Senior Drew Olson bent over with his hands on his knees just past midcourt.
The ball he just shot went wide-right and bounced into oblivion, but it wouldn’t have mattered if he made it anyway. Osage was down by five in those final seconds of Thursday's game.
The players line up and Olson’s still there, untucking his shirt, reluctantly standing up to walk through the obligatory “good game” line.
He didn’t look at the scoreboard. It’s too early for that.
Give him one more minute, he would’ve made that 3, driven up for a layup, maybe knocked in a couple free throws. Just tie it up. Send it to overtime, at the very least, but don’t tell Olson that his high school basketball career is over.
Watch Olson drive down the paint in any game this year and you’ll see it: a yearning devotion to the game of basketball.
It’s perplexing how flexible his stride is. There’s no way he can cover that kind of ground without traveling.
But he can.
With a little under three minutes left against Garner-Hayfield-Ventura in the class 2A district semifinal, Olson had tied the game up on a breakaway steal, driving down the paint. Junior Jared Graham had blocked him earlier in that first quarter, but he got revenge.
The next time Olson had the ball, he rolled around to the left, extending his arm out as he fell to the floor, shooting a layup. A foul sent him to the line, where he would make the shot, 53-50.
Junior James Betz would tie it up 53-53 and Olson made the final shot of his high school career at just under 2:30 left, 55-53. That was the last time the Green Devils had the lead.
That kind of fight wasn’t just there on Thursday night, it was all season.
“Yeah, we were 100-percent healthy for exactly one game,” Osage coach Mike Brahn said. “That Newman game first game of the year, that’s the only game we saw everybody at 100 percent. It’s something we haven’t seen the past couple years and we’ve been lucky to avoid that.”
Olson doesn’t like to use it as an excuse, but this wasn’t how he envisioned his senior season at Osage.
“It’s pretty upsetting because we knew coming into the year we were pretty good,” Olson said. “And just never getting to use those combos that we talked about in the offseason, worked in the offseason, we never got to use them to the fullest.”
It started on Dec. 1, the second game of the season against Central Springs.
Olson went down with a severe ankle injury, which swelled in shades of purple and black all the way up his calf.
The physical therapist said to take two months off, but Olson had to be back for the West Fork game on Dec. 19. He had an hour routine every morning and evening, complete with a mixture of ice, heat and exercise.
Then there was the aqua therapy with the physical therapist and the laser therapy at the Chiropractor and ankle massages by mom sandwiched between.
He even slept with a compression sock, elevating his ankle every night.
“It was our life for six weeks trying to get home back.” Olson’s mother, Andie, said. “He just wanted to be there with his team.”
Five games and 18 days later, Olson shot 8 of 15 from the field, including two 3-pointers for 22 points the double-overtime victory over the Warhawks, 66-69.
The Green Devils would play Rockford next, on Dec. 22, where senior Nate Bushbaum fell to a season-ending knee injury.
There went one of Osage’s top scorers, and an injured Olson was left to pick up the pieces, averaging 18 points per game.
But as the season wore on, the Green Devils dropped games to Newman Catholic, Charles City, Western Dubuque, Rockford, West Fork and Bishop Garrigan.
Yet, against GHV, Osage played some of its best basketball.
Junior Brett Bobinet was all over the court, shooting 5 for 9 from the field for 11 points. Sophomore Thor Maaksted showed he belonged on the varsity roster, sinking in two 3s in the second quarter. Combine that with Olson’s efforts and the Green Devils had gone on a 20-9 run, snatching the lead at half, 31-28.
“The last couple of weeks we started working Thor into the varsity lineup and he naturally caught on and had a good end of the year here,” Brahn said after the game. “Brett stepped up and played really well… taking the ball to the hole. That was key for us getting back into the game was his confidence and aggressiveness.”
There’s no denying that the game would’ve been different if Osage had its full squad in force, but there’s no guarantee it’d be a victory. The two teams mirrored each other, a rivalry that sprouted in the fourth grade and grew to its senior season.
The most prominent matchup was Olson vs. GHV senior Nick Joynt. Both well-known paint-drivers and 3-point shooters. Joynt finished the game with 18 points.
“It’s Osage, down to the wire, every time,” GHV senior Nick Joynt said. “I grew up with Drew forever. I remember sophomore year at substate I was just a little twig running around and Drew was hitting 3s on me. Now it’s kind of turned the tables. Drew’s got to respect me more on hitting 3s in front of him.”
This was the third year in a row the two met in the postseason. GHV now leads 2-1.
“Nick’s fun. They’ve got a long season left I have a feel, so does Forest City,” Olson said. “It sucks they put us all in the same district but that’s part of it, you’ve got to beat them at some point and they beat us tonight.”
As the green in the stands emptied, the red and black lingered.
“I guarantee you, Drew hasn’t left yet,” Brahn said, walking out to find him.
Olson emerges from his family’s embrace at midcourt to walk over to the wall for a picture. Bushbaum takes off his crutches to hug him before the two line up with senior Lucas Schwamman for a picture beneath the scoreboard, which was now turned off.
“We struggled making shots the end of the game,” Olson said. “I don’t know what else to say about it.”