The ride is over.

That’s what we learned Friday night. This fortnight with Poland Regional High School was a joyride, not a motion picture.

There was to be no “Hoosiers” ending. The Knights would have settled for a “Teen Wolf” ending.

You don’t always hoist the Gold Ball at the end of a joyride. (I suspect that it’s copper, anyway.) You don’t necessarily get the girl, either.

Sometimes the gas tank runs dry. Occasionally you get detoured and wind up a hundred miles from civilization.

The space age scoreboards encircling the open floor at Cross Insurance Center read like the needle flickering two inches past the ‘E’ Friday night.

Old Town 64, Poland 39.

Poland got out-Chitwood-ed, out-Michael J. Fox-ed, out-Massimino-ed and out-Valvano-ed on Friday night. Out-Cinderella-ed, too.

No shame in that.

Maybe Old Town didn’t knock off three, two and one in tachycardia inducing fashion, as Poland accomplished in the Class B West regional, and only seven other teams had done since 1960.

The Coyotes’ tournament run in the East did every bit as much to convince them that they had been recommended to the spirit in the sky, however.

Old Town was a No. 6 seed, too. It found ridiculous ways to survive, also.

After enduring a forced nickname change, an enrollment crash, the ensuing drop to Class B and a baker’s dozen years without a tournament win, the glass slipper fit the Coyotes like a pair of Grandma’s mittens.

Like Poland, they were a team without stars, or at least preferred to identify as such.

Of course, one stood out Friday. His name was Eric Hoogterp. Son of the Old Town athletic director, who coached Leavitt many moons ago when I had darker hair and more of it, he made 28-foot bombs in front of 5,000 look like backyard free throw practice with an audience of squirrels.

Hoogterp poured in 26 points for a team that didn’t have anyone score more than 17 in a single game in the tournament proper.

Even when Old Town’s offense appeared a smidge out of sync and control early, the Coyotes conveyed a sense of relative calm.

It was 9-0 five minutes in. You could almost hear the Poland faithful pleading with the Knights to concede another basket and make it 11-0 the way it was six nights earlier against Greely.

Poetry, symmetry and Hollywood license, you know. Alas, those crazy Knights scored five straight points and found their legs.

Unlike the three vanquished teams to the southwest, Old Town announced, capitalized and underlined the conviction that C.J. Martin would not beat them.

Martin discovered his touch — shocking no one — and capped his career with a smooth 17 points.

Missed free throws, turnovers and difficulties on the defensive glass threatened to leave the Knights stranded in the breakdown lane, but every Old Town mini-run inspired a match from Poland.

Until the middle of the third quarter, with Poland down five, anyone who had been paying attention thought — nay, knew — that the Knights had one more miracle left in them.

But this was the Coyotes’ night, one that the Knights may feel compelled to erase from the memory bank.

I pray that they don’t, or that at least if they do, they don’t let the vacation week and distracted week of school that followed get lost in the editing process.

What Poland gave Maine basketball and its own tri-town fan base cannot be measured in a trophy that would gather dust behind a glass shield for the next 99 years.

They created community. That’s something grownups spend years in meeting rooms and town halls trying to accomplish. Then life intervenes and causes them to fail.

That’s why we love sports. Sometimes basketball is bigger than life. Sometimes getting here is the Hollywood ending.

Congratulations, Poland Knights. And thanks for the ride.

Kalle Oakes is a staff columnist. His email is [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Oaksie72.


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