After seeing its best season in school history come to an end in the Class 1A Division I tournament consolation game Saturday, the Thunder Ridge girls' basketball team gathered in the middle of the floor for a tearful embrace.
Since mid-February, basketball has taken a back seat for the Longhorns, and it was the furthest thing from their minds following a 63-29 loss to Coldwater-South Central in Gross Memorial Coliseum.
In the middle of the embrace was Raegan Boden, a Thunder Ridge junior who was forced to quit playing basketball after she was diagnosed with brain cancer Feb. 19.
Boden, who is recovering from a major surgery and preparing to start radiation and chemotherapy, joined her team on the bench for the entire state tournament.
After the game, Thunder Ridge coach Darren Grauerholz said he was handed $200 by a stranger to support a fundraising campaign to help benefit the Boden family.
“I’m absolutely amazed (by the support),” Grauerholz said. “Now if we can just get some prayers answered and get through this.”
Boden was presented a fourth-place medal along with her teammate in an emotional post-game scene.
“It’s sad,” Grauerholz said. “I hate it because there’s so many things that she hasn’t done and all the things that she isn’t going to get to do. It’s just so sad that it’s been taken from her. Nobody deserves it. But we just have to make the most of it and see how we can rebound from it.
“Her outlook is just absolutely positive about that. And that’s what she’s going to have to do, she’s going to have to stay positive through it.”
Thunder Ridge reached the semifinals for the first time with a 48-44 win over Rural Vista before falling 42-34 to St. Paul on Friday.
“This season and what Raegan’s gone through, it’s a microcosm of life,” Grauerholz said. “You know we got knocked off last night, and I felt there was a couple calls that were erroneous, and that’s kind of what Raegan’s going through. She got thrown a curve ball.”
South Central (25-1), led by junior point guard Bri Rutherford, controlled the consolation game from the outset, leading 28-14 at halftime. Rutherford scored a game-high 23 points and had seven steals while the Longhorns committed 31 turnovers.
Thunder Ridge finished the year 22-4.
“I’m very proud of these girls,” Grauerholz said. “I told my senior (Kennedy Rietzke), 'You know, Kennedy, at the beginning of the year, did you think you were going to have that medal?’
“She said, ‘No, I didn’t.’ I said, ‘So, we did overachieve.’ ”
Grauerholz said the future is bright for his basketball team, which will lose just one senior.
"Kathi Boden, Raegan’s mom, she has a whiteboard in the hallway. She always puts a message on there,” Grauerholz said. “One of the messages was, ‘Even the bad things, we can always chalk them up as good experience.’
“That’s what this was. We’re going to come back from this and learn a lot. I think next year we can build on it and hopefully we can remember what this game was like and how physical, how hard it was played, so we can duplicate that ourselves next year and build from it.”