HERSHEY, Pa. - Nicole Munger walked down the tunnel in the Giant Center, heading away from the locker room.
"You know the hardest part?" she said. "It's taking off the jersey."
For four seasons, no one wore a Central Bucks West basketball jersey better than Munger. In the history of the program, there was probably no one more talented who ever pulled a Bucks' jersey over her head.
The Michigan-bound senior put No. 33 on for the last time Friday. And then, after a crushing, 40-35, defeat to Cumberland Valley in the PIAA Class AAAA state final, she took it off for the last time.
"I thought we played with a lot of energy, a lot of heart," West coach Terry Rakowsky said. "We just didn't make shots tonight."
The shots weren't falling from the start for the Bucks (32-2). But they stayed in the game against the defending state champion Eagles (32-1) with their trademark hustle and grit.
"We were just kind of waiting for that time - we always pick it up at one point, or start hitting shots at one point - and it just didn't happen for us tonight," Mackenzie Carroll said.
Down nine with 2 minutes, 22 seconds left in the contest, the Bucks had hung around long enough to steal the game away.
Carroll stole the ball on a defensive possession.
Then an offensive foul was called on the Eagles.
Then the Eagles missed free throws on the following sequence.
The opportunities for the Bucks were there. But again, the basketball rolled around the rim on the offensive end.
"Although the chips didn't fall the way we wanted to tonight, we are really proud of the season we had and the four years we had at West," Munger said.
As the Eagles and Bucks lined up after the game, a man in the crowd broke the silence.
"Thank you, Nicole," he yelled.
For 32 minutes, things may not have gone Munger's way. But it wasn't just about the 32 minutes she had played Friday. No, it was about much more than that. And Munger had earned a thank you.
Cumberland Valley 12 7 13 8 - 40
Central Bucks West 5 12 7 11 - 35
CV: Kelly Jekot 13, Morgan Baughman 7, Meghan Rhoades 6, Jen Falconer 6, Taylor Sneidman 5, Katie Jekot 3.
CBW: Nicole Munger 9, Corrinne Godshall 8, Mackenzie Carroll 6, Peyton Traina 5, Makenzie Mason 4, Maggie Rakowsky 3.