Whether comforting an emotional Quinton Hooker or leaping high to slap hands with fans leaning over railings, Park Center senior guard Devin Buckley made sure the Pirates' historic basketball season would not be obscured by a championship game loss.
Ranked No. 1 much of the season, Park Center reached the Class 4A final for the first time in program history. The Pirates lost 74-57 to Apple Valley. Buckley averaged 15.1 points per season after transferring from Prairie Seeds Academy and gave the Pirates a big lift.
"He was a big, big part of what we did," Pirates coach Broderick Powell said. "He fit right in. He was that other missing piece we needed to make that run."
Buckley spoke to Star Tribune reporter David La Vaque about a memorable season.
Q: Where was your team's confidence level after beating Edina in the state tournament semifinals?
A: When we came out against Apple Valley we wanted to play the same way. We tried to fight and play good defense but unfortunately it didn't go our way. If I could play it over again, I don't know if I would do anything differently. I would just try to work as hard as I can the whole time. Blood, sweat and tears — just put it all on the floor.
Q: You transferred in from Prairie Seeds Academy. What led you to make that change?
A: I don't know. I just felt like Park Center was a family and I wanted to be a part of it.
Q: You had double-doubles in your first two state tournament games and made the all-tournament team. Are you as satisfied as you can be about the way you played?
A: Well, I'm never really satisfied but I felt like I fought every game and those double-doubles are just a part of that.
Q: Your run seemed to energize the entire school. What was it like being a Park Center basketball player this year?
A: It was just amazing. The fans. The energy. The fans just brought so much love. I love the way they came out and cheered for us as hard as they could whether we won or lost. They made great posters that made us laugh. Mine said, "It's Buck season."
Q: You beat Apple Valley the first time around. You went to No. 1 in the rankings. You knocked out defending state champion Osseo. What was it like going through this journey?
A: Like I said, it was just amazing. Every day, we came to practice and worked hard. We played together well and it was just great playing with these guys. We enjoyed each other's company. We never really talked about games in the past. We kept looking ahead to the next game.
Q: Will you be trying to remind guys more about your successes rather than the Apple Valley loss?
A: That's exactly what it is. I just want to let them know that while we didn't get the outcome we wanted [Saturday], we had a great year.
Q: What are your future basketball plans?
A: I'm not 100 percent sure but I definitely want to go to a four-year college on a basketball scholarship. I just have wait and see what school to pick.