BANGOR — The Wells boys basketball team had just seen its season end with a 39-38 loss to Cape Elizabeth in the Class B South final, and Matt Sherburne needed to step away from the game he had been playing for four varsity seasons.

“It hurt,” Sherburne said of the loss. “I took a little break, it was like a week and a half off. I didn’t touch a basketball since (that) game.”

When this weekend rolled around, however, and with it came a chance to play in the Maine McDonald’s All-Star Basketball Games, Sherburne was ready to go back.

“(The loss) sucked for a while,” he said. “But it’s just fun to get out here and play with the guys.”

Winslow’s Paige Trask, left, plays defense on Greely’s Anna DeWolfe during the McDonald’s All Star game Saturday in Bangor. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

For a few teams and players, the basketball season ends in glory, with a Gold Ball and an unblemished run to a state championship. For everyone else, however, the season slams to a halt, and careers end in the blink of an eye with just one loss.

For players in the latter group, the All-Star games are a saving grace. They can be as much as a way to cope with a difficult playoff defeat, or as simple as a way to say goodbye to the high school game while capping a career by playing with friends, teammates and peers.

“There’s nothing worse than seeing someone play their last sports game,” said Hall-Dale forward Ashtyn Abbott, whose team fell in the C South final. “For some of the people here today, this could be the last organized basketball game that they play, forever. So it’s definitely good to get one more chance, especially if this is your last time.”

The games pit the best seniors from the North and South regions against each other, with players from Classes AA, A and B playing in one and players in Classes C and D playing in the other. And they give players who weren’t ready for basketball to be over a more fitting farewell.

“You definitely don’t want your last game ever to be on a tough loss like that,” said Winthrop’s Layne Audet, whose team lost as a No. 2 seed in the C South semifinals. “To come in and have this fun game was kind of like closure. … I really liked having this one last game to go to the banquet and really get acknowledged for this. This is one of the best ways a senior can go out.”

Mountain Valley’s Keegan Davis shoots during the McDonald’s All Star game Saturday in Bangor. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Teams that miss the playoffs can see the end coming. Even for lower-seeded playoff teams, there’s always the knowing that the road could end against the powerful No. 1 or No. 2 seed that lurks in the field.

But the high seeds, who begin to believe in their own invincibility during successful regular seasons, can get blindsided by the loss and the realization that, ready or not, that season is over.

For players on those teams, Saturday helped.

“It really sucked that we lost in the first round of the tournament, so it was nice to have another chance to play again, at an event like this with all this competition,” said Mountain Valley’s Keegan Davis, whose team went into the B South boys tournament as the No. 1 seed. “You’re never really ready to stop playing.”

“It definitely is a really good way to go out,” said Scarborough’s Josie Couture, whose team fell to Oxford Hills in the AA state final. “Obviously, we came close, we didn’t quite make it, so this is just a good way to kind of wrap it all up and go out on a good note.”

Greely’s Anna DeWolfe, left, plays defense on Skowhegan’s Sydney Ames during the McDonald’s All Star game Saturday in Bangor. Kennebec Journal photo by Joe Phelan

Every player on the court Saturday would call it that. Rivals became teammates, and players looking to block or steal from each other instead got to set each other up for 3-pointers, layups and dunks. Skowhegan’s Sydney Ames and Annie Cooke and Hampden’s Bailey Donovan got to team up a little more than two weeks after battling for the Class A North title. Abbott at one point in the C/D game called to Winthrop’s Cam Wood, who hounded him throughout the C South final, for a full-court pass.

You hate to play against them during the regular season,” Abbott said. “But once you’re on the same team, they’re like your best friends.”

It was a point echoed by Couture, who now got to pull for, rather than against, players like Gorham’s Mackenzie Holmes, South Portland’s Katie Whitmore and Greely’s Anna DeWolfe.

It definitely is a weird thing, thinking ‘Oh, you were my No. 1 enemy during the season, and now we’re on the same team,’ ” Couture said. “Obviously McKenzie Holmes and Anna DeWolfe, you never want to cheer for them during the season. But to watch them up here has been really fun.”

It doesn’t beat a Gold Ball. Nothing does.

“Nothing can really help get over that,” said Holmes, whose Gorham team bowed out in the AA South semifinals after titles in 2016 and ’17. “Playing in this game obviously is a great recognition, a great honor. But I don’t think anything’s quite the same as playing at the Cross Insurance Arena or the Augusta Civic Center,”

It does, however, beat the feeling of a stinging defeat being a final high school basketball memory.

It’s just the excitement to be on here with my best friends,” Whitmore said. “And getting the chance to play with them one last time.”

Drew Bonifant — 621-5638

[email protected]

Twitter: @dbonifantMTM


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