Schuckman: Strength of character shows in how Wires, Buehler handled adversity


Quincy High School senior guard Ralph Wires displayed character and maturity in how he handled the season-ending loss to Normal Community in the Class 4A sectional championship game in Pekin, Ill. | Matt Schuckman photo

QUINCY — Adversity doesn’t build character. It reveals it.

That adage, originally coined by 19th century American novelist James Lane Allen, and variations of it have been used endlessly. But as I sat here mulling over what already has transpired this basketball postseason, that adage kept coming to mind.

The toughest moments have shown us the strongest character.

There are no better examples of that than Ralph Wires and Ari Buehler.

The gut-wrenching endings to both the Quincy High School boys and Quincy Notre Dame girls basketball teams’ seasons had fans across social media replaying and reliving what took place. What was missed in those instances was how the players handled themselves in the aftermath.

There were no video replays of the tears shed or the consoling hugs from coaches, teammates and family members. Nor did anyone see how either point guard demonstrated composure and maturity when approached by members of the media to discuss how the waning moments of their seasons unfolded.

Neither Wires nor Buehler dodged the questions, no matter how uncomfortable they were.

They eloquently, passionately and maturely spoke from the heart. They came to grips with the reality the spotlight isn’t always bright or favorable and stood tall in moments that would bring some people to their knees.

Quincy Notre Dame sophomore guard Ari Buehler’s strength of character will help her lead the Raiders the next two seasons. | Matt Schuckman photo

Buehler had a chance in the Class 3A sectional championship game against Chatham Glenwood to send the game to overtime, going to the free-throw line with the Raiders trailing by two points and eight-tenths of a second remaining in regulation. She swished the first free throw, but the second rimmed out. Glenwood won 44-43.

Afterward, the sophomore showed respect to the Titans by softly clapping as they received the sectional plaque, and she graciously accommodated media requests through blurry eyes and tears.

“It’s definitely a learning experience,” Buehler said. “You have to go up there every time knowing you’re going to make (free throws). You have to go up there with confidence. You can’t go up there with a negative mindset.”

A week later, with the QHS boys 4.3 seconds away from advancing the Class 4A super-sectional, an inbounds play went awry and Wires turned the ball over after losing his balance and stumbling out of bounds. It allowed Normal Community to make a last-second dunk and escape with a 44-43 victory.

Tears, frustration and heartbreak followed.

Despite that, Wires obliged the media by discussing the final moments.

“I can go back a million different times. It’s going to live in my brain forever,” Wires said. “If I can go back, I throw it across the court. I would just take it going out of bounds. I would do anything else.”

What he doesn’t have to do is hang his head. Neither does Buehler.

When you stand with character and show integrity, you hold your head high.

The season-ending losses hurt and take time to put aside, but when all is said and done, there is a victory to be celebrated. Character was cultivated and the lives of Wires and Buehler and those they hold tight will be better because of the people they have become, not the plays they made.

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