Sports seasons come and go.

Most often during the dead of winter, I welcome the end of basketball season. It usually means the joys of spring are soon to come.

But just this once, I don’t want basketball season to end.

I long to watch the Patriot girls play another game this season.

If there was one positive to the Jay County boys team having to quarantine twice it is that I got to watch the girls perhaps more than I normally would have.

I covered 16 of their 23 games this season. I was there for the season-opening win against Union City on Nov. 13. Then I saw them struggle against North Central, currently the top-ranked team in Class 4A, the following night.

Then there was a big five-point win against Bellmont. Then they held off Winchester, which had won four straight sectional titles as well as state championships in 2018 and 2019.

I was also at the eight-point win Dec. 5 at Fort Recovery. Three weeks later, I went to Yorktown and saw the Patriots overcome a 13-point halftime deficit and win by 10. Then they won the Allen County Athletic Conference tournament.

Jay County also held off state-ranked Norwell with me in attendance, and on Friday kept Yorktown at bay again in the sectional semifinal.

The Patriots were 14-1 in games I covered. They almost made it 15-1, but fell just short in the sectional championship game Saturday night.

And that loss, just the Patriots’ fourth of the season, hurt the most.

I needed to see this team play more basketball.

There’s just something about this squad that was so enjoyable to watch.

Perhaps it was sophomore standout Renna Schwieterman, who backed up her breakout freshman year with an even better one. After totaling 365 points last year, she exploded for 418 points, which almost cracked the top five for most points in a season. Her year included a school-record 43-point effort in a 74-36 win against Southern Wells on Jan. 23. Through two seasons, Schwieterman has 783 points, putting her more than than halfway to Shannon Freeman’s record of 1,458 points for a career.

Schwieterman has the ability to put a team on her back, like she did by scoring 30 points in the Allen County Athletic Conference tournament final to carry the Patriots to the championship.

But sometimes she’s having an off night or she’s on the bench in foul trouble. When that happens, someone tends to step up in her absence. In the sectional semifinal Feb. 5 against Yorktown, that player was Izzy Rodgers. The junior guard caught fire from the perimeter, making five 3-pointers and finishing with a career-high 28 points, including a 10-point effort in the second quarter when Schwieterman was on the bench for the full eight minutes. The Patriots desperately needed some help at that time, and Rodgers picked the perfect time to shine and have a career night.

If it’s not Rodgers, perhaps it’s Madison Dirksen, the 6-foot forward who creates matchup nightmares for both teams. Opposing coaches have to choose, take away Schwieterman or limit Dirksen. Teams often can’t do both.

Defensively, senior Aubrie Schwieterman has been one of the most fun players to watch. I long considered 2019 graduate Kendra Muhlenkamp as one of the best on-ball defenders I’ve seen at Jay County, but this year Schwieterman certainly made her case as one of the best as well.

While she was often a little too aggressive on defense and sometimes put herself in foul trouble, her quickness and tenacity fighting for loose balls almost always led to some fireworks.

Sisters Grace and Sophie Saxman, a senior and freshman, respectively, were a couple defensive stalwarts as well, and late in the season the younger sister always seemed to find herself in the right position to come up with some big offensive rebounds. Both Saxmans are listed at 5-7, and they played much bigger than their frames might suggest.

Speaking of defense, freshman Breanna Dirksen solidified herself as a role player down the stretch when Grace Saxman was out with a knee injury. Like the older Schwieterman, Dirksen was often tasked with guarding the opposing team’s best player. That was most prevalent in the sectional tournament when coach Kirk Comer shifted to a triangle-and-two to shut down high-scoring guards from both Yorktown and Hamilton Heights.

Gabi Bilbrey, a regular starter, wasn’t relied upon to score, but she had a knack for throwing her body around down in the post for rebounds before kicking it out to teammates for an open shot.

Comer, who finished his 26th year as a coach, said it best following Saturday’s loss: “I’ve said this before, but this is one of my all-time favorite teams. They’re just a special group. I hate to see (the season) come to an end.”

It’s one of the best JCHS girls teams I’ve seen since I’ve been here.

I just wish I, and they, could have had at least one more game.