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HUNTINGTON – If Bishop Dwenger's season had to end in a defeat, it was fitting it ended the way it did on Saturday night at Huntington North.
There were times this season where the Saints looked dead-to-rights, even after a five-game winning streak to begin the year.
Four straight losses in mid-January made Bishop Dwenger appear to be a paper tiger as its record fell from 5-0 to 5-4. Yet the Saints rebounded to win their next two games, including a 16-point rout of Carroll on the road.
Then came another losing streak of four games, dropping Bishop Dwenger to 7-8 and once again giving the impression that the Saints were mediocre at best.
Coach Matt Kostoff's team finally put that debate to rest when it ran off 10 consecutive victories that included sectional and regional championships.
Saturday's 85-71 loss to Bowman Academy had the look of Bishop Dwenger's entire season as the Saints fell down by as many as 21 points before cutting the lead to five late in the fourth quarter.
Bishop Dwenger never gave up against the Eagles and did not back down, just like how the Saints approached the entire season.
It is refreshing to cover a team like Bishop Dwenger that excels without that human highlight reel of a player that is going high Division I for college. So much talent in this area has been wasted over the years during and after high school (that is for another column … or an entire series of columns), so to be able to watch a program reach the semistate round in Class 3A without a true dominant player is a great change of pace.
From the outset on Saturday, it was obvious Bowman Academy had the edge in talent, athleticism and speed. Bishop Dwenger could have packed it in down 21 and lost by 40.
Instead, it fought back to within two possessions with the ball, before succumbing to exhaustion and Bowman Academy's depth in the final minutes.
While it was a somber locker room for the Saints following the loss, it was one that also realized what it had accomplished.
“We talked about the journey, and that's what life's about, the ups and downs,” Kostoff said. “(The players) gave us a lot more than we gave them this year.”
Without a primary go-to player, the Saints shared the load against Bowman Academy as they had all year. Grady Eifert, the team's leading scorer, did so again with 21 points and finished just three rebounds shy of a double-double.
Mike Fiacable attacked the basket without hesitation against the towering forwards the Eagles were able to put on the floor, eventually finishing with 16 points.
Kyle Hartman did the same, getting to the free throw line with regularity and finishing with 18.
Ryan Christman came off the bench and hit a pair of huge three-pointers when the Saints were rallying in the second half.
Eventually, too many turnovers and too much Bowman Academy athleticism did the Saints in, preventing the program from reaching its first-ever state championship game.
Despite the defeat, the resiliency displayed by Kostoff's team on Saturday will be remembered.
After all, it surely was not unexpected after the ups and downs of this season.