NASHVILLE — While Nick Kurtz still has a year left in his high school career, the junior post couldn't hold back the tears after Baylor's basketball season ended short of the Division II-AA state championship at Lipscomb University.
"It sucks," said Kurtz, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds in Friday's 61-41 semifinal loss to Briarcrest Christian and its nearly automatic Marcellus Brigham, who scored 26 points. "This team is a family. We just didn't have it today. We will be back, though."
The Baylor girls also lost, 69-22 to undefeated Ensworth.
For the third straight season and second under coach Mark Price, the Red Raiders (16-10) battled to be part of the classification's final four. This year's run was somewhat surprising for a team that leaned heavily on underclassmen.
"I think there was a consensus that this might be a complete rebuilding year after we lost seven seniors from a really good team last year," Price said. "It was challenging at times because of the overall youth, but this was no rebuild. These kids really achieved and surpassed a lot of people's expectations and mine."
Briarcrest (25-5) will play Knoxville Catholic in the boys' final Saturday.
While both Baylor teams ran into brick walls in Nashville, neither stopped competing until the final buzzer against two reigning state champions that look the part again.
Senior Grant Johnson provided all of his team-high 12 points in the second half as he drilled four of six 3-point tries.
"The memories from the hotel rooms and playing Jeopardy as a team are the things I will remember the most," Johnson said. "I loved the whole team. It's never been my job to be the scorer, and I wasn't expecting it to be tonight. But my teammates found me, and I was lucky enough to make some shots. At the end of the day we earned our spot to be here."
Meanwhile, the Lady Red Raiders concluded their program's winningest season in the 21st century with a 24-6 record. They won 23 games as the 2016 state runners-up.
Ensworth (27-0), one of the country's best teams, zoomed out to a 15-0 lead Friday and surged into the state final against Brentwood Academy.
Dontavia Waggoner, a 2019 Miss Basketball winner, scored a game-high 20 points and also had five steals along with eighth-grade standout Jaloni Cambridge.
Baylor freshman Bella White was steady with six points in each half; the left-handed shooter was 4-of-7 from the field and 3-of-4 from the free-throw line. Cadashia Collins scored all seven of her points attacking in the fourth quarter.
"This group of kids did something special," Lady Raiders coach John Gibson said. "These girls care about each other and work hard. They came a long way this season."
Leaving both programs better than they found them, Baylor's seniors set strong examples to follow. And with Miss Basketball finalist Raegyn Conley and Kurtz both returning for next year as go-to weapons, there looks to be plenty of potential for the future.
"I am proud of our group for playing with cohesion and not caring about itself," Price said. "That is what embodies Baylor School and is what we want to be about as an institution."