For a minute, Zane Carter turned away from the microphone and directed a simple message not to reporters ,but to his best friend. Speaking in second person.
Their heads were low and eyebrows high with disappointment after a 59-43 loss to Oakland High in the Division III boys’ basketball state final, Carter sitting with the rest of Buena High’s starters on the postgame podium. At some point, even the most fervent of dreams must end, and Buena’s season had jolted awake in a pool of sweat after their shooting went awry against a confident Oakland squad.
Sitting at that podium, though, was a victory. One of the best teams in Ventura County history, as Carter pointed out postgame. Riding an out-of-nowhere 31-6 season all the way through a triple-overtime regional championship game victory over Culver City, a bunch of four-year hometown kids hopping in the hotel Jacuzzi in Sacramento the night before the Division III final.
“Not necessarily in my best wishes,” coach Matt Colton said at about 9 p.m. Thursday, “but that’s what they’re doing.”
At the heart of it was Carter, the team’s top scorer, and senior point guard Colin Guenther. Best friends. Quarterback and top receiver on the school’s football team. Cheesy, but accurate, to say this was special for them, just two kids who grew up and stayed together from season to season in the era of sport specialization and transfers.
So Carter turned his head to Guenther, offering one final message.
“Even though we couldn’t get this one done,” Carter told Guenther, “I’m glad I played with you. Always will be. And I’m saying, like, stay in touch forever, bro.’”
Sublime as Carter was in the final game of a stellar season, putting up 19 points on seven-of-11 shooting, he couldn’t match Oakland’s Money Williams, who got his smooth left-handed stroke going in the second half en route to 22 points.
Even with a strong defensive performance in the first half, nobody besides Carter could get going offensively for Buena as the Bulldogs went one of 17 from deep and shot 32% overall.
“Took the wrong night to go cold offensively,” Colton said postgame.
Still, it was a special season for a band of brothers — for literal brothers Daniel and Luke Ortiz, who went from kids who never opened their mouths to incessant talkers who’d sit behind Colton on every bus ride, and spiritual brothers Carter and Guenther.
“Zane’s been a big part of my success,” Guenther said at the podium in response to Carter’s answer, “and there’s no way I could have been anywhere near the situation I am in life. … I’m so grateful to have someone who can be so good on the field and also be the best friend and life companion for me.
“And for the rest of these guys on the team,” Guenther continued, “it’s gonna last way longer than one game in one season.”