Dundee-Crown seniors Jack Orndahl and Gabe Bergeron remember the really bad times, which is why the last five days felt so good.
Orndahl spent four years on varsity and Bergeron three. Both obviously hoped for a better showing in the school's first sectional appearance in nine years than Wednesday's 77-48 loss to Rockford Jefferson that was never close. However, these battle-scarred players kept things in perspective afterward.
After all, they had just led Dundee-Crown to a 17-13 finish, it's first winning season since 2012-13. Not bad for a program that went 15-66 combined the previous three seasons.
Oh, and there was that little matter of winning a regional title, the school's first since the magical 2008-09 season when coach Lance Huber's team finished fourth in the state.
Yes, the Chargers were overmatched against the J-Hawks, but in the end that's not what they will remember. These players will remember beating rival Jacobs for a regional in Carpentersville, a victory that revitalized the morale of a proud program that hadn't defeated its rival since 2013.
"It was important," Huber said of beating Jacobs for hardware. "I think the guys showed the can compete with the "named favorites" or higher seeds. Sometimes that belief is hard to instill in your guys when they haven't had the winning that a lot of schools have."
Orndahl and Bergeron were area experts on not winning. In fact, Orndahl said his sophomore year when the Chargers went 3-23 "was probably the worst year in Crown history."
Folks tend to jump ship when the going gets rough. Of the 35 players on hand at D-C freshman basketball tryouts four years ago, only Orndahl, Bergeron and Ryan Parreno were on the roster Wednesday. For the three that remained, it made winning 17 games and a regional even sweeter.
"I think it's a perfect example to anybody just of perseverance," Orndahl said of D-C's turnaround season. "I know I proved to myself that just sticking with it would be worth it ... I think this season was inspiring to a lot of people who have been around Dundee-Crown basketball. That's what I'm most proud of."
When you win only 3 games, you can remember who you defeated. It took Bergeron a moment but he was able to name the three schools the Chargers knocked off his sophomore year. He said enduring a season like that inspired change.
"We knew that we wanted to turn it around," said the 6-foot-8 center. "Coming into this season we knew we had a pretty solid group and it was going to start in practice. Our first couple weeks of practices were unlike any I've ever been a part of. We were like all at each other's throats, pushing each other, working really hard. I think that's part of what helped us all year.
"Going into each game we were never expecting to win. We knew we'd have to go into each game and fight. We fought all year and each practice took strides to get better. Obviously, when we had that rough patch during the Christmas tournament, we kind of had to sit back and reflect. We were able to come back in the second half and get after it again. It was really a journey and it was something I'll always remember for the rest of my life. It was amazing."
Is this a turning point for Dundee-Crown basketball after a rough four-year cycle? Time will tell. Eleven players on the 14-man roster will be back for another crack next November.
"Hopefully, they got a taste and they know what it's like and they want to take the next step," Huber said of the returnees. "To walk out here and have everybody get an opportunity to be out on the floor and know what its like, hopefully, that's something our guys coming back can build on.
"We'll see what happens. It's disappointing tonight, but the sun will rise tomorrow."