DAYTON — Driving out of Antwerp on Route 49 south for the past few days, it’s not hard to see what’s been on Antwerp’s mind.
Orange basketball-shaped signs with large numbers and blue names are affixed to telephone poles to let anyone walking through the hamlet know who caught their attention.
Names like LANDERS, KROUSE, MCMICHAEL, BREWER, ALTIMUS, MOORE pass in a fraction of a second, but their names will stay in Antwerp much longer than that.
Looking back on moments is both easy and difficult to do in the nitty-gritty.
Sometimes we dwell too much on what could have been, the things we could have done more or less of, and the wasted or missed opportunities.
Other times we don’t appreciate it enough, focusing on the task at hand and putting on blinders that cause us to miss the little things and aspects that make those big moments so big.
I can’t say for sure how Antwerp players or coaches will remember Saturday’s 44-41 loss to the New Madison Tri-Village in the Division IV semi-final at UD Arena in Dayton.
All I know for certain is that it will definitely be unforgettable.
After the buzzer sounded not just about the Archers’ season, but about an unprecedented era in Antwerp basketball, the opportunity to enjoy one of those moments was not lost on the head coach. Doug Billman from Antwerp.
Billman, himself a graduate of Antwerp in 1998 and owner of 111 wins at his alma mater, stopped on his way to the locker room and turned to both sides of the UD Arena to the applause of the blue sea Archer supporters royal with a fist in the air.
“The moment you realize it’s done, it hit me as we were getting ready to shake hands and it’s hard,” Billman said, pausing for a moment in tears. “I wanted to take a moment because I have a lot of coaching friends and real mentors who have come here and I’m very grateful for the advice they continue to give me. I tried very hard before the game just to look around and see the specialness of this one and wanted to do it one more time.
“To see the sea of blue still there for us…I told the guys after the game there will be Archer fans going home or going back to the hotel who are going to be sad but they are going to be proud too .”
Against the No. 5 Patriots, the Archers never said die.
The game saw the Archers rally 22-10 to take a 25-24 lead on a four-point play by second-placed Landon Brewer in the third quarter to see Tri-Village move up 10 late in the third.
With the ball and five seconds to play, Antwerp had one more chance to make history in an already historic season, but senior and stalwart star Jagger Landers was an arrow away from his quiver to keep the dream alive.
In today’s world of immediacy with the world at your fingertips, it’s even harder to stay present in the moment and appreciate what’s important.
“Throughout the past week, a lot of people have been asking ‘How are you?’ and my answer was, I’m living the dream,” said Landers, who ends a four-year career solidly atop Antwerp’s record books as the school’s all-time top scorer. “Literally, it’s something that hundreds, thousands of people dream about… It’s really special to think about it. It’s all you want and you don’t want it to end like this.
Fellow senior Luke Krouse, the program’s assist king, hit the ground repeatedly to dive for stray balls against Tri-Village, finishing with seven points, six assists and three steals in his last game in Archer blue .
There is no doubt that moments mean a lot to him.
“It means so much, our community, it’s just top notch,” Krouse said through strong emotions. “The support we’ve had, no other Antwerp team has done this (was going to say) and we’ve come to this point… It’s small town basketball, it just means a lot to everyone , small children, support in the corridors, departures.
“It’s more than this game…it’s just those memories you’re gonna remember being with all the little kids…just giving you high-fives, it’s always ‘what’s up Luke ?’ The culture here has grown so much since my freshman year and that’s a lot to do with the guys on this team, but the teachers, the staff, it’s just taken to another level and it’s just awesome to see.