Unity BBB sectional semis

Feb. 29—SHELBYVILLE — As the final shot of the Unity boys' basketball season fell behind the basket and the remaining seconds ticked off the clock, Henry Thomas felt all of the emotions at once.

The guard for the Rockets and three-year starter is one of many senior leaders Unity could turn to this season.

A superb season for the Rockets, filled with more highs than lows. But one that ended Wednesday night with a 48-39 loss to Teutopolis in a Class 2A Shelbyville Sectional semifinal game.

It took until the final buzzer sounded for the realization that the season was over hit Thomas, who was immediately embraced by twin brother and fellow senior guard Andrew Thomas.

They were the last ones out of the locker room, per usual, and this time, it was Henry comforting Andrew as the overwhelming emotions made their way to him.

"It's definitely been something I won't forget," Henry Thomas said of his time playing with his brother. "Luckily for us, we have another four years of basketball. We're going to be announcing it soon. It's never going to be the same — the team, court or jersey — but we're fortunate to get four more years to go compete for bigger and better things."

All the emotion comes from a combination of things. Yes, the seniors just finished their final high school game, but not many outside of Unity's locker room saw this successful of a season coming.

The Rockets ended the season 26-5 one year after going 16-15. They won a regional title for the first time since 2012. And most importantly, to the players, they did it as a family.

"Out of all my basketball years, I would put this one at the top of the list," Henry Thomas said. "Normally, you see a younger class and upper class division, but the sophomores were our best friends this year. That's what everyone will say was the key to why we had so much success. It's been fun."

Wednesday night was a physical game, not for the weak by any means. Fans on both sides packed the stands to provide the loudest atmosphere possible, and every possession felt like it was the very last one with the score tied.

It even had Unity coach Matt Franks showing more nervous ticks than usual, constantly leaning back, gritting his teeth and letting his hand touch every part of his face.

His voice was gone after the game, even more so than others this season, which comes with coaching in that kind of game.

"I could not be more proud of our kids' effort," Franks said. "They fought and played really hard. I can't say enough about our kids' heart and spirit. They did so much for this program. They don't know how grateful I am for them and everything about them."

It was exactly what a postseason basketball game was supposed to be like.

"(Wednesday night) was the most physical game I think I've played in high school," Henry Thomas said, "and that's what we like. That's what we wanted. That's what we hoped the game would be. ... We played hard. This team plays super, super hard."

Henry Thomas led the Rockets Wednesday with eight points, followed by Dalton O'Neill and Coleton Langendorf with seven points apiece. The Rockets trailed the Wooden Shoes 21-17 at halftime and 33-27 to start the fourth quarter.

Joey Niebrugge and Austin Bloemer each had 10 points to lead Teutopolis (23-10), which will face St. Joseph-Ogden (27-6) at 7 p.m. Friday in the sectional title game.

While the Rockets won't get a second game against rival SJ-O, Unity's seniors set a new standard this year. The entire starting five was seniors, and they showed just how much a team can improve in a year simply with hard work.

"I hope every future Rocket witnessed this season," Franks said. "It was fun, it was electric, and our guys deserve all the credit in the world."