Disappointing Ending Can't Ruin Great Season

PORTLAND, Ore. - OK, the run ended in Portland with a close loss to Purdue. In the world of March Madness, the sudden ending that comes with a single loss is hard to swallow. However, for the Washington Huskies, when the loss is measured against their whole body of work, we have to give thanks to the team for helping pull the school and the whole Seattle area out of its sports purgatory.

Missed foul shots, a nemesis to this team for the last few years, came back to bite the Huskies at the worst of times and the resulting loss to the Purdue Boilermakers officially ended the Huskies' rags to riches, over-achieving basketball season.

I was fortunate to sit first row, diagonally across from the Husky bench. I looked at the faces of each player as they came to the bench after the final horn. It was that empty and devastating look of defeat. Tears were swelling and many were overcome with instant grief.

As usual, Jon Brockman took it like a warrior, for that is the best description for one of the greatest Husky basketball players of all time. He was a monster again on the boards and had almost carried his team out of the jaws of defeat. Sure, he missed a couple of free-throws at the end, but his 20 points, 18 rebounds and three assists reflected his standard double-double performance, his 60th of his career.

Their great second half comeback fell short and there is no sense blaming anyone for the defeat. They lost it together and in doing so ended one of the most therapeutic and exciting runs in Seattle sports history.

Picked to finish fifth in the conference, they surprised everyone except themselves, by winning their first outright league championship in over 55 years. This whole season was an incredible journey: After an o-fer Husky football season, losing the local pro basketball team, enduring the worst Seahawks' season in decades and a major league baseball team that lost over 100 games, the whole Puget Sound region was in a state of collective sports depression.

Lorenzo Romar not only deserves to be the Pac-10 Coach of the Year, but the King County Humanitarian of the Year as well. He willed these kids, who hadn't danced for two years, back to the NCAA Tournament. And if Isaiah Thomas' last drive hadn't lipped off, they may still be dancing.

Whatever. Now that it has come to an end, these kids need to sit back and reflect on this season of a lifetime. We all know they would have been in tough against Connecticut and Memphis, but it still would have been fun to watch.

So the Huskies end this chapter of their collegiate careers and move on to the future. Their two leading scorers return in Thomas and Quincy Pondexter, as well as a couple of excellent defending forwards in Darnell Gant and Justin Holiday and a center in Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who has a huge upside. They found a 3-point shooter in Elston Turner and have a great class coming in, as well as a red-shirted rebounder in Tyreese Breshers.

These Hoop Dawgs should hold their heads high and realize they not only over-achieved but set the program back on the road to national prominence.

The only two players they really lose are Brockman and Justin Dentmon. Although Dentmon's scoring fell off at the end of the season he still had an incredible year.

And what can you say about Brockman? I've had so many people say to me, why isn't he a tight end in football? I give the same answer; because he's a basketball warrior, that's why, and he will be paid for it starting next year. The guy can bang with anyone. He is tenacious and whatever team is lucky enough to get him will be getting a rebounding machine.

He will be a role player, but I really think he will be a first round pick by one of the better teams. Remember Dennis Rodman couldn't hit the outside jumper either. The NBA is all about match-ups, and Brockman presents a unique and tough option for any coach to use.

That's what made the ending in Portland so tough for me. I realized that not only will I not be rooting for the home team anymore this season, but I'll never get to watch Jon Brockman play again as a Husky.

He exemplifies everything you want in a sports star: Humility, a sincere commitment to his teammates, a tremendous work ethic, great leadership and loyalty to the program, the community, and the whole region. He became a Husky legend and will always be used as an example of hard work and toughness as long as Romar continues to coach at Washington.

Like I said, we not only lost a game, we lost one of the greatest battlers and warriors ever to wear the purple and gold. Jon Brockman should be, and will be considered one of the best basketball players ever in Washington history. Thanks for the memories, Jon.

I hope Pondexter sees the value of staying for his senior year. He showed he could be one of the best in the conference next year and that he is ready to carry the torch of leadership.

Coach Romar and his staff know they are getting closer again and if things develop properly over the next year they will be back dancing again, and who knows what will happen then? Thanks for the ride and everything you did for us Husky fans. It was by far the best sports season in Seattle for at least the last few years.


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