Despite a couple of crucial misses in the fourth quarter of Saturday’s Region IV-3A final loss to Aransas Pass, Santa Rosa junior Leo Lara should not hang his head.
None of the Warriors should.
In fact, they should hold their heads higher because after their performances at this weekend’s regional tournament, there is no doubt in my mind that they have everyone’s respect.
After Lara missed a potential game-winning three, the junior broke down in tears, only to be consoled by the Aransas Pass coaching staff and players before celebrating their own victory.
The state-ranked Panthers knew they had survived a battle. In fact, it was their first real battle in these playoffs after four double-digit wins heading into Saturday’s game with the Warriors.
After AB Losoya gave everything he had and picked up his fifth foul, Lara answered the bell and attacked the rim like a man possessed and had the guts to take those shots in the end.
He missed, but there is no shame in that, just like there is no shame in losing after giving everything you had.
The Warriors may not have gotten to the state tournament like they wanted, but they showed that they possess that championship heart and mentality.
Even if they had rolled over against Goliad on Friday or Aransas Pass would have run them out of the gym on Saturday, nobody would have blamed the Warriors, because they have nothing to prove to anyone after 12 straight district titles and multiple playoff runs under head coach Johnny Cipriano.
However, it’s not about that for these Warriors.
You have to understand that there are no moral victories for a team like Santa Rosa.
The Warriors were one of only two Valley teams left in the playoffs this year, they slayed every district foe by 40 points or more, and won four playoff games. Most schools would kill to have that kind of a season. For the Warriors, however, that wasn’t enough.
They always want more and that’s why they are true champions in my book; they always have something to prove to themselves.
True champions are never satisfied and the Warriors’ tears after falling Saturday proved that.
With a core group coming back and a bad taste left in their mouths after falling short of the state tourney, look for Santa Rosa to make yet another serious playoff run come 2017.
Mark Molina is a sports writer for the Valley Morning Star. Follow him on Twitter at @mmolina0521