Sometimes maintaining excellence is more challenging than the journey to reach it.
This has been the early season curse for the Woodridge boys' basketball team and head coach Brian Fantone.
After a storybook season of winning its first league championship since 1983, the Bulldogs are off to a sluggish 0-4 start.
Fantone admits there is frustration as his club has found ways to lose.
On Dec. 11, a Nathan Smyak 3-point bomb with two seconds left lifted Ravenna Southeast to a 48-47 league win over host Woodridge.
The Bulldogs even had an opportunity to win the game at the buzzer, but the shot attempt was long and missed.
"That was a heartbreaking loss," said Fantone, whose club fell to 0-2 in the Portage Trail Conference County Division.
"Quite frankly, we have yet to find our identity out on the court and it is causing us to lose games and not play to our potential," he added. "We have collectively not played as a team yet, but instead are playing as individuals."
"The joy of basketball season is that because it's such a long year, we have plenty of time to right the ship and get things moving in the other direction."
Senior forward Anthony Mong continues to relish an increased offensive role this winter. He led Woodridge with 14 points, four rebounds, two blocks, and a steal.
Guard Nelson Perry had 13 points, three boards, three assists, and two thefts. Guard Sean McCoy also added nine points and four rebounds.
"We have no time to keep our heads down or sulk about our frustrating start," said Fantone. "We know what we have to do on the court, we just need to start executing and trusting each other."
"We aren't happy with how we are playing, but we have a group of players who care a great deal about their teammates, and I'm confident we will work through this."