Wildcats stay classy in defeat

Apr 3 2013 - 10:54am

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There are games, and then there are games.

Tuesday night's Collegeinsider.com Tournament final was indeed one of those all caps, bold, underscored ... GAMES.

In front of more than 10,000 screaming fans at the Dee Events Center, Weber State played valiantly -- played with all kinds of heart -- only to suffer a gut-wrenching 77-74 loss to East Carolina.

In a weird moment in which time stood still and hit warp speed in the same instant, junior guard Akeem Richmond nailed a 3-point buzzer-beater to give the Pirates the 2013 CIT championship.

Just like that, Weber State's magical run came to a heartbreaking conclusion.

Let's just go ahead and get this out there: WSU probably should have won the game. The 'Cats went 9-for-19 from at the free throw line and in a tight game, those misses always loom large.

The refs missed some calls, too. But then again, refs always miss calls.

Then again, in a game like the one played Tuesday night, a million little things conspired to hit the 'Cats and their fans right between the eyes.

Troublesome.

Torturous.

Terrible.

But here's the thing -- and it's pretty important when you think about it -- amid the pain of missed opportunities and the sorrow of what-might-have-been, head coach Randy Rahe and senior Scott Bamforth showed remarkable courage. Moments after ECU celebrated a title on their own floor -- in their house -- Rahe and Bamforth said and did all the right things.

They didn't complain, didn't make excuses, didn't run and hide.

Instead, they offered perspective and insight.

In the wake of such a cruel loss, that should count for something. Believe me, not everyone takes the high road like they did.

Bamforth, an 87 percent free throw shooter, missed a freebie in the final minutes. But he wasn't alone. As a team, WSU was just 2-for-8 from the line in the last 1:51.

His eyes were red and his spirit was surely heavy, but Bamforth had his head up when he said those are the breaks of the game.

"There's nothing else you can do," he said. "I get in the gym and make a hundred free throws a day. I usually miss one or two out of a hundred, so I guess that's the one or two."

Bamforth said it was tough to have that happen, said it hurts to lose like that.

"It hurts to know that I had the chance to do something and I didn't," he added.

"I mean, you just grow from it and move on."

There is wisdom in those words.

"I'll go to war with him anytime," Rahe said, nodding to Bamforth. "Yeah, he missed one free throw. That didn't cost us the game."

He's right, of course. That one missed free throw didn't cost the 'Cats the game. But, realistically, the fact they shot just 47 percent from the line as a team at least contributed to it.

Still, there were no excuses, no whining, woe-is-me.

Personally, I like that.

"Yeah, it's tough," Rahe said. "I want to see them make (free throws) for themselves. I mean, I love these guys. I love coaching this team. I've had as much fun coaching this team as any team I've had. They accomplished a great deal."

Right again.

Rahe owned the loss, owned the disappointment, owned the heartbreak. But, credit to him, minutes afterward, he emptied that broken heart.

"I love these guys," he said. "I'm so proud of this team and what they've accomplished and how they bounced back from adversity. I'm really proud to be their coach."

And he said it again.

"I'm really proud to be their coach."

Because there are games ... and then there are games, there are also losses ... and then there are losses.

Tuesday's was indeed a loss. All caps, bold, underscored.

But the sun came up this morning and it'll come up again tomorrow.

Thankfully, Weber State fans, your basketball team understands that all-important fact.

Jim Burton is the Standard-Examiner's sports columnist. He also covers the Utah Jazz and the NBA. He can be reached at 801-625-4265 or at jburton@standard.net. He tweets at http://twitter.com/jmb247

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