Great job to the fans of local basketball team

Published 6:25 pm Monday, March 2, 2020

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When seniors Maggie West, Skye Knighten-Lilly, Nataley Whitner and Aaliyah Cotton checked out for the final time with more than a minute left in a Final Four loss to Madison Academy, they exited the final game of their career to a raucous standing ovation.

The same can be said for Zane Nelson, Luke Love and Trey Sullivan at Oak Mountain after the Eagles lost to Lee-Montgomery in their first Final Four in school history as well.

Following both losses, the tears and emotions were real for both teams, as the seniors had played their last game. All of them were proud, but unsatisfied with how the final games of their career played out.

But all you had to do was look into the stands to see what they had accomplished was more than the outcome of a simple basketball game.

Shelby County faithful from Columbiana brought one of the largest crowds of any 5A team, boys or girls, to Legacy Arena in Birmingham, while Oak Mountain’s North Shelby County crowd was possibly the largest of any regardless of classification.

Oddly enough, both teams went all out and created a white out atmosphere inside the arena with white T-Shirts, which made their presence even more prevalent.

It was a consistent showing from the two county fan bases, and they got to witness history.

For Shelby County, it marked the end of the road for five seniors who went a combined 73-12 the last three years, won 90 combined games since their freshman season, advanced to at least the Sweet 16 all four years, advanced to the Elite Eight twice and made the team’s first Final Four in school history.

For Oak Mountain, it marked the end but also the beginning. A team that featured just three seniors, Zane Nelson being the leader, set the stage for a team that also had six sophomores, including two in the starting lineup.

For Nelson, Love and Sullivan to do what they needed to in order for the Eagles to make the run that it did, was truly special to watch.

While both teams lost their semifinal matchup, it didn’t matter to the communities. It’s something young kids got to witness, which made them role models. It’s something families got to cherish, giving them a memory of a lifetime they’ll always get to talk about. And more importantly, it’s something that proved to all of them that hard work can take you wherever you want to go and that it’s noticed by so many.

Even in defeat, the two fan bases were raucous and gave a loud standing ovation to the players walking off the floor for the final time during the 2019-20 season, knowing they accomplished something that will be talked about for a lifetime.