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Disappointed Mayo boys bow out at state

Disappointed Mayo boys bow out at state

MINNEAPOLIS — It’s no fun saying goodbye, especially when you’ve had a season like this. That’s what all of those wet, red eyes were about.

Rochester Mayo saw one of its best boys basketball seasons in school history come to a close late Wednesday afternoon. It happened in the quarterfinals of the state Class AAAA state tournament at Target Center, in a game it was supposed to lose.

At least that’s how it was being predicted by most everyone but the Spartans themselves. Which is one more thing that made this so tough for Mayo. It knew, deep down, how good it really was. And it knew, deep down, that this was a winnable game, no matter the public’s opinion.

It spent Wednesday afternoon proving just how right it was. It did that against a team — Henry Sibley — that is widely considered second best in this eight-team tournament, behind only Minnetonka.

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Mayo grabbed a one-point halftime lead, then watched the tide take a huge turn starting with six minutes left in regulation, when Sibley sizzled from the perimeter and went on a game-defining 10-0 scoring run. That led to a 68-58 Warriors win, the end of Mayo’s season, the end of the high school careers of eight Spartans players, and all of those wet, red eyes.

The one person so closely linked to Mayo whose eyes were clear 15 minutes following this contest was Shaun Lang, the team’s fourth-year coach. But that was only because Lang got his emotions out early, just into his post-game talk with his players. Ten minutes after that he was collected and ready to talk about a team — and in particularly eight seniors — that he hates to let go of.

For Lang — thanks to their approach even more than the 24 wins they produced — this had been a dream season.

"I told our guys after the game that we were making no excuses for losing, and that they should be holding their heads high," Lang said. "And then I kind of broke down, because we have eight seniors in that locker room who have meant so much. They are just an incredibly classy group."

So classy that Mayo sophomore point guard Sam Calcagno can’t imagine being without them in future years. Calcagno, one of the first players off the bench the last third of the season, has been taken under their considerable wing. Put Jordan Hicks, Jacob Bertram, Bryan Kriss, Alex Benson, Lucas Kuipers, Hal Sundt, Addison Tackmann and Aaron Aaland together, and you’ve got quite a wing.

Calcagno couldn’t imagine having had better support.

"Those guys have meant more than anything to me since taking me in in the seventh grade," said Calcagno, fighting tears. "I can’t imagine not playing with those guys anymore. They’ve been the best part of my life."

And this state tournament showing, as short as it was, was the best part of their high school careers. Even in losing, standout forward Hicks couldn’t help but feel so much joy running up and down that Target Center court, in a state tournament.

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"Words can’t explain how much emotion I felt out there," he said. "The other thing I felt so good about was that we played hard, right to the end."

Lang couldn’t have asked for more.

Pat Ruff is a Post-Bulletin sports writer. He can be e-mailed at pruff@postbulletin.com.

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