The pain was obvious as the G.W. Carver boys basketball team trekked from its bench to the locker room.
The Wolverines were still numb and a 79-68 overtime loss to Sparkman in the Class 6A semifinals still loomed on the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center scoreboard.
The mournful, downward gazes will likely be a recurring theme in the Carver hallways in the days — maybe weeks — to come.
“People can’t take anything from us,” senior guard Anthony Jarrett said. “Hands down, we’re still one of the best teams in the state.
“I’m proud to have played my last year with these guys. I wouldn’t want to play with anybody else.”
Carver (26-2) thought its trip to Birmingham would end so much better.
The Wolverines, after winning its first state title in a generation last year, were heavy favorites to win again. Instead, Sparkman (29-7) will play Mountain Brook at 7 p.m. Saturday to decide Carver’s successor.
Carver won its first 15 games and took a 12-game winning streak and a No. 1 ranking into Thursday.
It’s all over now.
“All season, the bull’s-eye has been on us, and these kids have really and truly done a great job as one of the state’s top teams — all season,” Carver coach James “J.J.” Jackson said.
“We just didn’t complete the task here.”
The Wolverines reached the state semifinals for a fourth straight year. They lost to Lee-Huntsville in the 5A championship in 2010, lost to Hillcrest-Tuscaloosa in the 6A semifinals in 2011 and beat Hazel Green for the 6A crown last year.
“They’ll say we should have won, just like the other teams that came up here,” senior Jeremy Johnson said. “Everybody always expects Carver to win state because we have the talent.
“But God has a plan for everything.”
Johnson led a Carver rally that erased a 13-point second-half deficit to force overtime. He scored 12 of his 22 points in the last 12 minutes of regulation, including a putback with 1 second left that tied it 59-59.
But Sparkman wasn’t fazed at overtime.
The Senators scored 14 points on their first five overtime possessions. Lamonte Turner nailed two 3-pointers and had a three-point play. He finished with 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting.
“Going into overtime, we wanted to keep being the aggressive team,” said senior guard Jason Russell, who had the other five points in Sparkman’s OT surge.
“We wanted to keep our foot on the gas.”
Russell totaled 15 points, Will Crowell 14 and Rakiya Battle 11 for Sparkman, which has never won a state championship.
Demetrius Houston added 12 points for Carver, which annually expects a state championship. Next year is no different.
“We’re going to work hard, get here and get another ring,” junior forward Brandon Murphy said. “We should go ahead and get it done.
“We all want another ring.”