To be sure, the Jamesville-DeWitt boys basketball team was quite happy when it lay claim to the Section III Class A championship Sunday night at Manley Field House.
As a large fan contingent looked on and celebrated a 56-44 victory over New Hartford, Red Rams players proudly donned T-shirts and posed with the championship banner with the glee that only teenagers can show.
Amid all that joy, though, an obvious sense of relief also prevailed.
Ever since its undefeated run to a state championship in 2004, J-D was favored to win at least a sectional title each of the next three years. Each time, it got knocked off before reaching that goal -- by Mexico in 2005, by Indian River in 2006, and by New Hartford in last year's sectional semifinals.
This only added to the burden that the Rams felt Sunday -- so when the crown was achieved, everyone, including head coach Bob McKenney, could exhale.
"We carry that mantle of favorite every year and we feel the pressure," said McKenney. "Now that this is achieved, the pressure is off now and we settle back to playing good basketball (in the state playoffs)."
As for the players, they had all been around 12 months ago when New Hartford knocked off J-D on that same Manley court. Most notably, Brandon Triche had watched that game from the bench, still recovering from the torn right ACL he had suffered in the middle of the 2006-07 season.
Triche wasn't a spectator this time. He, along with fellow J-D veterans Nick Pascale, Mickey Davis and Alshwan Hymes, would make sure that New Hartford's valiant attempt to repeat as sectional champions came up short.
When J-D ran off the game's first seven points before the game was three minutes old, it had the potential to turn into a quick runaway, the kind of performance J-D has pulled off several times on its way to the no. 2 spot in the state Class A rankings.