Todd MacArthur stood in front of the bench with his hands on his hips, one foot just in front of the other, his own quintessential coaching stance. His gaze was fixed on the court ahead of him.

Freeze this snapshot in time, take it out of context and it could be the Winthrop head coach studying the players on the court coming out of a timeout. Or it could be him waiting on a couple of foul shots. Or it could be a silent stare in the direction of an official having made a call the Rambler boss didn’t exactly agree with.

But roll the tape a few frames further and you’ll see MacArthur’s eyes close, his chest expand from a deep breath and his head lower toward the floor in front of him.

This is what heartbreak looks like, MacArthur emotionally spent as Winthrop’s players empty their bench area and trudge toward their silent locker room. At the far end of the Cross Insurance Center, George Stevens Academy players drape nets over their necks and pass the Class C Gold Ball to one another like a hockey team passes the Stanley Cup from one to another on a June night in an ice rink.

But the heartbreak is not over, not by a long shot.

All alone with this thoughts, MacArthur finally looks up. It appears as though he’s accepted the outcome — or at least begun the long road toward acceptance — and he’s ready to take one final visual scan of the arena, snapping a mental picture of what will be an unforgettable night for anyone who is attached to the Winthrop basketball program.

There is one final gut punch to come.

The giant video board at the far end of the building, the one that counted down those final painful seconds toward Jarrod Chase’s high, heroic 3-pointer from the top of the lane in the face of not one, but two Rambler defenders and their outstretched arms, has a final blow to deliver.

As if driving by the scene of a horrific car crash, MacArthur cannot look away. He is a self-proclaimed “film guy,” and this is one play he won’t have to wait long to watch on video in a dark, quiet room at home.

And there it is, playing overhead for all to see, as George Stevens players and coaches are working their way through television and radio interviews: Taylor Schildroth driving into the paint, hitting traffic, kicking the ball out to Chase, Chase catching the pass, taking one dribble to his left and launching…

… and the net splashing into the air as the ball drops through to lift the Eagles to a 47-44 win and their second consecutive Class C state title.

One side of the arena, which had been brilliantly abuzz for most of the final two minutes of the game, erupts into jubilation, a premature GSA celebration erupting as a mob of players at one end of the court. The other side of the Cross Insurance Center’s collective jaw drops agape, a sea of green reduced to long faces and disbelief.

MacArthur cannot pull his eyes away from the replay, devoid of audio, but nonetheless deafening in its crisp digital quality.

If there is any comfort on the couch of sports cliches, MacAurthur turns to them a few minutes later for an embrace. His post-game remarks include the well-worn phrases “it is what it is,” “I couldn’t be any more proud of my team,” and “sometimes life isn’t fair.”

MacArthur wanted to shoulder blame for the loss, an attempt to toss himself into the fire in the face of any second-guessers in the group, real or imagined.

“I made some very poor coaching decisions in that game,” MacArthur said. “Like I told (the team), if they want to blame anybody, they don’t blame each other. Blame me.”

Truthfully, there wasn’t a lot of blame to be handed out. The best player in the tournament — Schildroth — singlehandedly erased a six-point deficit in the final two minutes with consecutive 3-pointers taken from such deep range he might as well have been standing behind the GSA bench. And on the final scoring play of the night, Schildroth was double teamed, and so, too, was Chase’s contested shot.

“We knew they had great players, they had good players, and they had special players,” MacArthur said.

Sometimes, there’s simply no stopping special players when the moment arises.

All season, Winthrop featured T-shirts emblazoned with “Unfinished Business” across the front, a reference to their desire to finally win a regional championship with this assembled cast.

Saturday night, with Chase’s winning shot on eternal loop like one of the stages of Dante’s “Inferno” that never ends, MacArthur stood in front of his bench, hands on his hips, one foot in front of the other.

Painfully for Winthrop, there will be more unfinished business next season, too.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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