Gladstone — There were two sides to this circus ending at Gladstone: The one that court stormed and were screaming their heads off, and the other one that was heartbroken and knew they let it get away. For Corbett, things were looking like they were going to fall in place: A solid comeback fueled by consistent shooting offensively and a tantalizing 3-2 defense that had shut down the post, forcing the Gladiators into an unpleasant perimeter offense. In the end, this game went down as a loss, but Corbett gained more than they lost to Gladstone.
Yes, the wins and losses certainly count, but this is also a team that is going to be hosting a playoff game. They aren’t a team on the bubble nor a team out of the playoffs, they are a program that looked to legitimize their status as a 4A contender by beating Gladstone. They did it without even winning the game, and they didn’t need to win it in order to prove it. Corbett played very well for most of the game, holding Gladstone at bay defensively and working through the hurdles they faced on offense. That defense is a torture chamber in the paint, ask any Gladiator who tried to drive on Grace Merrill all night long. The 6’0″ senior was a brick wall, picking up a handful of blocks and many more boards to shut down Gladstone offensively. She had plenty of help from a variety of cast characters, ultimately a complete team effort to force Gladstone into shooting deeper range, a point of struggle for them this season.
Just as much as they made life hard on defense, Gladstone made things difficult for their offense as well. The pressure was ratcheted for most of the night, with never ending waves of Gladiators getting into their comfort zone. Most shots were contested with at least a hand in the face, others were full blown suffocation, and only a few were wide open for days. They executed on the open ones and found some success in the contested category, ultimately propelling them from behind to take the lead on the Gladiators. They were playing better than Gladstone; it was clear to everyone in that gym and reflected on the scoreboard. All they had to do was hang on, match Gladstone bucket for bucket, and burn the clock away. They could do all those things, but someone touched the big red button that says, “DO NOT TOUCH!”
The meltdown was on: Turnovers, floaty passes that were easily stolen, sloppy gameplay, and missing free throws. Defensively, they still played well and gave Gladstone everything they had, but the offense simply gave too many possessions away in such a critical time. One Hailey Monte trey later, and Gladstone was storming the court in celebration, leaving a heartbroken Cardinals team to soak in their own defeat. It was a self-destruction, but once all the pieces had crumbled and blown up, the sun came out and cleaned up the mess. They had lost the game, but they had earned the respect of their opponent and media. They had shown they can hang around with the best in 4A, they gained confidence in their ability to make adjustments and execute them well, and they ultimately gained the most important lesson of all: Learn from your mistakes and get better. They answered more questions than left open, and they proved their team legitimacy on an important stage for 4A to watch. That rematch will be the true test of how much they did learn, but Corbett ultimately gained more than the lost to Gladstone. They lost the game, but they may have gained the experience, knowledge, and lessons that carry them to state….