MADISON – You watch the winner, always, and so you fixated on Patrick Cartier running down the court, eyes wide open, arms extended, the very picture of jubilation.
Cartier had just hit the game-winning shot at the buzzer in overtime, an impossibly difficult 10-foot side-armed turnaround jumper over two defenders in the paint, to give Brookfield East a 52-50 victory over Sun Prairie in a WIAA Division 1 semifinal game Friday night.
The senior forward was mobbed by his teammates on the court and then sprinted to the south basket at the Kohl Center, where East’s delirious fans showered him with the kind of adulation that every athlete should feel just once in his or her life.
You watched all that, smiling, and so you missed Sun Prairie senior Marty Strey lying on his back on the court, missed him walk to the locker room in the supportive arms of assistant coaches, the very picture of dejection. Strey and teammate Jalen Johnson had done everything the right way on the final inbounds play. They double-teamed Cartier, had their hands up, didn’t foul.
The shot went in. Sun Prairie went home.
The Cardinals’ 21-game winning streak was over, their dream of reaching the state championship game for the first time in school history shattered.
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Nowhere is that truer than at the WIAA state basketball tournament, where the champions get the gold ball, the forever glory, the “remember when …” 10 and 20 and 50 years later and the teams that fall short get their hearts broken.