Berry's job not so fun after loss
Nick Johnston, Hartselle Enquirer
Nine seniors walked off the floor with their heads down – most teary eyed.
Somberly, without saying a word, each walked into a tunnel, out of view from the crowd, and slowly walked to their locker room.
Head coach Johnny Berry along with two seniors, Zac Ward and Marlon Chapman, were the first to be interviewed by the state's media. No doubt, all three wish they were somewhere else.
Like being the second group to be interviewed – meaning a win.
With a raspy voice, Berry answered every question as best he could, obviously upset.
He talked about his team, like they were his own children. Claiming he would go through an 0-20 season just to coach them.
He reminded everyone about how his team found itself at a crossroads midway through the season, as few remember the Tigers were 8-7 at one point.
Then something changed.
After a heart-to-heart conversation following a loss to Pleasant Grove during Christmas, the players rededicated themselves.
Something changed, all right.
Like winning 16 of its final 21 games. Like winning the Morgan County Tournament Championship, and winning the Class 5A, Area 15 Championship by beating Athens.
But it didn't stop there.
Hartselle rallied from 11 points down against Russellville the Sub-State game and won in double overtime, meaning another trip to Wallace State for the Northwest Regionals.
Hartselle soundly defeated G.W. Carver in the first round, and needed overtime to beat Gardendale in the Regional Finals.
That's how Hartselle found itself in the Final Four.
Then, in what seemed a blink of an eye, Berry, along with Ward and Chapman, were sitting down, talking about their final game of the season.
As hard as that was for Berry, it could not compare to looking into the bloodshot eyes of his team, talking to them following the loss.
"It was very somber in there," Berry said. "The thing is, we had been playing with so much confidence lately, and we really believed we were going to win."
Tears and emotions likely filled the locker room. "If only…" thoughts ran rampant. "What if…" thoughts, too.
Now, the thing that upsets Berry most is losing nine of his "kids."
"Knowing that nine of these young men are graduating this year, it's difficult," he said. "It's a hard thing to accept. I see them more than I see my own kids during basketball season. That's what's tough."
There are many other memories from this past basketball season, other than the pain of a Final Four loss.
Like the County and Area Championships.
No one can take those accomplishments from this team.
"It was a great run this season," Berry said. "We got to that turning point at Christmas, and we could go up or down. We went up and never let up."