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03/02/03 Raiders play with heart and class

March 2, 2003 -- Fairport

One Fanís Perspective

There were two games played at 9:00 pm last night at the Blue Cross Arena at the Rochester War Memorial and both of them took place on the same court. First, there was the fast-paced action of Class AA basketball between our Red Raiders and the Orientals of East High. And what a great game that was! East played their game out at the 3-point arc, scoring all of their first 15 points of the game with five long range bombs. Fairport, for their part, worked the ball well, looking for the open shot and taking advantage of their strength and height deep down in the paint.

And, if you like basketball excitement, thereís nothing quite like OT -- overtime -- especially in the final playoff game. Fairport clung to a one point lead with four seconds left in OT when an extraordinarily questionable blocking foul set the stage. Called against the Raiders, the foul set up what were to be two clutch free-throws by a rather mediocre free-throw shooter who, to his credit, came through for East and made both shots. That ended up being the deciding moment of the game.

If you were there just for the basketball, then you werenít disappointed. But if all you saw was basketball, then you missed something remarkable.

There was a second game played on that court that you might have missed.

You might have missed the emotion and the fire, the drive and the dedication. You could see a great deal of that on the court, but you could see just as much on the Fairport bench. And you didnít have to look too hard to see the same intensity in the faces of the couple thousand Fairport fans, either.

With all due respect to Mr. DiVironica over at the D&C, whoís done a fine job covering Section V basketball again this season, this night's game was not about heroes and goats. Nope. It was about hopes and dreams. It wasnít all about one player, and it wasnít all about OT. It was about heart and it was about soul. And the scoreboard doesnít keep a score for heart & soul.

What this yearís varsity Red Raiders accomplished (both boysí and girlsí teams, by the way) is nothing short of inspiring. In the tradition that is Fairport Basketball, with all of the outstanding seasons that weíve seen throughout the years, the boysí have only taken home the Section V crown one time -- 1975. This yearís team, though they may not have returned with the seasonís biggest prize, has won our hearts nonetheless.

That they gave it everything they had is not in question. That they were prepared and up to the challenge is beyond doubt. That they were playing a very worthy opponent in East is obvious. And, had a couple of bounces been more in Fairportís favor, or had a few officialís calls gone the other way, it might have made a difference in the outcome of the closest and most exciting game Fairport fans have seen in a very long time.

But that final score, though so much seems to ride on it at times, is a far less important measure of the seasonís success than the fire evident in Fairportís eyes and the level at which they played the game. To be sure, there are rewards for winning the championship trophy. But letís make sure we donít overlook an absolutely fantastic season and the just-as-important lessons that a hard-fought loss can offer.

Even in the emotion of defeat, Fairport showed the character and class for which the program has become known. And for that, the coaches, the fans and the players should be justly proud.

Congratulations Raider coaches, players, parents and fans on a truly remarkable season!