Today is the big day. The Shockers battle Missouri State for the MVC title. The game is at noon on ESPN2 and yes, I’m nervous. We have an opportunity to go undefeated on the road and win the championship outright. Plus this would give the Shox huge momentum going into the MVC tournament in St. Louis.
Senior night was special, as it always is. I always walk into Koch arena a little more observant of my surroundings on the final home game of the season. I try not to miss a thing, after all it will be nine months before I don the black and gold and cheer my Shockers in the arena. Note the end of that sentence…”in the arena.” My hope is to continue to cheer my Shockers from either a bar stool or, finances permitting, from an unfamiliar seat in an unfamiliar arena in the NCAA tournament.
And senior night this year was everything one could hope. I always shed a few tears on senior night. These young men have given their all for us fans, fought through injuries, doubts, and sent us into multiple frenzies over the past four years. And they’ve faced life obstacles we will never know. Some forget these are just young men in college, taking classes, meeting girls, hanging with friends, missing their family, who also happen to play basketball. They are not getting paid big money or rolling in endorsements. They live in dorm rooms, eat at the RSC, and stay up late doing homework.
They are just boys, but they become our boys. And it’s hard to let them go, to imagine next season without them. And it’s not just their playing and athleticism, or the fact they will leave gaping holes in our offense and defense, but Durley’s big smile, the way Blair lifts his eyes almost shyly to the crowd, Hatch’s on-court-off-court energy, and the wide eyes of Ellis as he acknowledges his family before he takes the court.
The game on senior night was a classic battle between the Shox and the Jays. The much-hated Jays. And what better way to sweep them this season, for the first time since 1985, then a final bucket in the waning seconds by none other than Aaron Ellis. The arena erupted. The basketball Gods couldn’t have picked a better hero for our final home game.
So here we are. The final game of the regular season with the MVC title within reach. Missouri State beat us at home on January 9, 59-56. It’s time for us to return the favor.