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Unless you are a duck this summer has been a disappointment. But a couple of weeks ago, the Ayer and Groton-Dunstable girls basketball teams put on a show that bodes well for the future on both fronts.

For the record, Ayer defeated Groton-Dunstable 65-58 in overtime to win the championship of the Nashoba Summer Basketball League. But anyone associated with either program should have left the gym in Bolton feeling giddy.

Summer sports offers a bridge between spring high school sports and fall high school sports. But Wednesday’s game avoided all the pitfalls that summer games contain. Often it appears that minds are on the beach or some other exotic place. But for 44 exciting minutes, the players on both teams concentrated on the task at hand with the zest saved for January and February league games or March tournament games.

The game fell into my favorite category – “it’s a shame that someone has to lose.” Girls made big plays, then other girls made big plays to answer. Nobody backed off or was reluctant to take a shot that could have had ramifications, both positive or negative. Everybody played to win, did their best and didn’t give an inch. Players went to the floor after loose balls, defended with ferocity and the rebounding was strong at both ends.

That should be easy you say.

It isn’t.

But upon closer inspection, the intensity and effort levels of this game become more meaningful. Of the 16 players who took the floor for both teams, only two will be seniors next year. The summer for these two teams has been spent developing young players, which appears to be an unqualified success. Physical skills are improving, but on Wednesday night the mental approach to the game was spectacular. The girls on both teams have become more comfortable playing with each other, and have enhanced their play with improved focus and decision making. An increased understanding of roles appears well in progress, as well as learning to put team achievement ahead of personal achievement.

The meaningful championships are not won in the summer. But an athlete will get out of summer sports what he or she puts into it. It was obvious on Wednesday night that these two groups of players have taken the challenge seriously this summer. They want to get better and to be a part of something big. This summer has been a big step in that direction for both groups.

I enjoyed a very pleasant ride back to Shirley after the game. It has been fun to watch these girls during the maturation process, but even I am surprised with how well that process is going.

My expectations heading to most summer games are tempered. I understand that playing games in July can be tough because there are so many other options. But this game was my pleasant surprise of the summer because of the passion that every player had.

I can’t wait until December to see the next chapter of the stories.

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