NAMPA — Vallivue High coach Stu Sells saved his best coaching for late in the Falcons’ 49-43 4A state basketball title game victory against Moscow.And it had nothing to do with basketball.With the undefeated Falcons leading Moscow 37-30 with 2 minutes, 8 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter and the Bears forced to foul to stop the clock, Moscow senior Meredith Dolny reached in on Vallivue senior Holly Weston.As the whistle blew, Weston nailed Dolny in the nose with an elbow, splaying Dolny to the floor and earning Weston a technical foul.After Weston made her free throws — and before Moscow shot its — Sells sat his senior on the bench. She stayed there, uncomfortably, for the next 2:01 of the game. Even as Moscow stretched the game unendingly with fouls and pulled within reach, Weston sat.“I know that player’s heart and that was not something she intended to do. But I still felt it was a necessity to say, ‘Hey, even in this situation, play composed. Take care of things and be careful.’ She needed to make sure not to do that again,” Sells said.Lost amid the results of Saturday’s girls basketball state championship games, beyond the winners and losers, are lessons that last a lifetime.Sells taught one. Weston received one. Surely, it wasn’t the first. It may be one of the last — for the coach and this senior.“I would never try to hurt anybody. That’s not the game of basketball,” an apologetic Weston said after the game. “It made me sad. It really made me sad. I didn’t want her to think I did it on purpose. I would never try to hurt her.”Dolny, her nose still sporting a bump, had no ill will. Weston apologized to her after the game.“I’ve thrown elbows. It was jut in the heat of the game. It wasn’t a big deal,” Dolny said. “It’s all good.” It’s also why the best part of Saturday’s action wasn’t the games, but the coaches’ speeches that followed. Each coach — victor and loser — took the microphone at center court and gave thanks. Each hugged every player, superstar to scrub, emotional embraces complete with tears of joy and tears of sadness, no matter the outcome.“We’re coaches, but these are our kids. We’re not coaching basketball. We’re coaching everything. We’re hoping to help them understand life lessons,” Sells said.Sells didn’t tell Weston when — or even if — she would get back in the title game. So Weston put on her warm-up jacket, slung her pants around her neck and watched. And watched. And watched.The moments she had dreamed about, the culmination of her career and her team’s undefeated season, unfolding with her on the bench.Still, Weston had faith.“It wasn’t always a positive thought,” she said. “But at the end, I knew I was going to be on the court. I had the feeling. You just go with the feeling.”With 7.2 seconds remaining — and Vallivue leading 49-43 — Weston finally returned to the game. Lesson taught, Sells wasn’t about to let her miss this moment, one four years in the making.“We wanted her back in because she’s been one of those incredible stories for us. Holly has come a long way, and I’m really proud of her,” Sells said.Weston quickly created a memory that will far outlast her elbow. She pulled down the game’s final rebound and held the ball as time expired.“Oh, my gosh. It’s totally amazing. It felt good to hold the ball,” said Weston, the Falcons’ outgoing emotional leader.She raced for her teammates, eager to celebrate the perfect season. The tears began shortly thereafter. They continued until her embrace with Sells.During moments like those, it’s hard to separate the winners from the losers. Dolny, too, fought back tears as she hugged Bears coach Lisa Carscallen.Emotion like that doesn’t stem simply from a win or a loss. It comes from the hours spent together, the memories created and the bonds formed. And from lessons learned — and ones taught.Even in the final moments of the season’s final contest and his player’s final game, Stu Sells didn’t forget that.To offer story ideas or comments, contact sports columnist Brian Murphy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 377-6444.
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