The pain was so evident it slapped you in the face like a cold winter morning.
Cary-Grove senior guard Megan Straumann emerged from the Trojans' locker room and you could tell right away it was going to be a few minutes before she could talk.
A few hugs with family and coaches and then she acknowledged the lurking sports writer who, no matter how many times he's done it, still feels the pain with the kids.
A miraculous comeback attempt had fallen short and the Trojans had just lost to Geneva 55-53 in the championship game of the Class 4A sectional at Jacobs.
It was a step further than Cary-Grove had gone last year; in fact, the plaque Geneva was passing around would have been Cary-Grove's first like it in girls basketball since 1989.
Just being in the sectional was further than Straumann got last year on the court, when she lost her junior season to an ACL injury.
She came back strong this year, and got stronger and stronger as the season went on. So strong, in fact, that Geneva coach Gina Nolan knew she had to defend Straumann with Kat Yelle, Straumann's AAU teammate and friend who held the Cary-Grove floor leader to 2 points.
"I knew she was an outstanding player," Yelle said. "I might have had an advantage playing defense on her because I know her so well and know her game. I have great respect for how she plays."
Straumann gave Yelle her props, but it wasn't easy through the tears.
"She's a great player and I have so much respect for her even if I didn't know her," Straumann said of Yelle. "I give her all due respect as a friend and as a player."
See, that's why Cary-Grove athletes are so easy to follow and write about. They always, and I mean always, show respect, win or lose.
On this night, even in defeat, they deserve a bit of respect, too. And a ton of admiration.
And that goes tenfold to Straumann and her senior classmate Claire Jakubicek, who both left every bit of their hearts on the floor Thursday night, especially in the second half when they stormed back from as much as a 14-point deficit to make the sectional championship game as exciting as, well, a sectional championship game should be.
"At halftime we told each other we weren't going down without a fight," said Straumann, who had 5 steals and 4 assists. "We were going to claw for every point and make them claw for every point.
"We did that and that makes it hurt ten times more. It also, I guess, makes it that much more rewarding."
Jakubicek scored 23 points, 13 of them in the second half as the Trojans climbed back into the game. But in the end she didn't have enough offensive support to overcome Geneva's Yelle, Ashley Santos and Katelyn Allen, whose 2 free throws with 3.6 seconds to play won it for the Vikings.
"Our team worked our butts off and came back and I couldn't ask for anymore than that," said Jakubicek, who will take her talents to NIU this fall. "We all wanted it so bad. We knew we had to play together and believe in each other."
Which is what this band of eight Cary-Grove girls did all year, led by Straumann and Jakubicek.
"It's been an incredible season," said an emotional C-G coach Rod Saffert, whose team finished 27-4. "Claire and Meg have taken us to new heights. We're 101-19 with them the last four years, we won three conference championships and three regionals."
It's of small consolation but Straumann and Jakubicek each advanced to state in the IHSA 3-point contest prior to Thursday's game, so they will get a chance to experience the Redbird Arena floor. Saffert believes they may be Cary-Grove's first two qualifiers in the event.
And when they walk onto the Redbird floor next Thursday they will surely be thinking about what might have been.
But they, their coaches and their teammates, should always remember what was. Remember the great things they accomplished and how they became a family and not just a basketball team.
A Cary-Grove family. Which, win or lose, still stands above the rest in so many ways.