There was no victory parade through Manchester on Tuesday evening.
But even without that display of affection, it's clear that the community greatly appreciates what their beloved Manchester Essex girls basketball team accomplished this winter.
Prior to Tuesday afternoon's Division 4 state title game at TD Banknorth Garden against Cohasset, the Hornets were rewarded with the royal treatment. The school held an outdoor rally for the North champs as they boarded their bus to Boston late Tuesday morning. Then, the Hornets were provided with a police escort to the highway.
A parade through town was scheduled for after Tuesday's game had the Hornets won. However, those plans were scratched after Manchester Essex lost to the South champ Skippers, 44-36, in overtime.
The planned postgame celebration never did occur, but Manchester Essex head coach Lauren Dubois couldn't have been more grateful for the support.
"It was a wonderful send-off from the school on Tuesday," said Dubois after the loss to Cohasset. "The whole school wished us well and good luck. The community has just been so great and so has the school. I know that everyone will be proud of us, and the girls should also be proud of themselves."
This winter was the second consecutive deep tourney run for the Hornets — last year they advanced to the North final seeded 15th before losing to No. 1 New Mission. This year the Hornets finished with a more conventional record of 16-9 and made it to the state title game seeded ninth. Thus, the green and white really can't carry the Cinderella label anymore.
At the same time, the Hornets still maintain those likeable traits that often make people root for a Cinderella team, which is why the towns of Manchester and Essex are starting to get caught up in Hornets-mania every March.
All through the regular season, the Hornets never complain about routinely playing against larger schools in the perennially tough Cape Ann League. Instead, Manchester Essex uses that experience to prepare for the tournament. The Hornets always compete and win when they should. This year the victories piled up probably more than even the Hornets dreamed in the preseason, as they entered the tourney with an impressive mark of 12-8.
Sportsmanship is also synonymous with this squad. The Hornets never argue with officials on questionable calls and are always quick to help an opposing player off the floor.
Finally, Manchester Essex is the epitome of what a team should be. Tremendous chemistry, unselfishness and endless work ethic are all characteristics that define the Hornets. Stats didn't matter all season, the Hornets focused all of their attention on one goal.
"Winning the North is the only thing we thought about all season," said sophomore guard Sam Christopher after last Friday's North-clinching win over Mt. Alvernia.
How could a person not be proud of a team like that?
Matt Langone is the sports editor of The Gloucester Daily Times. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.