AUGUSTA — What’s it like to watch kids grow up, right before our very eyes?

It’s a sophomore guard braving the circumstances and sticking a 3-pointer from the top of the key in the final seconds of regulation to help force overtime, the way Messalonskee’s Gabrielle Wener did Friday night in the Class A North regional final at the Augusta Civic Center.

It’s watching guards trade 3-pointers, up and down the court, inside the final five minutes of a regional semifinal and refusing to yield, the way Winthrop’s Nate LeBlanc and Jared McLaughlin did with Boothbay’s Kyle Ames and Hunter Crocker in Thursday’s Class C South semifinal.

It’s coming together to rally from a nine-point second-half deficit for an eight-point win, even without the services of your best player, the way No. 1 Boothbay did in the girls Class C South semifinals earlier that same afternoon.

It’s capping off an improbable run to a regional championship from the sixth spot in the seedings, having already escaped a preliminary-round game en route to the championship, by holding your opponent scoreless in the final quarter of the title game, the way the Winslow girls did Saturday in Bangor in capturing their first Class B North championship since they won it all in 2005.

It’s willing your body to give every last ounce its capable of, carrying a team on your shoulders and scoring 37 points — more than half of your team’s total — in the regional semifinals, only to come up short, the way Richmond’s Zach Small did in an overtime loss to Hall-Dale on Thursday night.

It’s hobbling your way through ankle, foot and knee injuries, held together by duct tape and guile, so you can morph from a can’t-miss scorer into a supporting cast member just to keep your team’s season trudging forward, the way Monmouth senior Tia Day did all week long in the Class C South tournament.

It’s a coach’s words breaking as he fills with emotion in discussing the promise of a player he believed existed the very first time he saw him run a drill during tryouts as a freshman, the way Winthrop’s Todd MacArthur did when he praised McLaughlin’s heroics in the win over Boothbay.

The wins and losses during tournament week count, of course they do. As long as a scoreboard hangs ominously over center court — every second ticking off another snapshot in the short life cycle of a high school athlete — and as long as scores are reported, analyzed and dissected by those of us paid to do so, the wins and losses will stand.

Pages and pages and pages of text exist, landing spots for old scores, past champions and former award winners.

What you cannot read about, you cannot find in box scores and you will not see tangibly chronicled, is how tournament week asks these athletes to grow up over a few short days. It asks — no, it demands — children turn into adults with every pass, shot, rebound, foul, travel and double dribble.

But that’s what tournament week does.

It’s what the hollering fans in attendance ask when representing school colors.

It’s what every community convenience store declares when it wishes the local team the best of luck in the tournament on an illuminated sign in its parking lot.

It’s what the media does when we examine the turning points and key moments of every single one of the 42 games held this week at the Civic Center alone.

Do you handle adversity? Do you handle success? Do you handle defeats as well as victories? Do you handle deficits, advantages, obligations, tough questions, bad calls, adapting roles and fluid circumstances you’ve never encountered as well as if you’d done it all a thousand times?

In one of the most incredible feats of tournament week, the answer to all of those questions is yes — for the majority of the student-athletes competing on such a closely scrutinized stage.

You won’t be able to read about it, or even catch the video later, but it’s happening all around us. You’ll notice it the next time your team has a lead, watches it disappear in a matter of minutes, and suddenly finds its way out of the slump just in time to advance to the next round.

These kids are growing up, right before our very eyes.

And this is what it looks like.

Travis Barrett — 621-5621

[email protected]

Twitter: @TBarrettGWC

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