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State basketball: Buena boys drop in Division III title game

For a minute, Zane Carter stepped away from the microphone and addressed a simple message not to the reporters, but to his best friend. Speaking in the second person.

They had their heads down and their eyebrows high in disappointment after a 59-43 loss to Oakland High in the Division III boys’ basketball state final, Carter sitting with the rest of the Buena High starters on the podium afterward. to the game. At some point, even the most fervent of dreams must end, and Buena’s season had jolted awake in a puddle of sweat after his shot went awry against an unsuspecting Oakland squad.

However, to sit on that podium was a victory. One of the best teams in Ventura County history, as Carter noted after the game. Riding an unexpected 31-6 season to a triple-overtime regional championship game victory over Culver City, a group of four-year-olds jumped in a hotel hot tub in Sacramento the night before the Division III final. .

“Not necessarily in my best wishes,” coach Matt Colton said around 9 p.m. Thursday, “but that’s what they’re doing.”

At the center of it all was Carter, the team’s leading scorer, and senior point guard Colin Guenther. Best friends. Quarterback and best receiver on the school football team. Corny but accurate to say this was special to them, just two kids who grew up and stayed together season after season in the age of sports specialization and transfers.

Carter turned his head to Guenther and offered him one last message.

“Even though we couldn’t do this,” Carter told Guenther, “I’m glad I played you. It will always be. And I’m saying, like, stay in touch forever, bro.’”

As sublime as Carter was in the final game of a stellar season, racking up 19 points on 7-of-11 shooting, he couldn’t match Oakland’s Money Williams, who hit his soft left jab in the second half en route to 22 points.

Even with a strong defensive performance in the first half, no one besides Carter was able to get going offensively for Buena, as the Bulldogs went 1-for-17 from deep and shot 32% overall.

“I took the wrong night to cool down offensively,” Colton said after the game.

Still, it was a special season for a band of brothers: for literal brothers Daniel and Luke Ortiz, who went from never-spoken kids to incessant talkers who sat behind Colton on every bus ride, and brothers spiritual Carter and Guenther. .

“Zane has been a huge part of my success,” Guenther said on the podium in response to Carter’s response, “and there’s no way he could have been anywhere near where I am in life. … I am very grateful to have someone who can be so good on the field and also be the best friend and life partner for me.

“And for the rest of these guys on the team,” Guenther continued, “it’s going to last a lot longer than one game in a season.”