the team due to an injury. Tehachapi wasn’t the same after she went down. Arguably the team’s best defender and a major emotional leader, it’s hard not to imagine where this team would have been had she remained 100 percent and off the injured list. But, that’s basketball, that is life. Sandholt, too, has a bright future in whatever path she chooses.
The good news is the Lady Warriors are on the right path. This season was good, but ending it short of a championship is disappointing for many close to the team. There’s plenty of young talent coming up. While it will be tough to replace the amount of scoring and production that is set to graduate, young players like Laura LaMonte, Ashley Neaderboamer, Trista Diefenderfer and Sara Heier will inherit a culture of winning. It will be on the next group of players to carry that forward.
As someone who spent the season with the team, I felt their pain in this loss. I’ve been there as well, falling just short of the ultimate prize while playing on a team that was supposed to win it all. While life moves on you never stop looking back and thinking about how things might have been different. No, it doesn’t help but one day you realize that dealing with this type of disappointment makes you better, and the lessons learned in battle serve a purpose.
Corey Costelloe has covered NCAA, professional and local sports for more than 20 years as a reporter and broadcaster. A THS graduate, he now resides in Tehachapi. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The opinions expressed are his own.