Thanks for the memories

One possession, one point, one second.

That's what separated the Chamois Lady Pirates from a state basketball championship.

March Madness, indeed. It certainly can be maddening.

Heather Harman hit a free throw with 1 second left Saturday night as the Walnut Groves Lady Tigers pulled out a 47-46 win over the Lady Pirates in a passionate title game at Mizzou Arena.

"It was a great game," Chamois coach Marty Gerloff said. "We did exactly what we wanted to do with our game plan, we wanted to keep it in the 40s and slow them down as much as we could. And we did that.

"If the game lasts a few more seconds, we win. It all came down to who had the ball at the end."

Gerloff then speaks of an even more important end.

"It does hurt," he said, "but in the end, the kids learned what hard work and some discipline will get you. In life, that's going to carry you through.

"They're all good kids and they're going to do great in life."

Chamois' 5-11 senior Miranda Brandt, who's headed to Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, tied it at 46-46 on a short jumper with 35 seconds left. More on Brandt to come.

But a foul was called with just 1 second left and Harman --- who had 20 points --- hit one of two free throws to win it.

"There's no doubt it was a foul," Gerloff said. "That play is something we worked on, we had all their sets. Miranda got hung up on a screen and the help was just a little slow to get there.
"Then their girl hit the big free throw."

This affair was tighter than your best friend's wallet --- there were no less than 13 ties and 13 lead changes. Chamois (23-8) led 13-12 after one quarter, before top-ranked Walnut Grove (30-2) --- which lost by one point in last year's title game --- took a 23-22 lead at the half. It was tied 36-36 after three.

Then came the fourth, that final possession, that final point, that final second.

"We stood toe-to-toe with the No. 1 team in the state who had been blowing people out," Gerloff said. "One point," he said, his voice trailing off.

This was a heart-breaking end to an amazing season for the Lady Pirates. But oh, what an amazing ride it was.

"From the start, we wanted to be where we were," Gerloff said. "And there was no doubt we would be there. Throughout the season, it just kept building and building and the crowds just kept getting bigger and bigger."

Saturday night, Mizzou Arena was saturated by the Color Purple. It seemed like there were more Chamois fans than the town's population.

"It was just truly amazing; it brought everybody back together and they got to see people they haven't seen in years," Gerloff said. "Alumni who don't come home very much were coming to our games.

"If people aren't involved in sports, especially high school sports, they're missing out. It's so heart-felt; there are just so many people involved and everybody just cares so much."

Nobody cared more than Brandt. She had a great career and a brilliant season --- and she was even better Saturday night. Brandt was 14-of-21 from the floor, scored 31 points and grabbed 13 rebounds.

"I think last night, regardless of Class, she was one of the best players in the state," Gerloff said. "She was hitting some amazing shots. A couple shots she hit, I was just like, 'Wow.'

"They were going to have to rip the state title out of her hands, that's what it looked like. She had so much drive, she just went to a different level.

"I'm having a real hard time with her being gone, I can tell you that. She's just a special kid. Unbelievable."

The Lady Pirates will not be able to replace Brandt, you just can't do it. But the cupboard will hardly be bare.

"We've got some good players coming back and some good players coming up," Gerloff said. "We're going to lose some games next year, we may have a .500 season. But in the end, I think we can compete in Class 1. The road is there.

"If they work hard, I think we can keep bringing them back."

The Lady Pirates will return two returning starters, 5-11 senior-to-be Alison Mehmert and 5-11 junior-to-be Paige Nolte. They'll also have 5-10 Madison Nolte, who was a freshman this year.

5-11, 5-11, 5-11, 5-10 ... what are they feeding these girls in Chamois?

"It's just good family cooking, I guess," Gerloff said with a laugh.

But first things first. How long will Gerloff re-live that final game and this splendid season?

"The rest of my life," he said. "It's something I'll never forget, it's something the girls will never forget, and it's something the fans will never forget. Like I told the girls, as long as there's a town of Chamois and there's a girls basketball team, your names will always be remembered.


Thanks for the memories.