HUNTINGTON | It's a question that's been asked for the past 103 years. Philosophy and Hoosier Hysteria have gone hand-in-hand since the high school tournament began.
Sometimes Carl Gustav Jung has a better jumper than Larry Bird.
And it's the type of inquiry that gets asked the most after a tough loss. In a game that you probably should've won.
Would you have rather been blown out or been that close, fingers almost touching, to advancing to the state championship?
That's where Andrean was about 4:15 p.m. region time on Saturday afternoon. An aggravating 68-63 overtime loss to Fort Wayne Concordia in the Class 3A Huntington North Semistate had the 59ers grappling with the meaning of life.
It was made worse by the fact they had a nine-point lead inside of four minutes left in the fourth quarter.
“I'm going to have to go with Shakespeare here,” Andrean senior Nick Davidson said. “It's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all.”
This game was all but over. The lead, momentum and talent was all on Andrean's side. But the age-old Achilles' Heel took the 59ers down. They did not hold onto the ball. Twelve of the mishaps came in the fourth quarter.
“I take full responsibility for my turnovers,” said Davidson, who had six in the final frame.
“We didn't hang onto the ball, that's the bottom line,” classmate Sam Toporski added.
Here is the Yin and the Yang of this team. Davidson was double- and triple-teamed by the Cadets the entire game. The Valparaiso University recruit didn't take his first shot until 38.4 seconds was left in the second quarter. Andrean's best player finished with 10 points on 2-of-6 shooting.
I would've expected a blowout had I know Davidson would be shut down that much.
But enter Toporski, who hadn't hit a 3-pointer in two weeks. He led his team with 20 points, including four 3-pointers and a Model T three, scoring, getting fouled and making the free throw.
“They didn't know I was a shooter until the game started,” Toporski said. “I thought we had it. Our stall game wasn't very good. We made some stupid turnovers. Knowing we were this close. If a couple calls had gone our way ...”
Yes, there were a couple of questionable calls, just like every high school game. With 33.4 left the 59ers picked the ball and Davidson was going in for a layup, which would've got the deficit to one.
But a late whistle put a Cadet on the line and that was a difference. A big difference.
The 59ers, though, should've put the game away much earlier.
If you're up and you extend your lead you can play instead of pray -- for a call to go your way.
Carson Cunningham, the Jean-Paul Sartre of region coaches, was philosophical after the game. Just as he would've been with a win. The tears in his eyes, though, let you know this one hurt in a big way.
“This is just a special group of seniors,” he said of nine 12th graders on his roster. “I am looking forward to see them all in their next phase of life. Win or lose, they've shown what you can learn about life through sports.”
Andrean should've won this game. There's no question about that. The 59ers should be playing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse next Saturday. It was that close.
So how do you answer the question, coach?
“Yeah, we should've won,” Cunningham said.
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.