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Malik Wooldridge (2) of Akron SVSM celebrates as dejected Wauseon players walk off the floor on Saturday after the Fighting Irish won the seventh state title in school history with a 45-30 victory over the Indians in the Division II championship game.

COLUMBUS -- One minute and 47 seconds.

That time span defined Wauseon's 45-30 Division II state championship game loss to Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary on Saturday at the Schottenstein Center. 

But it certainly didn't define their season.

Four consecutive steals, four consecutive buckets by SVSM following a how-did-that-not-fall 3-point attempt from senior Carter Bzovi turned a potential two-point game into a double-digit victory for the Fighting Irish. 

But in the program's return to state after a 23-year absence, the journey - peaks, valleys and all - is what head coach Chad Burt and the Indians will remember most. 

"Sometimes you step out of a game and you analyze it from a coaching standpoint but I don't know what we'd do different," said Burt of the 27-2 season in 2016-17, a new school record for victories in a season. "Our kids played their tails off. I would've loved for a lot of shots to go down.

"As the bus pulled out of town on Wednesday, there was a sign on 108 ... that said 'Last one out of town, turn off the lights. It felt like that (today). I've just got goosebumps."

Flanked by seniors Bzovi, Brendan Britsch and Logan Hines after their final game in Red and White, Burt noted the team's resilience in the state championship matchup after a 33-22 deficit in the third quarter was nearly erased.

"If you told me we'd have 23 turnovers and our shooting percentage, I'd think the fans are leaving in the middle of the third quarter. That's a credit to our guys defensively, a credit to our guys' toughness," said the Wauseon mentor, a member of the 1994 state runner-up team that fell to Cleveland Villa Angela-St. Joseph and powerhouse forward Melvin Levett - a similarity to SVSM standout guard Jayvon Graves (25 points, 7 steals). 

The season, though tinged with plenty of optimism about the roster's talent, began with an auspicious start as a preseason injury to 6-9 Austin Rotroff nearly derailed things before they started.

But the Indians bounced back.

Genoa picked up a 59-52 victory over Wauseon in the second game of the season, an eye-opener for the roster.

Wauseon didn't lose again for nearly four months. 

Fueled by the leadership of their senior trio and a talented group of juniors developed in as tight-knit and loyal a community as maybe exists in the area, the 2016-17 season marked a manifestation of the team's mantra of being a star in one's role and priority on teamwork and togetherness.

"It's been surreal. It doesn't feel like it's actually reality," said junior Brooks Gype of the trip with his teammates and his father Troy, an assistant on Burt's staff along with Wauseon grads Mark Britsch (father of Brendan), Mike Webster and Kyle Storrer and 30-plus year assistant Dave Storrer.

"It was a childhood dream to come to the state tournament and play in front of all these fans. Next year, it's going to be at the top of my list of goals for all summer."

Even on the court, the Indians found ways to overcome adversity.

Just a few highlights included: beating rival Napoleon in a 68-64 regular-season thriller, topping D-III state semifinalist Archbold twice, setting a school record for consecutive wins with 25, outlasting Napoleon and Brett Lauf's best shot in a double-OT district thriller at BGSU, pounding a powerful Sandusky team and overcoming a 10-point surrendered lead to punch their state ticket in an OT victory against Elida for the team's first regional title since 1994.

The sights seen along the road from Fulton County to the planks of the Schottenstein Center in Columbus are enough to fill the mental scrapbooks of what seemed to be all of Wauseon in the arena Saturday morning. 

The heartbreak of runner-up status aside, the postgame press conference even allowed for some ribbing between head coach and senior.

"We set a record for all-time wins in a season in Wauseon history," said Bzovi, drawing a smile and wise-crack from his head coach.

Countered Burt: "Easy there. They broke our record (in 1994), so I guess he's got a little bragging rights there.

"They’ll realize it even more 10 years from now how special this season is."

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