The feeling I got in the wake of the Newark Catholic High School boys basketball team's 56-50 loss at Bexley is that many of the parents and fans believe it will be better because of it, and it's difficult to argue that point when the bigger picture is considered.

The feeling I got in the wake of the Newark Catholic High School boys basketball team's 56-50 loss at Bexley is that many of the parents and fans believe it will be better because of it, and it's difficult to argue that point when the bigger picture is considered.

Disappointment and a sense of disbelief clearly were the prevailing emotions immediately after the much-anticipated showdown last Monday before a standing-room-only crowd, of course.

The state's top-ranked Division IV team squandered an eight-point lead during the fourth quarter, failing to make another field goal with an outright MSL-Ohio Division championship at stake after James Moerman's 3-pointer seemingly put the Green Wave in control leading 47-39 with 7 minutes, 40 seconds remaining. That answered Jalen Robinette's 67-foot baseball throw for a head-shaking 3 that banked in off the glass as the third-quarter horn sounded and should have stemmed the momentum Bexley was riding, but it didn't.

Hence, Nate Adams' right hand still might be a little sore given the slap he unleashed on an unsuspecting door entering the visiting locker-room area once the twice-postponed game ended. Red eyes were abundant when the players emerged from a lengthy postgame meeting with coach Drew Meister, too.

The dream of a perfect season was dead.

Still, the quest for a state championship remains alive and well. No area team this side of Columbus Northland the past two years begins a season by even considering the unrealistic notion that it might finish undefeated, anyway. The postseason, however, provides renewed hope for all schools big and small.

I suppose that's why coaches often report there's an annual spike in viewership of the iconic movie "Hoosiers" as late February eventually brings us to March Madness. But the Green Wave, which finished 13-1 in the league as the Lions matched that mark by avenging a 62-54 overtime loss Jan. 11, won't need the it's-us-against-the-world mentality that carried real-life Milan to the Indiana single-division state championship in 1954.

Newark Catholic, just four years removed from a 2-19 showing in Meister's first season in 2006-07, returned several key individuals from a 21-5 team that advanced to a regional final. It's the top seed and was 19-1 overall entering last Saturday's tournament opener against Northside Christian in the upper bracket, having gotten back on the winning track by taking down Zanesville Rosecrans 58-46 last Thursday in the regular-season finale.

The Green Wave is a talented bunch, no question. It should thrive playing schools in the tournament that are similar in size, and I believe it will now that the prospect of going 27-0 no longer is an issue.

Besides, even star-laden Northland couldn't make it through its state-championship season a year ago in Division I without a blemish, falling against Canton Timken in a midseason heart-breaker that coach Satch Sullinger said would prove beneficial. Newark dropped four games en route to the same title a year earlier, and its player repeatedly said those hard lessons were needed to obtain the ultimate prize. Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary won three state titles with LeBron James from 2000-03, and two of those teams also stumbled along the way. The undefeated Vikings have designs on a USA Today national championship this season, but I'm still not convinced the pursuit of perfection won't get in the way at some point.

History tends to show that more teams in that situation succumb on their way to potential immortality than actually achieve it, and last year's three other state champions combined for nine regular-season losses.

By now, the Green Wave has had time to reflect, refocus and re-energize for a stretch run that could give the school its 25th state title overall. Meister will address his team's shortcomings, which are far more difficult to identify when the average margin of victory is a whopping 24.1 points as was the case entering last Monday's game. Given the fact that Newark Catholic already had locked up a share of the league title even before it arrived in Bexley, several people I talked with afterward said a close game was sorely needed, win or lose.

That isn't to say they will see the season as a failure if the Green Wave doesn't win it all, only that its chances might be better now. Regardless of what happens or doesn't happen in the coming weeks, this team will be fondly remembered.

Myself, I'm reminded of a gloomy night in 2007 when the school's football team also buckled late in the season, departing Licking Valley hanging its collective head following a 32-0 pasting in the ninth week.

Down but not out, the Green Wave rebounded to win the next six games and the Division VI state championship.