Following Elgin's 67-56 loss to Rockford Auburn in Friday's Class 4A Dundee-Crown sectional final, Maroons' coach Mike Sitter spoke about aspects of the successful 2011-12 team he'll miss most.
Breakaway dunks, crossover dribbles and 3-pointers never came up. People and relationships dominated the conversation.
"I've probably never enjoyed a basketball team as much as I enjoyed this team," the fifth-year coach said. "They have great personalities. They're magnetic kids."
That magnetism started with senior leaders Kory Brown and Dennis Moore, two of the more likable high school basketball players you'll meet. Respectful, understated, classy and genuine are words that come to mind.
In fact, one retiring Elgin social studies teacher recently told Sitter she would reconsider retirement if all kids were as enjoyable to have in class as Brown.
Another word to describe Brown and Moore? Inclusive.
"(Assistant coach) Jeff (Howard) and I will go out after a game and stop to get a pizza and there are 15 kids sitting at a table having pizza at Taylor Street," Sitter said. "How many teams do that? I've never had a team that hangs out together as much as these guys off the court."
The Maroons were built to win this year with a roster of 16 featuring 11 seniors. While the casual fan might not be familiar with names of players from Elgin's "Bench Mob" like seniors Joe Quick, Derek Strohmaier, Derek Moorman or Drew Bloomquist, they were a key to Elgin's 26-4 season, according to the Upstate Eight River MVP.
"They made me better, one through 16," Brown said, choking back tears. "The ones who were sitting on the bench, they did behind-the-scenes stuff that people will never know. They made me work harder. They got my head up when I was looking down and I was playing bad. They'd say, 'You had a good game defensively. It doesn't matter about the offense; we still got the W.'
"I'm going to see them a lot. I'm going to come back. I'm going to visit them. They're going to visit me. We're family. That's how we feel toward each other. We'll never lose contact. That's my promise to them and that's what they promised to me."
This close-knit group of friends will forever be hitting each other up on Facebook, Twitter or whatever form of communication comes along next.
"These are all my brothers," said Moore, who will play running back at Wisconsin-Whitewater. "These are the kids I've grown up with all my life. If anything, I'm glad I had an opportunity to play with them.
"These last three years were amazing. We were doing it for the town. We hope everyone's proud of us. We worked really hard. All we could do was our best, and we did our best. We left it all on the court."
In the end, the Maroons fell "one game short," of their sectional championship goal, as Sitter told well wishers afterward. Still, this group can look back on its many accomplishments and beam with pride.
"You want to go further in your playoff run, but every other accomplishment that came our way we achieved," junior tri-captain Arie Williams said. "The Christmas tournament we achieved, the Thanksgiving tournament we achieved. The conference championship, which we fought for. Everything we wanted to do we achieved. It (stinks) we had to end right here, but we had a phenomenal year. I love all these guys."
As Elgin matured into a power the last two seasons and won 48 games, the team picked up hardware along the way. The Maroons collected two Buffalo Grove Thanksgiving titles, an Elgin Holiday Tournament title, two UEC River crowns and two regional plaques. That's a pretty good haul by most standards.
"We got a lot of trophies this year and last year," Brown said. "We did it big. We did it to the best of our abilities. We're going to come back to the school, and we're going to see quite a few trophies hanging up in there. We just wish we could have had one more at least."