Raising his level of play in this postseason, Tom Knight won't have to.
Heading into the state tournament, the 6-foot-9, 260-pound forward from Dirigo High in Dixfield, Maine, averaged 22 points and 11 rebounds per contest. Not wanting to go home a step away from the state finals for a third-straight season, Knight has pumped in 26 points per night in these elimination games.
"Just knowing if we lose I'm done," Knight said of the inspired play. Dirigo High is currently 20-1 on the season. "With that on my mind, I know we have to play our hardest, and I'm doing whatever I can to make sure we win."
After not scoring a point in the first quarter of the semifinals, Knight poured in 28 the rest of the way, helping lead Dirigo to a 66-44 victory over Wiscasset.
"It feels really good after what happened the last two years," the future Notre Dame player began. "The way we played the last two years, losing to teams we beat during the regular season was just terrible. You go home feeling bad, and to go this year and win is just a relief, and it feels great."
Knight hopes to be feeling even better after next Saturday's title tilt against Calais.
***Joey Brooks: Tuesday night was the start of the state playoffs for the 6-foot-5, 215-pound swingman from Houston (Texas) Strake Jesuit. Heading into the postseason with a 31-0 record and the No. 7 national ranking by ESPN Rise, Brooks wiped all that way from his memory bank.
"It's been a great season, but when playoffs come, you have to refocus and rededicate yourself," Brooks explained. He is averaging a team-high 22.4 points and eight rebounds per contest. We're 0-0 and right now, and if you lose you're out.
"It's going to be tough because we have the toughest region in the state. We're just going to give it are all, and most of the teams we play we've seen already, so if we do our thing, then we will be able to get it done and hopefully play for a state championship."
The Crusaders did their thing in the first round, disposing of Katy, 72-43.
When Brooks isn't busy with his own team, he's been paying a lot of attention to his future squad. During a press conference a couple weeks ago, Notre Dame coach Mike Brey singled out Brooks as a guy who will bring athleticism to the program next season.
"I've watched pretty much every game from beginning to end, and I've seen where they can use an athletic wing, not only on offense and in transition, but on defense," Brooks began. "They've played a couple teams with big athletic guards like Terrence Williams and Jeremy Hazell, and I think with my build and athleticism, I can be a guy that can defend those guys. I think my game brings all of that next year."
Mike Broghammer: Like Brooks, the future Irish forward and his Hopkins (Minnetonka, Minn.) High teammates are also chasing a perfect season. With the state tournament beginning in two weeks, the 6-foot-9 Broghammer and his boys are currently 21-0, and ranked 16th nationally by ESPN Rise.
But like Knight, Broghammer also knows what it's like to feel heartbreak short of the ultimate goal. Last season, Hopkins lost to the eventual state champions in the Section Title contest.
Broghammer doesn't see that happening again.
"We're older, we're more experienced, much more under control under pressure," Broghammer said. "It's an experience thing, which is really the only difference from last year."
Playing in a lineup with four other future Division-I players, Broghammer is averaging 11 points and eight rebounds per game for a team that has been known to eclipse three digits on the scoreboard.
"We all have to take smaller roles this year," Broghammer said. "We move the ball more, and share it. That's just how we work. We all have our spots, and that's the way we play."
Broghammer feels this style of play will help him when he arrives at Notre Dame.
"I'm used to playing with the bigger talents and better competition," he said. "Hopefully it won't be as big of a shock for me when I move on to the next level, and it also helps because I don't always look for my shot and I share the ball. I'm used to playing with a lot of talent and having to give it up."
***Jack Cooley: During the second game of the season, the 6-foot-8 forward scored a season-high 32 points, but also tore a ligament in his thumb in doing so.
Despite the pain, Cooley played with the problem for over a month, and averaged 23 points, 14 rebounds and five blocks per game, leading Glenbrook South (Glenview, Ill.) to a 12-5 record.
Unfortunately for Cooley and his teammates, the injury got to a point where it required surgery, and the future Irish forward had to miss eight games, before returning to the lineup this week. In his absence, the Titans lost six of eight.
"It was just so frustrating to watch," Cooley stated. "Other teams, the way our team would play, sometimes we would be aggressive and go for steals because if teams went back door, I'd be there. Teams would dribble drive, get to the rim and everything against us.
"Our team couldn't get into a flow on offense," Cooley continued. "Our number two scorer tried to step up, but we had to make up 24 points per game, and that's tough to do. Other teams would come into our gym all cocky because of how small we were, and that was frustrating to watch during games."
Cooley was cleared to practice this past Monday, and played in his first game on Tuesday night.
"I got to practice on Monday to do stretching and everything, and everyone went crazy," Cooley said.
"For our game, tons of people showed up. People that just live in Glenview showed up to watch me come back. I was a little over amped (Tuesday) night, and fouled out with three minutes left in the game. Everyone was so happy and ecstatic on the team."
So was Cooley, as he finished with 21 points, 15 rebounds and three blocked shots, helping the Titans get back on the winning track with a 80-71 victory over Maine East. Next week, Glenbrook South turns its attention to the state tournament.
"The best team in our sectional is our rival school, and we've beat them," Cooley said. "And we know and have beaten everyone in our sectional. We should be able to get to the Elite Eight, and then we would play Jereme Richmond's team, and they're playing very well."