COLUMBIA — He had a medal around his neck, but he didn't look happy.
Hickman junior guard Chris Clark had just scored a team-high 19 points to lead the Hickman boys basketball team to a 65-53 win against Vianney in the third-place game of the Class 5 state finals on Saturday at Mizzou Arena. He also had four assists, five steals and a vicious slam over a taller player.
However, this wasn't the game he wanted to play in. He hadn't yet gotten over Hickman's loss Friday night to Rockhurst in the semifinals. He had trouble sleeping, contemplating how he could rebound on Saturday.
"I haven't let it go yet," Clark said.
But Kewpies coach David Johnson looked at the occasion differently.
His team had just won its 27th game of the season. Johnson emphasized how proud he was of his players' effort, and with good reason.
They did it with almost every post player in foul trouble at some point while being faced with a skilled big man in the Golden Griffins' Sean O'Brien. Senior forward Cecil Williams picked up his third and fourth fouls in the first minute of the third quarter.
And then there was sophomore guard Jimmy Whitt, having an uncharacteristically cold shooting game but playing menacingly on defense and playing almost every minute of the game. And he still managed to score 14 points.
Clark, who was at times limited in practice with a stress fracture in his foot, was still a speed demon for the Kewpies, rushing the ball up the floor, hitting layups and pull-up jumpers and leading the team in assists.
Both of those players, along with the majority of Hickman's roster, will be back next season. Johnson is already eager for the team to get going again.
"They may not be, but I am," he said.
Clark pinpointed the seniors as motivation for the Kewpies' performance. They have three: Williams, forward Deandre Pennington and guard Corey Estrada.
Pennington, who had come back from a serious preseason knee injury to contribute off the bench, played nine minutes and grabbed a rebound.
Estrada sat on the bench for most of the game, but the fans started clamoring for him to get into the game at the end of the fourth quarter. He went to the free-throw line with 44 seconds left and sank both shots.
The season might not have ended in the most savory way for Hickman, but fans were still chanting "this is our year" as the buzzer sounded. There were still plenty of smiles while the players received their medals after the game.
Williams, who described suiting up for the last time as "bittersweet," still toted the team's trophy, and he faced the Hickman fans and raised it above his head just before entering the tunnel.
Johnson said on Friday that Saturday's game was about pride. Did the team play how he wanted?
"Oh, they exceeded it," he said.