Losses that still haunt
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
An athlete doesn’t particularly want a past; that means he’s done. He only wants a present and a future.
As Paul Cain sat down and rested under a shade tree at the recent Hoop D’Ville basketball tournament in Glenwood Springs, he reflected on a life in basketball and talked about three tough losses from the past that still leave a void in an otherwise brilliant hoops career.
“Of all the games I played at Mesa State and in Europe, those three high school games at Basalt still haunt me the most,” Cain said with a distant look in his eyes.
Paul Cain was, quite simply, one of the best roundballers this valley has ever seen. He was a three-year all-state selection at Basalt High School from 1984-86 and went on to have a decorated career at Mesa State College, where he became the school’s all-time leading scorer during the 1989-90 season.
Following college, Cain’s success story continued at the next level – a two-year journey through the European professional league.
It’s safe to say he’s played in his share of big games.
The string of losses that leave Cain lamenting the what ifs started his sophomore year, in the 1984 Class 1A state championship game against Holyoke at the Air Force Academy’s Clune Arena.
Basalt came out on the short end of a 73-65 decision, but it was the two Holyoke guards who lit up the evening that still leave Cain shaking his head in disbelief.
“They had two guys who matched our point total,” Cain said. “Russ Brown scored 45 points and Rod Trumper had 20. It still bothers me. We made a run late in the third quarter and cut the deficit to two or three, but we couldn’t get over the hump.”
Cain’s junior season ended with a heartbreaking, last-second loss to eventual state champion Eagle Valley in the district tournament final on Basalt’s home court.
“Eagle Valley beat us by a point at home in districts and they went on to win state pretty easily. I think we played in the toughest district in the state that year with Eagle Valley and North Park,” Cain recalled.
His senior season saw Basalt’s Longhorns make a miracle comeback in the state semifinals to defeat Bayfield. Down by 14 points in the fourth quarter, Basalt recorded a thrilling victory on a shot by Bill Crowley as time expired.
The state championship banner proved elusive once again, though, as the ‘Horns fell to Bennett the very next evening. Cain thinks the emotional win against Bayfield in the semis may ultimately have been his team’s undoing in the finals.
“None of us could sleep after that game, we were so pumped up,” Cain said. “We came out flat against Bennett and just didn’t play very well at all.”
Cain is now 41 years young and still manages to get out and play the game he loves. He’s currently the director of athletics for the Mesa County School District 51 in Grand Junction. Cain has a wife and young son, and things couldn’t be much better in his life right now.
The basketball events of more than 20 years past should be firmly tucked away in the deepest cobwebs of his mind, but those three games from the late 1980s still remain as clear as yesterday to Paul Cain.
“I still think about them,” Cain said. “Probably always will.”
Mike Vidakovich is a freelance sports writer for the Post Independent.
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