COLUMBIA — The final, 66-7 — two 3-pointers and one free throw.
A buzzer sounds Friday on Court 7 of the MU Student Recreation Complex, and the Columbia Greyhounds, a team composed of fourth- through sixth-graders, shake the hands of their opponents, congratulating them on their victory before huddling around the coach. There are no clipboards slammed, no curse words muttered. Winning isn’t everything.
“I want everyone to keep their head held high,” coach Joe Vancil said. “I’m proud of each and every one of you.”
Vancil’s pride is obvious when he talks about his players. This is the third year Vancil has coached a Greyhounds team in the Show-Me State Games. He also coached in 2009 and 2007.
Vancil said the idea for the team began when players he coached in Upward Basketball, a Christian sports program, were not ready for their season to end. But in three years of Show-Me State Games competition, the Greyhounds are still without a win.
“We haven’t had a great deal of success in terms of wins and losses, but we keep doing it because the kids love to play,” Vancil said.
It’s this love that keeps the Greyhounds returning.
“The Show-Me State Games are about the love of the games, most of all,” Vancil said. "People come to compete because that’s part of it, but they come to show their love of the sport.”
Joshua Matthews and his brother Mikah Matthews experienced their first game as Greyhounds on Friday. The team is new to the brothers, but the coach is familiar. Vancil coached them on their individual Upward teams at Memorial Baptist Church.
“He pushes us to the limits," Mikah Matthews said. "He does a lot of things for us, and after the game we go somewhere special.”
The voice of the boys' mother, Ustan Matthews, is audible above the noise in the gym, as she calls out encouragement to her sons’ new teammates. She checks with 10-year-old Mikah to confirm the name of another Greyhound and cheers the player on.
She said basketball has more to offer than a chance at victory.
“Winning is important, but most important is building confidence because confidence lasts forever,” Ustan Matthews said.
After Vancil concludes his postgame talk, his players heed his advice. Their heads are up, as they walk toward their families.
“None of us are happy about a blowout game,” said Vancil, who admits there are things he knows his team needs to improve. “We knew there were going to be challenges coming in. Now, we have to build from what we have done.”
For now, the team heads to Cold Stone Creamery for ice cream — a Greyhound tradition.