The bus ride home after the SM East boys basketball team’s only loss of the season — to McPherson High School in the title game of a statewide invitational tournament — was quiet.
SM East coach Shawn Hair could sense the discomfort — the utter disappointment, fatigue and frustration – that had set in over his team. No one would talk.
Hair watched from the sidelines as the game had unraveled. His players found themselves down at halftime — a rarity this season — and panicked. They took bad shots, got nervous, and took bad shots again.
By the time the buzzer sounded and the team was headed back home with a fresh “L” in the ledger, their failure to respond to the situation was sinking in. The mood was dour.
“It was a good thing,” Hair said. “You could see how much it bothered them to lose. It showed they cared.”
But what impressed Hair even more than his team’s reaction to the loss was the resilience they showed at practice two days later. With rival Rockhurst next on their docket, the team put in what Hair describes as an “excellent” week of practice. They stormed out of the gate that Friday and beat the Hawklets for the first time in four years.
That kind of resilience, Hair said, is the product of both his team’s maturity, and their genuine affection for each other. And it has the Lancers off to the second-best regular season in Hair’s 17-year career at SM East. At 14-1, only the 2006-2007 team that went 19-1 in the regular season is better. With five regular-season games remaining, the stage appears to be set for a strong post-season.
But, Hair says, the team knows how quickly things can go off the rails.
“A lot of these kids are big KU fans, and they’ve watched the last couple weeks how things can get bad quickly,” he said. “You lose focus and all of the sudden you’re losing to TCU.”
The Lancers start a four-game road stretch at 7 p.m. tonight against Olathe East before wrapping up the regular season at home against rival SM South Feb. 22.