When you enter high school as a nervous little freshman, you can expect to experience a lot of ‘firsts’. Maybe the first year of a high school sport, your first ‘Reindeer Games’, your first truly difficult English class. As a high school senior, we have to face a lot of things for the last time. While there are some things I look forward to never having to do again, like waiting for the bus or having the same exact classes every single day, there are a few events that I’ll miss terribly. One of these is playing basketball with my favorite people in the whole world. Your senior season of a sport means that you also get to take part in senior night.
At Gateway, we take senior nights very seriously. It’s tradition for the girls basketball team’s younger members to decorate the gym with balloons, streamers, and fantastic posters before the game. We get showered with gifts from teammates and family members and get to hear our coach gush about how amazing we are. But one thing that didn’t register with me until the game actually started was that that would be the last time I’d play in the gym. The gym where I’ve put blood, sweat, and tears into basketball. The gym where I’ve endured 7am Sunday practices countless times in preparation for a Monday game. That gym is where I created everlasting friendships with some of the goofiest and most amazing people I’ve ever met. I’ve grown up in that gym, with my best friend, Megan, by my side since the first day of basketball tryouts in seventh grade. That day, we passed by the gym hallway about four times because we had no idea where it was, and when we did find it, we were terrified of the older girls who were already there. Through tough losses, hard practices, and big wins, Megan and I have been through it all together. I think that’s why I shed a tear right before we ran into the gym together for the last time.
Nostalgia aside, our senior night was very important for reasons besides celebrating our basketball careers. A win on that night meant that we could walk out of the gym as undefeated league champions, a title that we worked for all season. A league title meant a new heading on a banner, league champ jackets, and coach getting a new tattoo. Yes, you heard me right. For every team he’s had win a league title, he’s gotten a tattoo with that team’s title year. We wanted that. The game was against Saint Mary’s, a team we had beaten before and were definitely capable of beating again. The whole game was a little bit of a mess, the score flip flopped a few times and we were missing a lot of shots. In the end however, we ended up with a win, and the league title. The undefeated league title. Now, up until this point, I had gotten through the night without crying a whole lot, and I thought that I could make it out without doing that. I was wrong. The game ended with me attempting a half court shot at the buzzer (which did not go in by the way), and my teammates running from the bench to hug me. I noticed Megan was crying after hugging our coach, but that’s not what got my water works going. I gave coach a hug, and right before I went to line up for the handshake, coach said to me, “That’s how the game should have ended, with the ball in your hands.” You better believe I bawled my eyes out. I can’t express how much my basketball team has meant to me over the years, and especially this season. And as cliche as it sounds, my time of being a Gator isn’t over. As every coach at Gateway says at the end of each season, once a Gator, always a Gator.