READING — No one would've faulted the Spring Grove boys' basketball team for being upset that the best season in program history just ended.
It would only be natural, especially for the seniors on the team.
It would've been perfectly acceptable to take a day or two, or even a week, to let things marinate, and then look back and smile about everything the team accomplished this season.
Instead, the Rockets chose to reflect and smile immediately, even though Sunday's 71-46 loss to Archbishop Wood in the PIAA Class 5-A state quarterfinals was still fresh in their minds. To them, there was no reason to hold their heads low as they walked out of Reading's Santander Arena. It was all about being proud and not letting one bad game define the season.
"I think it's right now," senior Austin Panter said about when the team would reflect on the year. "We just went in the locker room and coach (James Brooks) said a couple words and we're not upset and having tears come out of our eyes because we're disappointed at what we just did. We're proud."
It was a shock to many that Spring Grove even made it through the first two rounds of the state tournament. So, in order to make it to the semifinals, it was going to take something truly special.
Instead, the Rockets just ran out of steam. They couldn't hang with the top-ranked 5-A school in the state, according to City of Basketball Love's rankings.
Spring Grove managed to stay within nine by halftime against the Vikings, trailing 33-24 at the break, but the second half is when Wood's overall athleticism and ability showed.
The Vikings outscored the Rockets by seven in the third quarter to push the lead to 16. Wood made sure to keep pressing. The fourth quarter was much of the same, with Wood pushing its lead to more than 20 midway through the frame, courtesy of three consecutive steals that transitioned into layups or dunks.
With the game already salted away, James Brooks conceded defeat when he pulled Eli Brooks and the majority of his starting five with 1 minute, 33 seconds left in the game.
"Even at halftime, we were down nine and the guys fought," James Brooks said. "There were some physical differences between the teams, and not having 100 percent Eli, he has to have an unbelievable game for us to pull off an upset like this."
Eli Brooks tweaked his ankle in the second round of the state tournament and had it heavily taped. At times, he had a noticeable limp.
The Vikings boast a super-talented backcourt that has the size and quickness to guard the perimeter, forcing teams to go inside. Once there, opposing teams have to deal with 6-foot, 11-inch Seth Pinkney, who swatted away 10 Spring Grove shots.
On the other end, those same players showed off their all-around game. Senior guard Collin Gillespie, who will play for Villanova next year, was slow to get started, but finished with 14 points. Junior Tyree Pickron was the catalyst for Wood in the game, scoring a game-high 32 points, including 21 in the opening half.
"That's definitely the best team in the state, on paper at least" Eli Brooks said. "It's tough when they can have someone run at you and then they have a 6-foot, 11-inch guy waiting."
The Spring Grove standout never got into a comfortable rhythm shooting the ball. Brooks finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Fellow senior Austin Panter had a team-high 17 points for the Rockets. For his career, Brooks finished with 2,426 points, second most in York County history.
The Rockets finished 22-8 and became the first team in program history to win a state tournament game.
"We are over the moon about what we accomplished," James Brooks said. "These kids will be known for being the team that went the furthest of any team that ever played at Spring Grove."
— Reach Patrick Strohecker at firstname.lastname@example.org