You could see it in their faces as the final seconds ticked away: This one hurt.
The Hood River Valley boys basketball team badly wanted to knock off Parkrose and get its first win of the season Friday night, but it was not to be.
But in and of itself the dejection was a good thing. HRV expected to win this game. Still, it's not every day you see a coach and a star player grinning broadly after coming out of the locker room after a narrow loss. It wasn't because they didn't care; it was because they did, and they saw reasons for optimism.
The Eagles could have folded after going all-out in the fourth quarter to force a tie, having the 6'0 Ryan Wheat win the overtime tipoff over 6'9 Parkrose center Orlando Vance - only to see the Broncos score the first four points of the quarter.
But they didn't. They kept right on fighting until time ran out. And their disappointment showed. And that disappointment was precisely the reason Steve Noteboom had a big smile on his face. This team cares. They believe they can be better, and want to be better. That desire would make any team happy.
Somewhere between mediocrity and excellence is respectability. You to achieve that before getting to the excellence phase.
Just look at the NFL's Detroit Lions. In 2008 they were winless. In 2009, they won two games, followed by five the next year. This season they are in the playoffs.
Respect is what this group wants. When I talked to the captains before the start of the season they said they were tired of being the league joke. Tired of being trounced on their home floor by 20, 30, 40 points.
To be sure, hanging with Parkrose is a little different than hanging with Jesuit, but it was the passion that the Eagles displayed in loss, and the fact that you could see they were buying in to Noteboom's process on the court that set this loss apart from the many that preceded it.
"It was fun to see," Noteboom said of his team's effort. "We put on a good show, and I want to keep doing that."
News Year's is always the time we are supposed to be turning over a new leaf, and with the Eagles opening league play against Hermiston next Friday, now is as good a time as any for the process to start.