ATHENS - It's certainly going to be tough to comprehend at this point.
However, there's going to come a time when the St. Clairsville Red Devils' basketball team gets together and spends hours talking about everything it was able to accomplish.
Despite falling in the Division II regional semifinal, 65-50, Thursday night at the Convo on the campus of Ohio University, Red Devils' head coach Kim Clifford didn't have to think twice when asked about his senior class.
ST. CLAIRSVILLE’S Dan Monteroso sails to the basket Thursday night in Athens.
"This is the best basketball team in the history of the school," Clifford said as he battled back his own emotions. "We've all been blessed that we've been able to have this run the last couple of seasons."
If you don't believe Clifford or would like to argue the fact about where this St. C. team ranks in its school history, there are plenty of facts to back up the argument.
Think about it, in the last two seasons, the Red Devils have won two districts, two OVAC titles and the 2012 regional title.
Prior to that 2012 campaign, none of those mentioned accomplishments had been achieved at St. Clairsville High School.
"This was really a beautiful basketball situation," Clifford said. "
What we've learned, though, is something most have always thought.
Getting to the Ohio State Tournament in boys, or girls, basketball is one of the hardest things to do in prep sports. No matter what kind of team you have or how many starters back, for most, getting to Columbus is nearly the impossible dream.
To think that St. Clairsville was basically on the doorstep of going in consecutive years is a true testament to the resolve of the players and the leadership of the coaches.
Winning back-to-back districts and a regional title by no means happen every year and who knows how long it'll be before it happens again?
St. Clairsville was able to accomplish it because, obviously, they've got a talented cast.
However, the St. Clairsville players have more than talent. They had chemistry and would genuinely do anything for each another. A group of selfless kids who weren't worried about publicity, post-season honors or anything else. All that mattered was winning and making their friends, classmates and community proud.
"These kids genuinely love each other and it was shown tonight," Clifford said. "Our guys trusted each other throughout the year on and off the court. In the 'me' or 'what are you doing for me' times we're in, in this world, you don't guys like this very often. These kids were never like that. They're very unselfish."
I'd be willing to bet that while the loss to New Philadelphia stings and will for quite some time, not one member of the huge St. C. delegation, which made the nearly 2.5 hour trip to Athens County, is anything but proud and honored to have had the chance to share in the accomplishments of the last few seasons.
Unfortunately, the cliche that says, "all good things must come to an end," reared its ugly head once again.
While some of the St. C. players will move into baseball or track in the coming days, some of those seniors have played their final game in a St. C. uniform.
Regardless, whether it's on the court, football field, track, golf course or baseball diamond, this collection of St. C. athletes and the Class of 2013 has created memories no one will ever forget.
In terms of all-around athletic success, it'd be tough to sell me on any class in St. Clairsville's rich history having been better than the Class of 2013.
I've been covering sports in the Ohio Valley since December of 1998 and have seen and chronicled countless special players and athletes.
And believe me when I say, Dan Monteroso is right up there near the top. What that young man was able to accomplish in two sports, in four years, is simply astonishing. Actually, it's a career that will eventually lead to both the OVAC and St. Clairsville Halls of Fame.
It seems like it was only yesterday that a baby-faced kid was returning kicks for Brett McLean's football team and playing in his first varsity basketball game for Clifford.
However, unless he opts to run track, Monteroso has played his final game in a St. Clairsville uniform.
All he did was re-write record books in both football and basketball, lead the football team to the state title game last fall and the boys basketball team to its first two district and OVAC titles along with the regional crown.
"I am going to make sure that I tell Dan that all of the things he's accomplished won't be left in Athens," Clifford said. "I am going to tell him to think about all of the places he took us when we had to have him.
Obviously, plenty of chances to play sports lie ahead for Monteroso at Purdue University, but never being able to dawn the Red Devils' uniform again hit him hard Thursday night.
"It's not sunk in yet," Monteroso said when asked about the realization of playing his final prep game. "It's killing me to even think about it. I know I'd die for every one of those guys (in the lockerroom), all of the coaches and everything. I want to thank Coach Clifford for all of the opportunities that he's given to me and things he's allowed me to do."
Monteroso was still wearing his uniform well after Clifford had addressed the team.
"I don't want to take it off," Monteroso said.
Marhefka will go down as one of the most successful athletes in St. Clairsville history.
Name the sport or season, and the senior excelled. Consider he's played a key role in a regional championship in football, basketball and track. He's won some five OVAC team titles and, for good measure, he re-wrote the OHSAA record book in the Division IV state football final last November.
"It's rough and we're definitely going to need some time," Marhefka said. "We've had a great two seasons. To think that I won't play high school sports again is sad, but having been able to play with all of these great guys has been a great experience and one that I won't ever forget."
Staskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org